Baguettes For Beginners – No Experience Necessary

I’m so jazzed. My first bread-making experience ever, baguettes…Rumi actually used the words “fantastic” and “impressed”.  What more could a girl want? 😉

Really it was all thanks to the internet and tons of folks who posted things I got to learn from.  I created a recipe combining the best I could find in traditional, authentic baguettes:  Fromartz, Reinhard, I even watched french videos and *gasp* Julia Childs 🙂 I have read so many posts from thefreshloaf.com this week.  Without all the posters on that forum I never would have found this kneading video, or learned valuable lessons from others’ experiences that helped me out tremendously!  I would never have known to look up Fromartz or Reinhard.  I would never have known what a preferment was…   Really, I’m so grateful to all of what goes on on the internet.

So as my Thank You – please enjoy this Baguettes For Beginners recipe – no experience necessary.  😉

With love and gratitude,

Maya-G

My Actual First-Time Baguettes

French Baguettes For Beginners – no couche, bread machine, or experience required.
(However, you do need a kitchen scale or herb scale).

Night before – Poolish –
I found a source here and adapted it below for flavor and to cut it in 1/2. My adaptation is a 100% hydration starter, with the agave to over-feed the yeast (to improve the sour flavor to help it mimic a sourdough, as opposed to a standard overnight poolish which would not carry the same flavor quality as a true sourdough starter).

Bowl to accommodate poolish doubling
100g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
100g Water at 100-110F
.6g Active Dry Yeast
2g Agave syrup

Stir water and agave into yeast. Let sit 10 minutes.

Stir yeast water into flour. Let sit overnight. Be sure to do first two sections of dough prep below, also to sit overnight.

This recipe makes more poolish than needed for the bread recipe below. To use the left-over poolish, when your bread is finished you can make poolish crackers this way: add a bit of flour (to make it dry to the touch) and salt, knead 2 min, roll out to 1/8″ thick flat, score lines for easy breaking, bake on parchment paper in the oven at 300F for 20minutes to dry out, then at 450F for 2-5 minutes to color. Cool, break and use for dipping.

Bread Making – 5-7 hrs – recipe modified to create ideal french bread 8-9% gluten

Tools: rubber spatula for stirring and removing dough gently from bowls, bench scraper or 6″x18″ (card)board for unmolding, parchment paper, olive oil, 4 kitchen towels, bowls, baking stone (or overturned cookie sheet), water, flour for dusting, pasta to grind (or cornmeal or rice flour) for dusting unmolding board, grinder, cutting board for loaf molding and transport, razor or sharp knife for scoring, water atomizer.

90 g Poolish (or sourdough starter if you grow it)
420 g Water 70-74F slow rise, 100-105 fast, not above 110F. (*100F)
300 g Unbleached Cake Flour (6-8% gluten)
300 g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (9-11% gluten)
13 g sea salt
10 g active dry yeast (only 5g in warm summer kitchen)

STEPS

1. Mix and Autolyse
– Mix yeast and water for a minute or two.
– Mix in poolish starter until it breaks up a bit.
– Add salt and flour. Mix for a two minutes. The dough will be heavy and shaggy.
– Cover with plastic. Let rest for 20 minutes. This is the autolyse.

2. Kneading and Rest Cycles

Knead 1
– Have 2nd bowl oiled and ready for dough
– Oil counter and hands, do not add flour. Higher hydrations – stickier dough. Resist the temptation to tame the dough with bench flour.
– Use scraper to stretch and fold dough. I knead ala Bertinet: http://is.gd/O0toMJ (that’s o, zero, t, o, …)
– Knead 5-7 minutes. Gentle knead = larger hole diversity. Vigorous knead, more even consistency.
– Scrape mass into a clean bowl or plastic bin.
– Cover and let rest and ferment for 20 minutes (quick) or 45 min (more flavor).

Fold 1
– Oil the counter again if necessary and use scraper to gently remove dough to counter. Take care to destroy as few air bubbles as possible.
– Gently stretch the mass out until it is a 1-inch thick, then fold the top and bottom thirds in toward the center like a letter. While folding, try not to destroy too many air bubbles.
– Do the same letter-fold in thirds, this time left-to-right. You’ll be left with a semi-round mass again.
– Put in bin, cover, let dough rest and ferment 20 minutes (quick) or 45 min (more flavor).

