Friday, September 5, 2008

Baguettes for President

On Wednesday night, instead of watching more news, more speeches (though I'll admit, I had them on the radio, a good political scientist must hear all sides) I was flinging baguette dough onto my counter top. Actually, the technique has name, "crashing" and coupled with kneading, this act of carbohydrate violence really develops those gluten threads!

My third round of baguettes blew the other out of the water. This time, I drew from my much trusted Cooks Illustrated Best Recipes book. Their exhaustive testing taught me a few cool things. First, in France bread proportions are measured in a system called the Baker's Percentage based on the weight of the flour. "A correct baguette dough, for instance has a hydration of 62%. This means for every 1 pound flour, there will be .62 pounds water." Second, using instant yeast is very satisfying. Third, setting the dough in the fridge overnight creates a creamy texture, and perfectly golden crust,which snaps and crackles as you take it out of the oven. The long rise slows the fermentation process and deepens the bread's flavor. Man I'm a food nerd.

This is the recipe I used.
I encourage you to buy the book, subscribe to the site, whatever medium you find most pleasing, but use this source, its amazing.

Now, on to the baked loaves. The interior was much lighter and fluffier than the first bread, the crust a prettier color, and the boasted a longer staying power. The bread was still good on day three. The pre-ferment of the sponge really enhances both flavor and texture. The first time I checked the sponge it looked like this:

The sponge is ready when the edges are higher
than the center, which has "fallen", like this:

So satisfying to see results right away. I underestimated the rise time and at almost 1 am I was wrapping the newly formed loaves for their slumber in the fridge. Thursday morning, the dough had slept more than me, and it preformed like a champ. I've never been so proud of bread as these to lovely loaves. Success, Success!! I don't know what the next project is, but I'm thinking Rustic Italian.