p3: French Baguette

#9, French Bread (Baguette Baby)

sweet-baguette_900_600_sTwo days off, the house completely free to myself, I think it’s about time I tackled the classic Baguette. Though in hindsight I now feel a little guilty in making one of the most desired and ideal daily breads with everyone else out of the house, but another way to look at it is that no one’s here to see me fail if that does indeed happen! But I wanted to put these few beginning lessons, tricks, and ideas/theories of my own into practice and see what I can produce. So I’ll be applying my idea of splitting the dough up before the bulk ferment, shaping a little faster and more comfortingly, and finally getting a good hearth baking experience for my bread.

That said, I’m actually planning on testing out something else today too; many recipes will make mention that, during the first rise/fermentation stage, if the dough ‘doubles in size before the allotted time’ (so if it says 2 hours to rise, but it only takes it 1 hour) to briefly punch down and knead the dough, de-gassing it, and covering again to continue rising for the duration of the time. I have yet to actually do this myself, so I’m going to de-gas one of my divided doughs halfway through to see if that helps even MORE with the gas pockets’ stability while shaping, hopefully help even more in getting that perfectly not-so-tight crumb that I had experienced in a couple previous projects.

Just realized that this would really be the perfect bread to fill this beginning section with something about its history or other interesting facts… oh well! Maybe the next time (I’m sure this won’t be my only baguette recipe).

3 cups/16oz Pate Fermentee (recipe follows)
1¼ cups/5oz AP Flour
1¼ cups/5oz Bread Flour
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
½ tsp/0.055 Dry Yeast
¾ cup + 2Tb/6-7oz Water, Lukewarm


  1. Take Pate Fermentee from fridge 1-2 hours before use, cutting into 10 pieces and covering as it warms up.20150615_133123
  2. Stir pate, Flour, Salt, and Yeast together in a bowl. Add Water, mixing on low with a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, starting at ¾ cup and adding any more as needed until everything comes together in a coarse mass that is neither too sticky or stiff.20150615_133336
  3. Switch to a dough hook, kneading on medium speed for about 6 minutes until soft, tacky, not sticky, and all the pate fermentee has been evenly distributed. It should pass the windowpane test (which I felt mine did beautifully, though it’s hard to see when you can’t stretch with BOTH hands, darn camera work!).20150615_134553
  4. Divide into 3 or however many different loaves one wants to use for the recipe. Transfer to lightly oiled bowls, covering with plastic wrap.20150615_134928
  5. Bulk Ferment for 2 hours and until the dough has doubled in size. If it reaches this state notably early, lightly punch down and knead to degas, letting it rise again (still covered) to the desired point.20150615_151255
  6. Gently transfer to floured counter and start to turn into baguettes.20150615_161131
  7. First very gently shape into Batards as described for Ciabatta, let rest for five minutes.20150615_161503
  8. Once slightly relaxed, pick up by the ends, letting it naturally stretch a little further.20150615_161948
  9. Using the edge of your hand, slide a crease of sorts down the middle. Use this as a pivot to fold ‘letter style,’ folding one edge over half of the loaf, pressing with thumbs to start stretch the dough a bit. Follow this by folding the other side completely on top of the just-folded dough, lightly stretching again.20150615_162017
  10. Crease the edges down against the counter with your thumb/hand, gently sealing it closed while stretching the dough one last time.20150615_162117
  11. From here, gently rock the dough from the center to the edge, using the edge of your palms, to lengthen it to the desired size and thickness.20150615_162526
  12. Set up a couche as also described in the Ciabatta recipe, setting the loaves inside the pockets/sleeves and misting with spray oil. Leave to Proof 45-75 minutes, until risen 1½ times their size.20150615_162606
  13. Prepare oven for Hearth Baking, setting a steam pan on a lower shelf, baking stone in the middle, turning to 500F, and getting a mist sprayer set up along with 1 cup of water hot.20150615_172314
  14. Sprinkle Cornmeal/Semolina on a pan or baking peel and very gently transfer baguettes to it. Carefully slit your dough at a sharp angle, or however else desired.20150615_172700
  15. Quickly slide bread onto the stone and dump the cup of hot water into the steam pan. Close oven door, wait 30 seconds, and mist the sides of the oven with water. Repeat this twice more in 30 second intervals, turn oven down to 450F, and bake for 10 minutes.20150615_174053
  16. Check, turn baguettes around if needed to ensure even baking, and continue for another 10-20 minutes, until a rich golden brown and cooked throughout (tested with that hollow thumping sound).20150615_175727
  17. Remove from the oven, cooling over rack at least 40 minutes before slicing…20150615_175904
  18. Or cut open immediately, slather with butter, and eat it at its best.

