Tuesday, June 21, 2011

French Baguette (Round 2)

This time I took a friend's advise and made a wetter "slack" dough and tried a technique called "autolyse". I'd say it definitely turned out better, but I'm still not getting the same crust or texture you normally associate with a high quality baguette. My crust is crispy but thin and delicate, and the interior has a nice chewiness but is borderline spongy and a little lacking in flavor.

For this round, decided to go with 75% hydration which is what I saw some french bakers using for their baguettes. That means 75% water to flour ratio by weight. So for my 12.6 oz of flour I need 9.5 oz of water. This high level of hydration means you have a very loose "slack" dough that wants to stick to everything. The trick with handling this dough is to use dry flour to keep it from sticking to everything, but avoid mixing it into the dough thereby reducing the hydration level.

Next, I wanted to try a technique called autolyse which means that you mix together just the water and flour and let it sit so that the enzymes in the flour have a chance to break down the proteins that you can later form into gluten, the building block of bread. Usually you form gluten during the kneading process which mechanically breaks down the proteins so they can be reformed into gluten. With autolyse, you let the enzymes do half the work for you.

To make this work with the bread machine, I had to hand mix the flour and water first. Once it comes together, put it into the bread machine work bowl. Then make a little crater to pour the yeast in and sprinkle the salt around the edges away from the yeast. I waited 10 minutes before starting the dough cycle, as it normally starts with a 20 min rest cycle so combined, I have about 30 minutes of autolyse. The rest is pretty much the same as in my previous recipe.

Here are the results:

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