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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Bag of baguettes

Edit. August 10, 2010. I meant to link to the site with a kneading video, but forgot to. It's there now, under the heading "kneading". I also put a link to "pre-ferment" in wiki.

We haven't been much of bread-eaters until recently, when we discovered how to make our own baguettes. The recipe is from our friend Per, who makes all sorts of complicated breads. This recipe is relatively easy to follow though, and make lots of good, dense baguettes – perfect for dipping in olive oil with a pinch of salt.

My sister Lea wanted to try out the recipe after I told her about it, so I'm posting it here with some notes about the baking process:

Poolish. The new thing about this recipe, at least for me, is making a so-called poolish, a kind of pre-ferment in baking. Basically, you make a yeast culture overnight in the refrigerator using a bit of yeast, water and flour. You let it grow in it's container and, mixed with the rest of the bread ingredients, it will act as the main yeasting agent. The use of pre-ferment supposedly has several advantages, such as making the bread last longer, and giving the bread more flavor. Pre-ferment and even spontaneous yeasts are currently the "in" thing in baking right now. Anyway, since it doesn't really take much effort to make a poolish, we thought, why not try?

Rising. What does take time in this recipe is the rising. Rising time is 90 minutes in the bowl, plus an additional 60 minutes after shaping. Needless to say, you will be spending the better half of your morning making these baguettes, so unless you wake up super early, I think it's more realistic to have the first baguettes as lunch- or dinner bread (Alternatively, make pre-ferment before work, bake in the evening or have the bread the next morning). The remaining baguettes can be frozen in a bag without a problem, and can defrosted in the same bag in room temperature the night before you're planning to eat the baguettes for breakfast.

Kneading. Kneading is another issue that turns off some people from home-baking if they don't own a kitchen assistant. Don't worry: we don't have one either (and neither does Per, from whom this recipe was from)! In short, if we can do the kneading, you can too! For this recipe, you'd have to knead until the dough becomes supple and pliant. The dough might have an odd texture at first, but resist the temptation to add more yeast or water, and with enough kneading, it will become supple. Remember that the purpose of kneading is to get as much air into the dough as possible, so you can knead the way this video recommends (it's from a home baker's site, scroll down to see it). I did something similar, but kneaded it in a big bowl instead of on a surface. I also used medical gloves while kneading. It just makes it a lot easier to clean my hands that way. It's not a necessity, though.

You don't need a fancy baguette tray when making this recipe. Just shape the baguettes as long as your baking plate is wide, and leave enough room between them (I bake 3 baguettes per oven plate). For more accuracy, you can weigh the ingredients using a kitchen scale. I used a converter from the net, since I only had deciliter cups (we finally bought a second-hand kitchen scale today, but the deciliter method works too). Yield is 6 baguettes or more.

To the recipe!

Day 1, poolish:
1. Take 5 grams of yeast and dissolve this in 300g (3 deciliters) water.
2. Mix in 300g (5 deciliters) flour. Let stand covered in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. It should look bubbly and smell fresh.

Day 2, dough:
1. Dissolve another 5g of yeast in 300g of water. Mix in 700g (10 deciliters) flour, plus all the poolish. If you wish to replace some all-purpose flour with graham flour (whole wheat), the graham flour should not be more than 50 grams (0.8 deciliter)
2. Knead as much as you can until the dough is supple, or run about 10 minutes in a kitchen assistant. (The second time I made this recipe, I let the dough rest a few minutes when it was beginning to get firm. I added some salt and continued to knead. I read in a baking site that this addition of salt makes the texture of the bread better. The original recipe is though, completely without salt. I just wanted you to know that both variants work well).
3. Let rise for 90 minutes in the bowl.
4. Form baguettes, 6 or more, and let rise for another 60 minutes on oven pans lined with wax paper / baking paper.
5. Bake at the bottom of the oven for 200 C for 25 minutes. To get a better crust, start the first 5 minutes at 225 C, and lower the temperature to 200 thereafter. You can also spray the oven with water from a spray pump directly before putting the breads in and before closing the oven door. This will give an even crispier surface. (I've seen recipes where they also put ice cubes at the bottom of the oven right before baking, to achieve the same effect, which can be good if you don't have a spray).


Anonymous lea said...

yikes! it seems so complicated....maybe will try at home (home home) :)

4:15 PM


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