Another baguette recipe! Well… I cannot stop experimenting. I’m making bread practically every day and the results are getting more and more promising.
First of all, I have had a few mishaps with my sourdough starter. I left it for a few days while I went to Local is Lovely food photography pracshop in the Blue Mountains and it turned into a disgusting mess. It had an orange skin and a green beard when I returned. I decided to scoop the skin and beard out and keep 4 table spoons of it. I fed it as I usually do, with a random amount of flour and the same amount of water. I started at about 50g flour + 50g water per day. Then the temperature became unbearably hot in the kitchen. I decided to feed it twice a day, morning and evening, with about 30 to 50g flour each time according to my need the next day (still equal amount of water as always).
During the Australian summer, the heat accelerates the fermentation process and the little bugger gets hungry faster. Some people put their starter in the fridge. I read tons of theories about this and I will go by that one: in low temperature some bacteria and yeast become inactive. I want my starter to be ready and fully active when I need it. I want to keep my chances up to a maximum and have a super powerful “bubbly”.
What I suspected is true, a starter is fully efficient only when it is at its bubbling peak. If you use it when it has completely deflated, you will need to add a bit of fresh baker’s yeast or the dry “emergency” yeast you keep in the fridge, or your baguette is going to be a self defence tool… baseball bat style…
There is absolutely no shame in using extra yeasty help. Eric Kayser, French bread master and author of the acclaimed Larousse du Pain (The Larousse book of bread) always adds a bit of fresh baker’s yeast in his sour-dough recipes.
Because you probably don’t have a pro bakery kitchen, with controlled humidity and temperature, you need to observe your starter and according the the weather, the rhythm of the feeds, you will know at what time to feed it so that it will always be ready when you are making your bread.
I start my bread making process in the morning, it’s part of my routine: grab the kids dirty laundry and launch a machine, empty de dishwasher, clean up the kids breakkie mess, watch the French news in the background, etc.
I start by doing an autolyse: I weigh the flours and water, then mix only for 5 mins at low speed, clean-up my mixer’s dough hook and put a wet tea towel over the bowl where the dough ball is. I leave it for an hour. Time to sort my hundreds, sometimes thousands of emails from Tricotin.com…
By the time the hour rings, I need to have a nice and really bubbly starter. What I noticed is that my “bubbly” is a lazy guy, the type that needs a few long hours to get vigorous. So what I do, to make sure that I have an active and bubbling starter in the morning after my autolyse, is to feed it just after using it as a sort of thanksgiving gesture and at night during my kitchen clean-up routine.
If you notice that yours is very active, feed it a few hours before starting your bread only. Mine needs a whole night at least. This does change according to the room’s temperature. When it’s cold it will remain pretty calm and of course when it’s hot, it will go overboard.
Regarding the flours, I am currently trying everything organic and stone-ground. I like the dark bread it produces but I don’t like to have it everyday. A light white bread is lovely. So I am experimenting with unbleached white baker’s flour which can be stone-ground and later filtered or ground in a special manner that keeps only the small particles. I will keep experimenting and write a whole post about that.
Now for the proportions, I’m playing with that too. It’s the enormous advantage of making the same thing everyday. You can try with a bit more water, a bit less, a bit more starter or a bit less, etc.
There seems to be a rule: the stronger the flour is, or the higher the protein content is or the hight the T-number is (T-65, T80, etc) the more water you will need.
There are so many factors in bread making, I am trying to alter one easy one, and only one at a time. I can’t alter room temperature and humidity yet…
One thing I do is to fill up a whole clean jug of water every night while I’m doing the dishes and I leave it on the bench for the next day’s bread making and starter feeding. It seems that leaving tap water decant for a while allows some chemicals to evaporate. Chlorine being volatile, it does leave the water after a jug is left out overnight. What it also does is to keep a stock of room temperature water for my bread making.
So here is my recipe for Mixed flours French baguettes.
Ah, and before I forget, you will notice my barbaric way of scoring the bread with my Victorinox serrated knife… I really need a proper baker’s scoring tool…
- 100g stone ground unbleached baker's flour (>15g protein / 100g)
- 400g unbleached fine baker's flour (12g protein / 100g) such as Wallaby (not sure if it is unbleached but it's good)
- 335g water at room temperature
- 130g sourdough starter
- 10g salt
- if your starter is weak 1 tbs fresh baker's yeast or dry baker's yeast.
- AUTOLYSE: weigh flours and water. Mix with dough hook for 5 mins at low speed.
- Take dough hook out (in a stand mixer, leave it in a Magimix Cook Expert), cover bowl with wet tea towel (in a stand mixer, leave the lid on in a Cook Expert) and let rest for 1 h.
- Add sourdough starter and salt.
- Mix for 5 mins at low speed. Mix 7 minutes at high speed.
- Lightly flour silicon mat. Scrape the dough out with a plastic pastry scraper (a must have).
- Don't shape a ball, just very lightly flour the top of your scraped dough pile for the tea towel not to stick to it.
- Cover with a damp (not too wet, well squeezed) tea towel. Leave for 1h30.
- Cut in 3 parts. Very quickly and lightly, without pressing hard (to keep some air in the dough) form an approximate ball with each of the 3 parts. Dust with flour. Cover with the damp tea towel (place under running water, rub to get the flour and dough lumps, rince and squeeze as much water out as you can). Leave for 30 mins.
- Cover a wet oven tray with baking paper (if wet, the baking paper will stay in place, it's a cool trick).
- Shape baguettes by pushing the balls down lightly with your palm forming an oval. Then fold the oval on itself twice so it is still an oval but a cylinder one :) Roll is lightly, insisting on the ends if you want witch's nails tips, stop when it has reached the inside length of your oven tray.
- Place each shaped baguettes on the baking paper, spacing them enough. Dust generously with flour make sure your have flour all over the baguettes, rub them a little with flour and sprinkle some more. If there is a patch of sticky dough it will be glued to the tea towel and your baguettes will deflate and be ruined.
- Leave to rest for 1h30.
- mins before the end of this rest, pre-heat your oven at 230°C, place a tray on the lower level of the oven.
- When rest is over, take off the tea towel sprinkle the bread with flour and/or nigella seeds or sesame seeds.
- Score diagonally or in one long cut from a tip to the other.
- Drop 50g to 100g of water on bottom tray you put in the oven earlier.
- Slide the tray with the baguettes without burning your face with steam. Use your longest arm (just kidding :).
- Bake for 25 mins. Inspect. The bottom needs to look cooked, a honey colour. If not, put the temperature at 180°C for another 5 to 10 mins. Then leave the door very slightly ajar with a tea towel folded in 4 and let it bake for another 5 to 10 mins. I like a good solid crust and a dark aspect. You will need to experiment with the baking length because it depends on you oven a lot.