We went international again in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, this time au français. French Bread, ooh la la!
I'm baking my way through Peter Reinart's award winning book along with 200+ other amateur bakers. Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:
- Pinch My Salt BBA Challenge page—master resource for the challenge
- Buy the Book Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
- List of Breads See what's coming up.
- Blogroll See who's baking. Great list of some amazing foodie (and not-necessarily-foodie) blogs.
- Flickr Group Photos, photos and more photos!
- Twitter Search for #BBA to find challenge tweets.
Peter Reinhart describes this as a "lean, standard dough; indirect method, commercial yeast". Translation: it doesn't contain added fat or sugar, has less water (lower hydration percentage); it uses a preferment (in this case a pâte fermentée), with instant yeast (as opposed to a wild yeast/sourdough).
This is the pâte fermentée, warming up a bit before adding to the rest of the ingredients. This preprement is basically a French bread dough all on it's own. The reason you make this ahead is to develop the flavor and bring out the natural sweetness in the flour. Because this is a lean dough, you're not relying on sugar or eggs or fat for flavor; it all needs to com from the flour.
My pâte frementée was a bit slack and sticky, but it's easy to adjust hydration during the rest of the mixing process.
I actually had three pieces but had already shaped one into a baguette. I handled the dough more than I should have and it was resisting the shaping. I had a feeling I was creating some dense loaves, but soldiered on.
I bought a baguette pan months ago with some fun money I had set aside, so I decided to put it to use rather than bake on a stone.
Slashing the dough adds decoration, but it also releases some of the trapped gas. Reinhart explians,
"Often, they protet against trapped gas making tunnels or caverns in the bread. When done artfully, the cuts greately enhance the line of the bread. Strong lines, weather straight or curved, are a hallmark of all food presentation."
I've tried many different kinds of knives, making sure they were sharpened right before using, but they still wanted to tug at the dough. That makes for less attractive scores and degasses the dough. I've found that the best, easiest and cheapest method is using a razor blade. They're super sharp, easy to find at any hardware or big-box store and cheap.
The bread turned out reall good, for the most part. I made a few mistakes which made for less asthetically pleasing bread, even though the taste was great.
First, I man-handled the dough and it made for a dense crumb. Second, I mis-read the directions and had the oven set too low. This meant a much lighter colored crust that I would have liked.
Overall though, it was delicious. With some practice (and following directions), this will be an amazing bread.