Friday, January 18, 2008

[New York]: The Baking Project Continues

Inspired by my success baking a Classic Country-Style Hearth Loaf last weekend, I decided this week to try Daniel Leader's baguette recipe (recipe available on request).

The first advanced-technique type thing about this recipe is that it tells you to let a gloppy yeast/flour/water mixture (called a "poolish," possibly named after the technique of Polish bakers who went to France) sit in your pantry for a full 24 hours. I had never let anything sit that long before, and I was very impressed by the way it was bubbling by the end and the faint alcoholic odor it gave off.

If most food does that kind of bubbling, you throw it out as fast as you can manage. But I forged ahead and put the starter in my bread dough, which at the end of the day looked perfectly fine.

So everything went great until I had to get the darned thing into the oven. I had four puffy, gooey baguette-shaped dough sticks, fully risen, ready to go into the 450 degree oven on the bread stone.

Aaand.... determined to have the dough be less floury so it would develop a better crust, I had apparently created a very *sticky* dough. And the dough stuck to the plate. And I couldn't get it off. And so eventually, in a total panic, I peeled it off with my fingers and - with the oven wide open losing heat all this time - I managed to get the now totally deflated loaves onto the baking stone.

They turned out delicious the first hour after they were baked, but after that they were break-your-tooth chewy (I guess all their moisture got sucked out of them by being baked at too low a temperature?). And I'm starting to think it's impossible to get a professionally browned crust in a home oven.

Luckily this is a cheap hobby. To be continued!



At 6:18 AM, Blogger melinama said...

Instead of the plastic wrap try dumping them in flour. Let them rise in flour. Or dust them all over with flour before you put the plastic wrap on. I haven't tried this, just a suggestion.

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

Yep, I could definitely do that, and they'd probably be a lot easier to move then. The problem is - then they'd have a floury crust and not a crunchy crust (crunchy crust being one of the things I love most about baguettes). I think next I'll try proofing them on a cookie sheet and then putting them in the oven - still on the cookie sheet - right on top of the stone. That way I won't have to disturb them at all.

At 8:59 AM, Anonymous njmotmot said...

Hi Hannah:
Baking bread is a lot of fun. In 2006, the NYTimes published a recipe and formula for making crusty holy (with holes) bread at home. The recipe was developed by Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery on W. 47th in Manhattan. The secret to the crust is baking the bread in a covered, ovenproof dish like a Dutch oven. Professional bakers inject steam into the oven to get the crust. Baking the bread in a covered dish creates the same effect. It works. A cookbook writer named Rose Levy Beranbaum who has a huge bread baking website:

includes the recipe and about a zillion comments.

You are the right track with the cookie sheets. You can also get these silicone pan liners (Silpat is a maker of these). Let the bread rise on them and them just put them on the stone or into the Dutch oven.
I read somewhere that Jim Lahey gives baking classes at the Sullivan Street Bakery. Enjoy!
Jean in NJ


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