Makes 2 baguettes
This is the straight dough method using autolysis. I used Calvel's basic ratios, but I did add my little bit of semolina, which I love for flavor. This is a good basic French bread dough that you can use as pizza dough or to make small loaves or shape as fougasse.
Allow the flour and water to stand to permit the flour proteins and starch to hydrate well. This cuts the kneading time.
Using a hard red winter wheat flour such as Gold Medal Harvest King Unbleached or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose (both of which have a good carotenoid content) and limiting kneading, which would oxidize these flavorful compounds, produces loaves with excellent flavor.
Both Gold Medal Harvest King Unbleached and King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose have a small amount of malted barley flour, which contains active enzymes to break flour starch into sugars to feed yeast.
The lecithin contained in egg yolks is an antioxidant that helps to preserve flavor compounds, and it is an emulsifier that will give the bread a little better shelf life.
Baker's Percentages—Flour, total: 18.7 oz/531 g, 100%; water, total: 13 oz/369 g, 69%; yeast: 0.25 oz/7.5 g, 1.4%; salt: 0.4 oz/10 g, 2%.
1. Place both flours in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Add 1-1/2 cups (355 ml) of water and mix on the lowest speed for about 20 seconds just to blend. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand for 30 minutes.
2. Sprinkle the yeast over 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the water. Allow to stand for 1 minute only, then stir and sprinkle over the dough. Mix on low speed for a few seconds. Stir the lecithin, vitamin C, and salt into the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water and sprinkle over the dough. Mix on the second speed for 2 minutes. Check the dough temperature with an instant-read thermometer; ideally, it should be about 72°F/22°C.
3. Oil your hands with about 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of the oil. Oil a bowl with about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil. Scrape the dough into the oiled bowl, turn the dough in the bowl by hand to lightly coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise about 45 minutes.
4. Wipe a clean counter with a lightly oiled paper towel. Dump out the dough onto the counter so that the smooth top of the dough is now on the bottom. Allow it to spread out as much as it will. Pick up the dough on the left side, lift up about one-third of the dough, and gently fold it across to the right. Allow it to spread a few seconds, then lift up about one-third of the right side of the dough and bring it across to the left. Again, allow the dough a few seconds to spread. Pick up the bottom edge of the dough and bring about one-third of it up and across to the top. After it settles, pick up the top edge, lift about one-third of it up, and bring it across toward you.
5. Place the dough back in the bowl, turning it over so that the smooth top that was against the counter is back on top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 45 minutes. After this bulk fermentation, lift out the dough and place it on the lightly oiled counter, smooth top up.
6. Divide the dough in half. Using both hands with a gentle cupping and tucking action, shape each half into a smooth round. With both hands, grab the sides of the round and stretch it sideways into an oval. Let it spring back slightly, then pull it out again. Cover each with plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and leave on the counter for 20 minutes. The dough is now ready to shape.
7. Arrange a shelf with a baking stone on it in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 460°F/238°C.
8. Shape one baguette at a time. Cup a piece of dough with both hands, fingers spread out behind the loaf on either side and thumbs in front of the loaf. Press your thumbs into the dough and down against the table. This pulls in or tucks part of the bottom half of the dough. At the same time, pull the top of the dough tight and forward with your fingers. Now move your thumbs down slightly and press down and in again, pulling the top forward with your fingers to knead and tuck again. Repeat this motion two or three times until the loaf is stretched taut and tucked in well. The loaf will lengthen as you stretch and tuck and may be long enough if you have pulled your hands outward in the process. If not, lengthen the loaf by placing both hands, spread out, palms down, on top of the center of the loaf. Simultaneously push away against the table with your right hand and pull toward you with your left, pulling the dough out in opposite directions. Repeat this pulling once or twice more, if necessary. Now pinch the bottom seam together.
9. Spray a double-trough French bread pan with nonstick cooking spray and place the loaves in the pan to rise. Cover with a damp cloth or a piece of plastic wrap that is lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Allow to rise at 76°F/24°C for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
10. Place a few clean small rocks (about 1 to 2 inches/2.5 to 5 cm each) in a pan with 2-inch (5-cm) sides and place the pan on the floor of the oven near the front. You are going to pour about 1 cup (237 ml) of boiling water over the rocks just before you place the dough in the oven. The moisture will condense on the relatively cool dough and keep it a little moister, allowing the dough to rise well before it crusts. For the boiling water, place a saucepan with about 1-1/4 cups (296 ml) of water on a burner and bring to a low boil.
11. To slash the baguettes, use a single-edge razor blade according to the instructions in the book (p. 442).
12. With oven mitts on, very carefully pour the boiling water into the pan with the stones. Keep your head and arms out of the way of the great billow of steam that comes up. Close the oven door briefly.
13. Place the baguettes, in the pan, on the stone in the oven. Bake for 34 to 38 minutes. The dough needs to be crisp. Do not be tempted to remove it too soon. If it is getting too brown, lower the oven temperature by about 10°F/6°C. Place on a rack to cool.
This page created February 2009
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