Pate Fermentee
1 1/8 cups/5oz AP Flour
1 1/8 cups/5oz Bread Flour
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
½ tsp/0.055oz Dry Yeast
¾ cup+2Tb/6-7oz Water, Room Temp


  1. Stir together Flours, Salt, and Dry Yeast.20150615_001242
  2. Slowly add ¾ cup water, mixing with hands or stand mixer paddle attachment until it comes together in a coarse, slightly sticky ball/mass.20150615_001639
  3. Knead about 4-6 minutes, by hand on floured counter or with dough hook, until soft, pliable, and tacky.20150615_002812
  4. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer, rolling to coat. Cover Plastic and ferment 1 hour, until about 1½ times original size.20150615_014422
  5. Knead lightly to degas, return to covered bowl, and refrigerate overnight or until ready to use, up to 3 days (3 month limit if frozen).

What Have I Learned This Time?

Seriously, this recipe is the exact same as pate fermentee; it’s just that half of it is made ahead of time for overnight-fermentation-flavoring and then the rest in the same proportion is added in later. Makes me curious about making it in full and just doing super-long proofing/fermentation. I think that’s actually more traditional.

When slitting bread before baking, don’t use the whole length of the blade, which can cause the dough you just cut to drag more. Instead only use the corner for the best results; also, I feel like the ideal result might be less individual cuts, longer lines, and perhaps even DEEPER than what I just did… will have to see with my next cut bread. Sadly haven’t been able to reproduce the effect in real breads, the question then being is that from the cut or, more likely, lack of dough/gas development and/or proper structure.

Some of my book recipes don’t seem to mention some steps that, I’m guessing, by that point are probably supposed to be ‘too obvious.’ In particular today, it didn’t mention doing anything to the bread in the couche while proofing besides covering, but I can tell afterwards that I should have gotten some spray oil on top since it developed a thin skin of sorts (you can sort of see the effect of it in my slicing picture).

20150615_180057I am DEFINITELY making sure to de-gas/punch down all my bulk fermented hearth/gas-reliant breads halfway through their first rising process from now on. It’s hard to definitively say if the final result in crumb was any better than the ones I didn’t de-gas, though it looks like it did indeed have a better collection of slightly bigger holes (still not as awesome as proper baguettes though), but what I CAN say is that there was an obvious difference in how well I could shape it while it kept its bulk, which you can easily see in the previous pictures of the shaped and proofed batards/baguettes (the de-gassed loaf is the one on the right).

20150616_222702Any Thoughts?

I’m so gonna use half of one of my loaves to make a ‘Fool’s Gold Sandwich,’ (see my Twitter for a couple other pictures of this) something I just learned about in a video concerning Celebrity Foods. Elvis Presley’s TRUE love, it’s a loaf of French bread, re-baked until brown and crusty, brushed with butter, sliced in half with the soft insides scooped up. The cavities are then filled with peanut butter on one side, some sort of jam on the other, and piled with bacon. Yeah that’ll send me to my grave a bit early, and it’ll be damn worth it.

20150615_180137Overall this has seemed to be one of my most promising bread results yet; not perfect, but darn good. Really makes me curious to try recipes outside of the book though, see how much the results are shaped by me vs the formulae.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

The hearth breads seem to be cozying up to me a bit more… like a cat

p3: Pain de Campagne

#6, Pain de Campagne

For a weekend bread requirement that only revolved around something that would take two days to make, my interests began to spiral towards a surprising direction. As I flipped through the pages, my craving for play immediately latched onto the need to try a more intense pre-ferment like the Poolish. Obviously Rye is still a while away, but the Pate Fermentee was really gravitating, basically involving mixing, kneading, and fermenting a small piece of dough the day before so that it can sit in the fridge and develop some of the sweeter and more flavorful tastes that happen through slower, cooler fermenting than fast single-day action. And who would have guessed, the book recipe calls for all-purpose flour in it! Shocker!

Which left me with certain options, a few of which I could cross off due to the lack of certain ingredients, and others that seemed a bit too… laid-down and expected in final product, those legendarily cultural ones like THE Baguette and Pain de l’Ancienne that I do NOT want to screw up. So I’ll keep those for later, when I feel I have an even BETTER grasp of technique and cooking. So instead, Pain de Campagne is where I settled… another French bread, similar to baguette but with a little addition of wheat, rye, or other grain flour (actual amount can be played with, next time I might try a lot more and a different grain just for fun) for a touch of flavor and structural difference. But what it really excels with is PLAYING.