Fold 2
– Gently remove mass from bin, as always trying not to break too many air bubbles, and repeat the above folding process (gently shape, fold length-wise, then fold right-to-left).
– Put mass back in oiled/covered bin and let ferment another 20 minutes (quick) or 30 min (more flavor).

Fold 3 and final raising – choose Quick or Overnight Rise as follows:
Quick:
– Remove from bin, fold again for the third and final time. Clean bin, oil lightly (with 2 tsp olive oil), and put dough back inside. Cover and let raise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Overnight Raising (more flavor):
– Remove from bin, fold again for the third and final time. Clean bin, oil lightly (with 2 tsp olive oil), and put dough back inside. Cover and place in refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

3. Prep Oven, Divide Portions, Rest and Couche Prep

Put baking stone (or overturned cookie sheet, which we will call your baking stone) in the middle of your oven. Place a thick rimmed cookie sheet, broiler tray or cast iron pan on oven floor or lower shelf.

Put a little olive oil in your palm and oil a 20-by-20 inch (1/2-by-1/2 meter) section of the counter.

Remove dough from container onto counter. Cut dough in half. Put half back in container and into refrigerator to leave for up to 24 hours and make fresh loaves the following day.

Doing your best to protect the air bubbles, divide the dough on counter into two sections (about 250 grams each) and gently stretch each into a rectangle 5-by-7 inches (13-by-18 cm) with the long edge facing you. While destroying some air bubbles is unavoidable, the fewer that break, the more airy and flavorful your bread will be.

Cover with light towel and let rest for 5-10 minutes under the towel.

While dough is resting, cut parchment paper large enough to fit your baking stone. Place parchment paper on a cutting board and dust paper with flour. Prepare your 3 kitchen towels into long rolls by folding and rolling them tightly lengthwise. Set these long towel rolls aside for use as a couche later.

4. Shape and Couche

Shape dough into long logs this way: gently crease the log with heel of hand along length of log, fold bottom of rectangle toward middle and gently seal the seam with thumb. Then fold top third to meet the bottom and seal seam. You should have a log about 1.5 to 2 inches thick (4 to 5 cm). If needed, gently stretch or roll the log into a longer length (be sure it will still fit on your baking stone). Try not to handle the log too much. Don’t worry if it’s uneven.

Place each loaf on the parchment paper about six inches apart, seam side down. Slide one long towel roll in under the parchment paper between the loaves. Likewise, gently place each of the two remaining long towel rolls under each outside edge of the parchment paper, up against the loaves. These towel rolls support the shape of the loaves (this is your couche).

Preheat oven to 440-450F. (*440F)

Cover loaves with light kitchen towel (dusted lightly with flour) and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

While waiting for the rise to finish, grind pasta (or use cornmeal or rice flour) to dust your unmolding (card)board and dust the board well.

5. Baking

Prepare 1 cup boiled water.

Remove couche towel-braces from under the parchment paper.

Place the long side of bench scraper or pasta-dusted unmolding (card)board at the far side of the dough; pull the front edge of the parchment paper to flatten it; then raise it to flip the dough softly upside down onto the board.

Dough is now lying along one edge of the dusted unmolding board. Gently roll the dough back onto the parchment paper so that the wet, soft bottom of the dough is on top (the side that was underneath while in the couche should be on top on the parchment paper now). This side will expand better in the oven.

Swiftly score the soft top of the loaf three times with a very sharp razor blade or very sharp knife at a 20degree angle (almost horizontal), 1/4-inch deep, running lengthwise on the dough. Spritz surface of bread with water atomizer.

Take cutting board and slide parchment paper with baguettes onto hot baking stone. Pour 1 cup boiled water into pan in bottom of oven for humidity. Beware steam. Close oven.

After 15 minutes, remove water from the oven if any remains.

After 20 minutes, check loaves. If the loaves are too pale, continue baking another 2-5 minutes. Otherwise remove the loaves from the oven.

Let the baguettes cool for 20 minutes on rack or upright in a basket before eating. They are best eaten within 6 hours, but will be easy to consume even beyond 24 hours later if you reheat them 10 seconds in the microwave.

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