Back to baguettes and basics
I must have been a good boy this past year, because Santa was very generous to me. Under the tree I found a new brotform, a fabulous new baking stone - a FibraMent that measures 15" x 20" x 3/4" - a Lodge Combo Cooker and a new peel! And although nearly felled by a terrific head cold, I could not resist the temptation to play with the new toys.
I bake baguettes at work every day - usually in the neighborhood of 140 or so - but I rarely attempt them at home anymore because of the steaming issues (I've bored everyone at TFL to death with) with my gas oven. But....since using Sylvia's patent-pending (I assume!) steaming method involving wet towels in glass bowls brought to a boil in the microwave, I've had really nice results with my batards and boules, so it seemed only right to stick my big toe in the water of baguette-baking again.
I chose Hamelman's poolish baguette recipe which I've slightly upped to 69% hydration and slightly higher poolish content. I think it yields a very workable dough in terms of handling, and I learned long ago that you don't need superhydrated doughs to achieve open crumb - just proper mixing, fermentation and handling.
Although my stone allows a 20" baguette, alas, even my peel only goes to 17 1/2", so I had to be content with something that is still a good half-foot shorter than the true thing. I scaled his recipe to give me two baguettes at 284 g apiece - just about 10 oz which seems right to me for the size.
The paraphernalia involved in creating steam is: cast iron frying pan in bottom of oven loaded with lava rocks, and, Sylvia's (nearly patented) glass bread pan filled with wet towel and boiling water. The procedure is to add the bread pan about 5 minutes prior to loading the dough, and then as soon as it is loaded immediately and carefully pour a cup of hot water onto the lava rocks, close the oven, and repeat twice more at 1 minute intervals. The pan with boiling water I take out after 15 minutes.
The FibraMent stone requires initial seasoning, which amounts to heating the stone to 100 degrees F for one hour, and then increasing the heat by a hundred degrees for one hour until reaching 500 degrees, where it remains at that temperature for two hours. I realized that this would coincide nicely with the fermentation schedule for the dough, so as soon as I began mixing the dough I also started seasoning the stone.
Because the stone is a full 3/4" thick it requires a longer preheating period to build its thermal mass from my previous pizza stone that was only 1/2" thick. But, as I've discovered from my initial bakes, it retains heat better and longer: both baguettes bent upwards at each end and interesting, both twisted slightly in the same direction as you can see from the picture at the head of my entry. This greater retention of heat will require adjustments in my baking temperatures - downwards I think.
Anyhow, here are the results of the baguette bake: I'm generally pleased with the crumb but exhuberant over the open grignes the steaming created.
That night they served as a wonderful sop to a Thai green curry soup that I made with P.E.I mussels, Crisfield oysters (a special treatment of the famed Chesapeake Bay oyster) and a lobster tail.
A nice supper on a cold evening.
The next day I decided that I'd return to one of my favorite everyday breads: Hamelman's pain au levain using mixed starters.
(Also a good excuse to resurrect my refrigerated rye and white dough starters which needed feeding and use).
I scaled the recipe to yield two 680 g (about 1.5 lb) loaves. One I allowed to proof in a banneton, the other in my new brotform. This is a nice bread to make when you have a lazy day and don't need to accomplish the baking in a hurry. Between the mixing and autolyse, its long fermentation (two-and-a-half hours) and equally long final proof, the process lasts about 6 hours before baking. But since there's very little you actually need to do over this period (except for the mixing, one fold and then the final shaping), it's one of those breads that takes a long time but leaves you with lots of time to do other things while waiting on it.
I preheated the oven to 450 F, and put my new Lodge Combo Cooker along with its lid onto the FibraMent baking stone.
After going through my pre-loading steaming procedure, I first scored the loaf that I proofed in the banneton and plopped it into the Combo Cooker, put the lid on and left it on the stove. The second loaf that inaugurated my new brotform I turned onto my semolina-dusted peel, scored and immediately slid onto the baking stone, followed by the Combo Cooker and a cup of hot water. The steaming procedure was repeated twice more at one minute intervals.
After 15 minutes I removed the lid of the cooker and continued the bake for both loaves for another 25 minutes, removing the boiling pan of water 15 minutes before the end of the bake.
Here's the results:
The one of the left was baked in the Lodge Combo cooker, while the other sat directly on the baking stone. Now some contrasts:
It's pretty easy to tell from their bottoms which was baked in the cooker (and the little peak-a-boo split on the bottom of the one on the right tells me I slightly underproofed them). I think in future experiments I will either reduce the baking temperature, or more likely not preheat the cooker quite as long.
As for profiles, however, the two are essentially the same:
And finally, a crumb shot:
Many new toys for me to enjoy in 2011, and a reason to return to baguettes and old favorites.
Fantastic baguettes Larry. The toys sound excellent by the way as well, hope you get lots of time to play with them this year!