Pain-de-Campagne004Typically speaking, Pain de Campagne is the sort of all-purpose dough in France that’s used for a lot of those fancy shapes; balls with caps and knots, rings, those baguettes that are cut to look like a leaf/flower chain (apparently it’s called an ‘Epi’), etc while keeping a sorta-baguette texture. This got me excited, cuz I had the chance to try my hand at a couple of these, see if I can do it properly without losing too much of the gas.

3 cups/16 oz Pete Fermentee (recipe follows)
1¾ cup/8 oz Bread Flour
1/3 cup/1.5 oz Whole Wheat or Rye Flour
¼ tsp/0.19 oz Salt
1 tsp/0.11 oz Dry Yeast
¾ cup/6 oz Water, Lukewarm
Semolina/Cornmeal for paddle dusting in bread transfer (don’t need for Epi)


  1. Cut rested and warmed up Pate Fermentee into about 10 small pieces to better take off chill and ensure ease of mixing.20150518_115007
  2. Combine Flours, Salt, Yeast, and pate in stand mixer, stirring with the paddle attachment as you slowly add in the Water, until it all forms together into a consistent mass (add a few drops of additional water if needed to gather any loose flour, or press in with hands). It should reach a soft and workable consistency.20150518_120224
  3. Switch out paddle with a dough hook, wrapping the dough around it and letting go on medium speed for about 6 minutes (if using a really large bowl like me, you may need to pause every couple minutes to take dough and wrap it around the hook again, otherwise it just gets rolled around the sides).20150518_121251
  4. Once it’s smooth, soft, pliable, no longer sticky, and passes the windowpane test, transfer to an oiled bowl (rolling to coat), cover and bulk ferment at room temperature for 2 hours.
  5. When doubled in size (if it does this rather quickly, instructions are to lightly knead for degassing and transfer back to bowl for further fermentation), VERY gently transfer to a lightly floured surface.20150518_143418
  6. Being as careful as possible not to degas the dough, cut into three or more sections using a pastry cutter, begin shaping as desired for the final product.20150518_143826
  7. To make an Epi, start by shaping dough into a Batard (see Ciabatta), letting the dough and gluten relax on counter for 5 minutes.20150518_144654
  8. Start by shaping this into a traditional Baguette. Gently, again trying to keep as minimal attention so as not to degas, pick up either end, letting it stretch out a little ways.20150518_144725
  9. Press a crease down the middle, ideally using a side that already has creases in from the batard folding, using the edge of your hand, lengthening a bit at the same time.20150518_144809
  10. Turn onto the side, pinching the two sides of the crease together with thumbs or hand edge so as to stretch the dough taught.20150518_145008
  11. This done, take palms to the middle and start rocking hands out to the edge and then starting back at the middle again, gently rolling it out to the desired length (it should fit a sheet pan).
  12. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan, mist with spray oil, and cover with a towel or parchment for 1 hour’s worth of proofing.
  13. While it’s doing that, prepare oven for hearth baking. Turn to 500F with a baking stone (for other shapes, Epi will be baked in its own pan) and a roasting pan for water.20150518_160223
  14. Right before it’s ready to back, take a kitchen shears and cut an extremely shallow angle into the bread, starting at the front and working down with at least ½” between each cut. You should snip almost to the very bottom, but still leaving connect. Angle each ‘leaf’ off to the side for presentation.
  15. Quickly transfer to hot oven, pouring 1 Cup of HOT water into the roasting pan, and shutting the door.20150518_162813
  16. Mist the sides of the oven with a sprayer of water every 30 seconds, three times. After that, turn oven down to 450F. Continue baking 10 more minutes, until bread is a rich golden brown around it and sounds hollow when the bottom is ‘thumped.’
  17. Transfer to cooling rack, cutting or tearing off pieces to eat with butter and other goodies. Enjoy

Pate Fermentee
1 1/8 cup/5 oz All Purpose Flour
1 1/8 cup/5 oz Bread Flour
¾ tsp/0.19 oz Salt
½ tsp/0.055 oz Dry Yeast
¾ cup + 2 Tb/6-7 oz Water, Room Temp


