Saturday, May 19, 2007

Baguettes, Y'all! Part Deux

Is it me, or is the unsliced portion of that baguette upside-down? Anyway... Yesterday I made the first batch of baguettes with the new stand mixer. Which is a milestone of sorts, I guess, but the reason I consider this project significant enough to warrant a posting is the somewhat experimental nature of it. I altered the recipe a bit, which in baking is usually something of a gamble. The recipe I'd been using was that of the Acme Bread Company in Berkeley, a recipe which shows up in both Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking and Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Bread Bible. The Acme formula calls for two pre-ferments, pate fermentee and poolish, which are mixed a day ahead and added to the lean dough on the day of baking. While this method produces a good baguette, it also produces a very sticky dough which is difficult to work, for a novice like myself at any rate. At the suggestion of the The Pastry Pirate, I omitted the pate fermentee, which she tells me isn't necessarily a standard step in making baguettes anyway (and being as she's a pastry student at the CIA, I'm inclined to defer to her expertise in these matters).

Of course, getting rid of the pate fermentee meant that my proportions were off, so I added the equivalent amounts of water and flour, as well as a little extra yeast, to the lean dough. This wound up adding way too much water, so as I was kneading (or rather as my mixer was kneading), I added some extra flour until the dough seemed to have reached a reasonable consistency. It was still sticky, but not so much as before. The mixer, outfitted with the dough hook, performed its kneading duties flawlessly, and shaping the loaves was a breeze. And yes, PP, I used my baguette pan. Hey, I paid twenty bucks for the thing, it's gonna get used.

The baguettes turned out really well. The crumb was a little more dense than Acme's (which is good, actually, my preference is for fewer air bubbles since I use this type of bread mainly for bruschetta), and the crust was excellent, very crunchy.

Many thanks, Pirate! Baguettes... Good stuff.


The Pastry Pirate said...

Yes, always listen to your friendly pastry pirate. Especially if, in the future, I ask you for money.

Glad it worked out for you, though I still mock your baguette pan!

The Pastry Pirate said...

Oh, and another thing... even if the recipe didn't need recalculating, it's not unusual to add water or flour when actually mixing a dough, depending on that day's specific conditions, from freshness of the dough to humidity in the room.

In Breads class, my chef frequently came over to my teammate and me, looked in the mixer and tossed in a handful of flour (I took the class during the hot, sticky dog days of August) to adjust for the ambient temperature and humidity.

tommy said...

Hmmm, good to know. The one thing that I've heard over and over about baking, and this is probably what kept me from diving into for so long, is that baking is a science, pure chemistry, and you can't improvise or mess with amounts, so on and so forth. The contrarian in me (which accounts for about 85% of my body weight) always suspected that this wasn't totally gospel truth. Now I know.

On a related note, I've signed up for a pie/galette class being given here in Portland by none other than Shuna Lydon. Pretty excited about that. I think I'm going to try my hand at a basic pie dough before the class, and then compare that experience to what I learn in the class. And post about it, of course.