Sunday, January 30, 2005

Two days to make, one hour to eat

I am happy to report that the baguette pan, Chicago Metallic French Bread Pan, has been thoroughly christened and the vote is in, the pan is a keeper!! MBH says these were the best baguettes I have made to date and I have to agree. The crust was crunchy and snapped when we tore into the first one. The inside was chewy and the texture was exactly like the baguettes we get from the local bakery.

Two baguettes ready to rise

Baking to a golden brown in the oven

baguette back

The baguette, complete with pan textured back!

Here is the recipe for these Sourdough Baguettes. This recipe is based on one from Mike Avery of the Colorado High Attitude Bakery and his excellent webpage about sourdough, the Sourdough Home.
I adjusted the amount/type of flour he uses in his basic sourdough recipe and the amount of starter to account for differences in altitude/tastes.
Prep Time: 2 days

Ingredients for two baguettes:
1/2 cup very active starter (starter that has been fed within 4 - 6 hours)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 - 5 cups white bread flour
1 1/2 cups Water
1 1/2 tsp Salt

Step 1: The sponge

Combine the starter, water, the all purpose flour and 1 cup of the bread flour in a large plastic container with a lid or a large glass mixing bowl/plastic wrap. Let set over night or 8 hours in a warm place (70 degrees).

Step 2: The dough

Combine the sponge, salt and 3 cups of the bread flour, one cup at a time in a large mixing bowl. If you are using a stand mixer, use low speed. If by hand, you may need to use your hand with the last cup to mix. If you are using a stand mixer, add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until you have a well formed dough ball. The dough ball will feel "tacky" but shouldn't feel wet/gooey. If it feels gooey, add more flour 1/8 cup at a time until it is tacky. If you are mixing/kneading by hand, add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time holding back 1/2 cup of flour for kneading (* when you are kneading by hand, it is easy to add too much flour and this will result in a tough baguette). If as you knead, the dough feels too wet, add flour in small amounts until dough no longer feels wet but is just tacky. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, 15 - 20 minutes by hand). Note: If you are using a stand mixer, make sure you have a dough hook and a very heavy duty motor, this is a very stiff dough.

Form large round ball of dough and let dough relax about 20 minutes, covered with tea cloth or plastic wrap.

Step 3: Forming the Baguette

Divide the large dough ball into 2 equal parts. Re-cover the 1/2 you are not working with to keep it moist. Form an even shaped long roll by rolling the dough out into a long "snake" (about 8 - 10" long). Using the side of your hand, fold the dough snake over your hand to form a half "snake" (long wise). Gently roll back and forth, starting at center and working way out to ends until baguette is about 14-16" long. Do not apply pressure or your baguette will be lumpy. Place in greased baguette pan, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise 8 - 12 hour at 70 degrees or 12 - 15 hours in the fridge (this is retarding the rise and develops the flavour of the sourdough very nicely. This will also give you that "bubbly" crust).

Step 4: Baking

If you placed the baguettes in the fridge, let them come to room temp (about 45 minutes - 1 hour). Very carefully so as not cause the proofed baguettes to fall, slash the bagels diagonally with a razor blade or extremely sharp knife. In preheated 375 degree oven, spritz baguettes and oven with water to create some steam (this is the secret to the "crunch" of baguettes). Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until golden brown on outside with inside temperature of 195 degrees.

Let cool for 30 minutes before eating.

Baguettes are best eaten same day they are baked.