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The Wood-Fired Blog

A Baguette Self-Critique

Jun 01, 2012Posted by Forno Bravo

I have always thought of myself as a glass half full person, so in parsing my latest baguette lessons and trials, I’m going to start with the positive. As background information, I made a standard 70% dough using TJs AP flour.

On the upside:

I started my dough the night before using room temperature water and an initial knead for 10 minutes on KitchenAid at 3. The dough ball was silky and well-formed. I then popped it in the refrigerator covered with a kitchen towel overnight.

The overnight rise was good. The volume increased by more than 50%, but did not exploded, and it did not stay in a hibernating state—as is the case when I start my dough with ice water. My conclusion is that ice water baguettes probably need more than 19 hours (kneading at 10PM and baking at 5PM the next day).

I did six folds and a bulk fermentation and an second six folds. It’s easy to do, and I have mastered the wet deck and wet hands method—so I am not adding any additional flour to the dough. I created the baguette balls and let them proof on the deck, which also worked.

Overall, these are probably my best baguettes yet. They are light, crispy on the crust, the crumb is nice and developed, and they are tall. I’ve been wanting to address my low (puddle) baguette problem, and I might be there.

On the “needs improvement” list, I still have a ways to go:

While my slashing (docking or scoring—I wonder why there are so many terms for basically the same thing) is improving there were some real shortcomings in this batch.

On one baguette, my scoring did not overlap by 1/3 (as described in the Hitz scoring video, and in parts of the bread where there was not enough overlap, there is the “bulge and constraint” phenomenon that Hitz described in his video. You can see it in the photo below. The cuts are over-exploded, while the areas of bread without the overlap are very narrow. Got it. Overlap by 1/3.

On the second baguette, despite the fact that I thought I scored the loaves pretty well, and did the 1/3 overlap, the baguette steam blew out the side of the loaf—leaving the score makes relatively un-expanded. Not good. Watching the video again, I have to remember that speed is important to the scoring technique. I think I need to score fast to get a deeper cut.

While one baguette is pretty consistently formed, the second loaf is just too short and too fat. I need to think about whether this was because I simply didn’t roll that loaf properly at the final step of preparing the loaf, or whether I made another mistake earlier in the process.

And finally, after watching the Hitz video again after loading these baguettes in the oven, I can see that I need to know more air out of my baguette balls before shaping the baguettes. I need to get more skin tension during my final shaping, and that will help.

So in the end, I feel like I made a few more improvements to my technique, and definitely have a few more to go. I some ways, fixing more problems upstream (earlier in the process), makes the mistakes I make later in the process all the more glaring. I can definitely say at this point that I do not know how long it is going to take for me to get all of the bugs out of the system. Or, to be honest, if I can reach the level of skill that I would like will staying 100% self taught. It’s going to be fun finding out.





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