Not All Bread is created equal
By Master Chef, Chad Robertson
(You can get the bible from the linked image on the right.)
This requires an intermediate bread baking skill level. Some of the steps take practice but, the only way to get there is to make a lot of bread and often.
Maybe try some basic breads first like this one from St. Germain Bakery, but don't be daunted. There is no perfect loaf and the beauty is in the imperfection.
In this recipe natural and baker’s yeast are used in combination. Baker’s yeast gives baguettes the lightness while natural yeast with gentle mixing and long and slow rising at every stage develops a good flavor.
Ingredients for poolish:
200 gm All purpose flour
200 gm Water at 75 degrees F
3 gm Active dry yeast
Ingredients for leaven:
2 Tbsp Mature starter
220 gm All purpose flour
220 gm Water at 80 degrees F
Ingredients for baguette:
400 gm Leaven
400 gm Poolish
500 gm Water at 75 degrees F
650 gm All purpose flour
350 gm Bread flour
24 gm Salt
Rice flour + whole wheat flour For dusting
"FEED THE STARTER"
To make poolish, in a bowl mix poolish ingredients and let it rest for 3 to 4 hours at about 75 to 80 degrees F or overnight in refrigerator.
To make the leaven, mix all the leaven ingredients thoroughly so that no dry flour remains. Let is rest for 3 to 4 hours at about 80 degrees F.
When both poolish and leaven pass the float test (drop a spoonful of batter in water, if it floats, it is ready) they are both ready otherwise wait for more time.
To prepare the baguette dough, whisk flour mix thoroughly so that they mix up properly.
Combine poolish, levan and water into a slurry.
Now add both the flours (DON'T ADD SALT YET) and mix it with your hand so that no dry flour remains.
Cover and rest for 40 minutes. Don’t skip this step. This is to autolyse the dough. While resting, glutens swell and form chains that become the gas trapping structure of the dough. Autolyse improves the effectiveness of the time spent mixing while shortening the time needed to actively develop the dough.
After the resting period, fold the dough and transfer in a bowl that is a poor conductor to maintain the warm temperature. Dough will now begin to rise. This is called bulk fermentation. The primary purpose of this step is to develop the flavor and the strength in the dough. This step is highly temperature sensitive. The dough should be kept at temperature between 78 to 82 F to accomplish full bulk rise in 3-4 hours. I use a proofing box.
"STRETCH AND FOLD"
Dip your hand in water to prevent sticking and grab the underside of the dough, stretch it up and fold it back over the rest of the dough. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat the fold. Do this total 4 times. Every 30 min during the bulk rise, repeat the stretch and fold. The dough development that bakers usually achieve by kneading is accomplished here by folding the dough with much less work.
After the first stretch and fold, mix the salt in 10 gm of warm water and add to the dough. Incorporate both in dough by squeezing the dough between your fingers.
After the first two hours the dough will get billowy and you should turn the dough more gently to avoid pressing out too much gas. Notice that the dough surface becomes smoother after you turn the dough in the third hour. The ridges left by the turn will hold their shape for a few minutes. A well developed dough is more cohesive and releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. You will see 50% increase in volume. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the container. Now the dough is ready to be shaped.
For improved flavor, refrigerate overnight.
Flour the work space lightly and bring out the dough. Remove the dough from the container onto a dusted board and cut into 4 equal pieces. Preshape each piece into a rectangle with rounded corners and good surface tension, cover and let rest for 30 min.
This stage is called bench rest. The dough will spread like a pancake.
To give the final shape, first place a kitchen towel (couche) big enough to hold all the baguettes. Dust it generously with rice flour. Keep aside.
Working with one dough at a time, fold the third of the dough closest to you up and over the middle third.
Holding the ends of the dough, stretch it horizontally so that it doubles in width.
Fold the third of the dough farthest from you over the middle of the elongated rectangle as if closing the flap of an envelope.
Press on this flap to develop tension in the dough. Roll the dough towards you pressing with your palms and fingers to develop further tension and taper the ends. You will end up with a big roll. Roll it back and forth to get the right and even size while keeping in mind your baking stone length.
Place it gently on the kitchen towel seam side up. Separate the loaves with folds in the towel and cover with more towels.
Let them rise at about 75 degrees F for 2.5 to 3 hours.
In the last hour of proofing put a baking stone in the oven. Heat at 500°. Once it is hot, place a broiler tray with wet kitchen towel in the lower rack to generate steam. Wait for an hour for stone to heat up and oven to be steamed.
Dust a peel and the loaves with Semolina Flour. Lift the towel and roll each loaf onto the peel seam side down and about 2 inches apart. Gently slash the baguettes with a lame or knife in a diagonal direction, slightly overlapping. Transfer them to the baking stone as quickly as possible, and pour another cup of hot water in the broiler tray.
Reduce the oven temperature to 475 degrees F. Bake for about 15 minutes and then remove the broiler tray. Continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until a deep golden color.
Let them cool a little on a rack.