  1. Stir Flours, Salt, and Yeast in bowl, adding ¾ cup of the Water, mixing until it turns into a coarse ball, adding any extra water to pick up loose flour, or additional flour to make sure it’s not TOO sticky (but better to err on that side, easily fixed while kneading).20150517_114149
  2. Sprinkle flour on counter, transfer dough and knead for about 4-6 minutes, until soft, pliable, and not sticky (tacky is the word once again). Windowpane test ideal.20150517_114434
  3. Lightly oil bowl, transfer dough and roll to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment one hour so it swells 1½ times in size.20150517_115452
  4. Remove, knead lightly to degass, and return to bowl. Cover tight and move to fridge overnight and up to 3 days before use (or 3 months in airtight plastic bag in freezer for storage purposes).20150517_130917
  5. Remove from fridge at least one hour before intended use to warm up.20150518_103201

What Have I Learned This Time?

Really need to get that hearth oven heated to 500F at LEAST ten or more minutes before I put the bread in, it seems to be dropping heat way too fast and much after opening, need more residual. We’ll see how much my brain lets me do that though, leaving it that dangerously hot for so long really makes it nervous, mainly due to the crack oven glass last time.

Which brings me to the fact that yes INDEED, if you’re having an oven that hot and putting water in it, do not I repeat do NOT let any of it touch the oven door! After some research I found that it’s not so uncommon for that mistake to happen, and even the best tempered glass doors can crack at that high of temperature, even with really hot water touching it. Any easy way to avoid; quickly laying a towel down on it when opening.

Learned how to make a baguette and epi shape, along with a couple others! (I’ll cover those steps at some future post, didn’t see a reason to bog down the recipe listings with three styles of shaping, especially since I’m using these pages as resource for future posts) Also got my first taste at the Pate Fermentee pre-ferment starter, that step seemed to go off without a hitch.

20150518_162907Speaking of which, due to some differences in shapes and sizes, I got to see some different aspects to texture despite the same cooking time and temp. Though the crumb among all three of my shapes was exactly the same, I noticed one bread sorta chewier (but in a good way, in my opinion) while the others a bit lighter; an obvious result of having baked a bit longer than needed for its thickness. I just think it’s cool to see, and could prove useful if I wanna manipulate textures for unique purposes in the future…

I am officially unable to easily turn my baking stone around, so I’m just not going to try from now on; maybe I’ll bake my breads in batches (as opposed to every loaf at once) from now on to keep it on a single shelf and make handling easier… would also help with the oven temp and things. The only question then is if others would suffer from over-proofing? Can that even happen? Also, think I’ll wanna readjust the racks and placements… since the bottom of my epi burned a bit, I think I’d like to try having the steam pan directly underneath it next time, see if that helps with items on sheet trays.

Finally, really one of the main two culprits of my annoyance today, I need to find a way to get my bread and the water in the oven faster. I seriously need a damn paddle, but that just costs loads of money and we’ve got enough storage issues.

Any Thoughts?

I hate it when you spend all this time getting a recipe made and crafted right, pretty sure you do everything perfectly (or at least as perfectly as you can at the time), only to end up with one awkward mistake at the end that just screws up those efforts.

As you can surmise from my learned section, I’m a bit pissed with my handling of the oven this time. The door had to stay open for like a minute as I struggled to move each of my doughs inside, THEN add the water, the temperature dropped down to 445F after I closed it. Not to mention even further down and into the 300s after the misting process. It took a while to get it back up, at the end of the cooking (which took almost double the time than it should have) I pushed it back up to 500F to try and compensate.

-sigh- it just wasn’t handled how I wanted it to be. I mean at the end of the day it was all still cooked rather well, the inside is soft and has  good crumb (I’m not sure if it’s where the bread is supposed to be at, but it feels a bit better than my Ciabatta attempt) and the outside got golden brown and a crispy texture, but not really at that intense level as seemed ideal (at least not in the epi, the others more so). And damn, hot out of the oven with butter… nothing beats that in the bread world; definitely got some of that extra hit of sweetness and flavor from the pre-ferment like it should have. But the bottom of my epi loaf got burned, as well as the top of one of the others (not severely, but definitely over).

Either way, more work be needed, as is obvious. But that’s for a few weeks from now… I’ve got a fresh rosemary plant right now, and my eyes are on a certain potato-based recipe for next time…

Oh, and I’m still doubting how well I kept the fermented gas in the bread. I’m thinking maybe my next gas-reliant dough I might just keep in a single piece, no cutting/dividing (or if I do, maybe BEFORE the bulk ferment), see what results I can get.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It was starting to, but my clumsiness with the oven pissed it off again.