I’ve been reading all I can find about baguettes lately. Once I decided on a recipe, I researched technique. The process I chose consisted of 34 different steps, 48 hours in the refrigerator, and multiple (separate) hours of letting the dough proof. Was it worth it? I think so!!
What did I learn?
Baguettes are worth the wait!
It’s a wet dough that’s very sticky, so flour your counter liberally.
Diastatic Malt Powder is an enzyme that improves texture and creates a lovely brown crust.
Fold, fold, fold. Wait, and fold again.
Score the dough (before baking) with a sharp knife, or a lame, in order to give the loaves room to rise in the oven without splitting their carefully closed seams.
A crisp crust is also achieved by placing a large aluminum pan over the baguettes for the first 5 minutes of baking, to trap the steam.
A couche (pronounced “coosh”) is a thick linen that when folded, cradles the baguettes while they proof, and prevents them from touching. In French, “coucher” means “to put to bed.” (Yes: By the time you get to this stage of the process, you love them, they are your children, and you do want them to sleep peacefully as they proof.)
I also learned that in home kitchens, when the oven door is opened to place the baguettes in, or to remove the aluminum pan, the temp drops from 500º to 420º, just by opening the door! It’s because home ovens are very shallow, compared to commercial ovens, which are very deep, and retain their constant temperature in the back of their ovens. (Thanks, Frenchie!)
I made the dough on Saturday morning, set them ferment in the fridge for two days, then made two baguettes on Monday morning, to practice, and the other two on Tuesday morning. Gave two of the four away; husband ate most of the rest, and I opened wine at 2pm to celebrate, and had a big, warm hunk, with real butter. And yes, it was AMAZING. I’m so proud of myself! This is considered advanced baking skills by most, and all four baguettes turned out well.
We won’t be doing this often, as they were mostly white flour, (I did add whole wheat flour to the dough!) but it was a great challenge and fun to succeed at!