Goth Panda

BBA Challenge #14: French Bread

I made these baguettes over the weekend. Since I am closing on the house on Thursday and officially moving on Friday, this is the last BBA recipe I make in this apartment. I wonder how the move will affect my bread baking. For one thing, at the new house I will have a full-size oven. I will also have central air, which will provide more climate control. However, the more you bake bread, the more hospitable your kitchen is supposed to become to the bread-baking process, because you are encouraging friendly yeast in the air and environment. Will I have to start all over to nurture some more friendly yeast?

I was a little nervous about making these baguettes, but mostly about shaping them. I have never tried to make baguettes before. Also, this is also only our second foray into Reinhart’s hearth baking method, with the steam and the spray bottle. I think the only time we did this before was with ciabatta. The method seems to work well, but I still get a little freaked out, because there is so much to do all at once. Put bread in the oven, pour water, shut the door, hope your heat doesn’t escape, spray oven walls at 30 second intervals…. In comparison, the non-hearth breads we have made are much less stressful.

So. I fermenteéd some pâte. Meaning I made some dough ahead of time. Then I refrigerated the dough, pulled it out the next day, and cut it into pieces.

Pate Fermentee

Then I mixed my pieces with some more flour, salt, and yeast. I used the blend of all-purpose and bread flour that Reinhart suggests. I added the full amount of water, since he says it is better to err on the sticky side. But after I had kneaded it in my stand mixer for 6 minutes, I could tell that it was too sticky. So I hand-kneaded it for a few minutes longer, and added in some extra flour to get the right consistency.

Dough

I don’t think I have been patient enough about kneading until I get a windowpane. I got a very small one here, but I went ahead with rising. The dough’s temperature did measure above the suggested range, but that could easily have been because it was warm that day. So in the future, I vow to do better.

Rising Bucket

My dough totally doubled before the two hour mark, so I degassed it a little in the bucket. Then I waited until the two hours were up, and the dough had doubled again.

Now for the part I was dreading: the shaping. First I cut the dough into three pieces, and I roughly weighed them out with the scale. Then I shaped all three pieces into batards:

Batards

And from there, on to baguettes:

Shaped

I decided I was going to bake these on the sheet pan, because although I have a pizza stone in my oven, it is not very big and I thought if I tried to bake all three, some part of them would be hanging off the stone. Besides, then this way I didn’t have to move them after the second rise.

I almost forgot to slash them. This was the first time I was using my new lame, and it was kind of hit or miss. Some of the slashes were very good and neat, some I more teared than slashed.

Slashes

I baked these for ten minutes, then turned them and baked for another ten. I took their internal temperature, and all were above 205, even though the loaves themselves were very light. Only the top one has any significant browning. They did crackle satisfactorily when I took them out of the oven, though. I am always happy to hear that noise; it seems to me a sign that I have done something right.

Done

These were very tasty. They were small and rather thin, but they seem to be the perfect size for sandwiches.

Sliced

They weren’t very difficult to make. Hopefully the baguette shaping and slashing will become easier with more practice. Although I am having a great time baking through these recipes, one thing I am regretting is that I don’t have enough time to go back and make recipes I particularly liked again. Even if I had enough time, I doubt I have enough freezer space. I still have leftovers from four different BBA recipes in my freezer right now. I wonder if the freezer in the new house is bigger than this one….

I give this recipe 4.5 stars.

4 thoughts on “BBA Challenge #14: French Bread

  1. I just made the french bread too! Its tasty. I hope to make again soon! My freezer is also full of past breads…and the neighbors are gettin’ a little round in the middle with all the breads I have given them! Happy Baking! Good luck with the move!

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