The Wood-Fired Blog

More on Baguettes and Hydration

Following up on my previous posting on why 80% hydration is just too high for a straight yeast baguette (and my plan on trying different hydration and dough preparation methods), today I ventured off and made a couple of simple baguettes with 70% hydration.

My plan was really simple. I made a straight-forward, room temperature dough:

500 grams of TJs AP flour
350 grams of water
5 grams of yeast
10 grams of salt

Then I did a 5 minute knead at quite a high speed (5 on KitchenAid). I was in a hurry, so I rushed it. But then I have the dough a quick six holds before heading out the door, and a second six folds after bulk fermentation. About 90 minutes.

In then shaped the baguette balls (what is the proper word for this?) following the Ciril Hitz method, and let them rest of an hour, and then I shaped the baguettes, put them in a couche and left them proof for an hour.

I know this is obvious to an experienced baker, but the difference between 70% dough and 80% (no matter how hard you try to build dough strength) is really clear. You can handle the 70% dough with very little flour, and the task of shaping the baguette balls and then shaping the baguette was much easier.

And as you would guess, I did get the oven spring and the higher, rounder, lighter loaf that I was shooting for.

Of course my baguettes are still pretty darn ugly. I am always having issues loading them into the oven, with the dough sticking to (in no particular order) the couche, the flipping board, the peel and each other. And my scoring is still awful.

But, they are closer to what I am trying to accomplish. A step in the right direction, with a good lesson learned.

One last note on baking. As I said earlier, I was in a bit of a hurry today, so I decided to bake my baguettes on a Forno Bravo pizza stone (15”x20”) in my convection oven, using a spray bottle—rather than firing my pizza oven. I preheated my oven to 475ºF, and then turned it down to 425ºF after l loaded the bread.

Here’s what is interesting. The two baguette came out completely different. The dark brown baguette was loaded a minute of two before the second (I decided to load and score the second baguette after the first was already in the oven). It started baking and the crust was already forming by the time I loaded the second baguette and started spraying water in the oven for steam. The second loaf is much more of a caramel color. It goes to show what a couple of minutes can do to change the nature of a loaf of bread.  Even more interesting, the first loaf is taller than the second.

Was it differences in dough handling? Because the first loaf was in the back of the oven facing the convection fan? Did the back of the oven maintain a more consistent temperature?

Anyway, I still feel like I am taking small steps forward most days that I bake. Being self-taught has its pluses and minuses, but for now I am enjoying the process.

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