Your baguette experience at work sounds similar to my sandwich loaves at work, I make so many everyday at work, I dread to bake any at home. It's a shame too, I should put some of my skills to use that I picked up over the year or so at the bakery.
Keep up the great baking!
I hear you. What's a weekend for a baker but a busman's holiday! Still, I treasure the time when I get to bake for myself.
Best to you in 2011-
I'll take the brotform loaf and the baguette with 5 cuts please!
Wonderful stuff, Larry! I do believe David is advising not to pre-heat the CC?! I've been discussing the possibility of cutting a piece of silpat to size to use to diffuse the excess bottom heat. Any thoughts?
All good wishes to you, and I hope you get well soon
Thanks Andy. I'm very intrigued by the silpat suggestion: however, I just went to their website and they advise not to cut silpat as it could expose fiberglass materials.
But you've got me to wondering: is their something - even a heavy coating of semolina, for instance - that would work? Or, could you place the silpat between the cooker and the stone?
I have a friend who's a distributor for silpat, so I may give the latter a try and let you know.
Best of wishes in the New Year!
Congratulations on your Christmas haul! You got a great assortment of new toys.
I've gotten a darker than desired bottom crust with the Lodge Combo Cooker without pre-heating too. I'm curious as to whether Andy's notion of a Silpat liner would help this.
I'm impressed by your new toy (aka mill) as well. See my comments to Andy's suggestion above. Your thoughts?
A question: what variance do you find in the baking time between using a preheated versus a non-preheated cooker?
I haven't used Silpat except as kneading surface before I got a large wooden board. If the company advises against cutting it, I wouldn't.
If the problem is from conducted heat, putting some insulation between the loaf and the hot surface of the cooker should help. What's a good poor heat conductor?
I haven't found any time difference between pre-heated vs. cold cookers, but I don't think I have sufficient experience yet. It seems possible that the kind of dough may make a difference.
Don't you just love new toys Larry?
Your baguettes look great so you should be pleased with those grignes, they're excellent. The slashing on the right hand boule is very nice! Might have to steal that one for a future bake if that's OK with you. It seems you've run into the same issue with the dutch oven that a lot of us have been having. It's the one thing I don't like about the method, but something tells me that a workaround is not too far off. I was thinking of having a stone cut to size for the lid and seeing if that made a difference in the bottom over colouring. In one of the other posts today Andy was suggesting putting a wire screen under the DO to diffuse the heat, which I'll try next time I use the DO. I'd love to get a FibraMent for myself but so far haven't found a retailer in Canada that carries them.
Terrific first bake of year Larry, bravo!
Thanks so much! I need to spend more time with the toys. The DO is great and I will certainly use it for many things other than breads, but I do want to find a solution to the too-darkened bottom I got. I wonder if anyone has communicated with Jim Lahey about this since he sort of opened the genie's bottle?
Beautiful bakes, Larry!
I'd love to get grigne like that on my baguettes. And the Boule's crumb looks perfect.
Congrats on the new equipment, but I know better than to think the tools are more important than the skill.
Happy Baking in the New Year!
I saw the recent picture of your batards and the grignes looked pretty darned good to me. You're right of course about the tools versus the skill, but new toys are a great way to inspire more baking!
Just nattering on the e-mail with Eric, before.
He mentioned that he had better results with his CC with lower hydration, rather than Chad Robertson's super-hydrated dough. Now in terms of "burnt bottoms" that makes a lot of sense to me: what do you all think?
ps Franko, I think any diffusing has to be inside the cooker, directly under the bread. Not sure if you'd worked that out. But this may be a difficult thing to achieve in practice. Silpat, cut to size, is my best thought; see Glenn's post here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/21381/looking-back-and-looking-forward-sweetness [2nd photo from the bottom]
The lower hydration may ultimately be the best solution but I'm not sure that the trade off in how that might affect the crumb would be worth it.
I thought I'd experiment with screens both inside and out, but if it's inside and you preheat I can't see it being that effective. What I'd like to eventually try is a stone cut to size that you proof the loaf on and then slide it into a preheated DO. This I think might work. I'm really not keen on putting dough into a cold DO .
The pain au levain's hydration is only 68%, so that would not qualify as superhydrated by a long shot.
As I sit here munching on a piece from the DO loaf I must say that there is not a burnt taste; it's just that the bottom is a bit browner than I'd like. So it may be a case of 'get over it' with me.
Still, I may see if I can email Jim Lahey and ask him about this: he pioneered the 'no knead' DO method and he must certainly have run across this.
Baking in a DO is all new to me, so I don't have a lot of similar experience to fall back on.
They do make 10" silpats, but they are too big for this particular cooker and I'm inclined to heed their warning not to cut them.
An interesting problem for a new year!
so many great toys ! The results are just beautiful !
Sometimes you don't know the score till the Holidays :>)
The baguettes! The boules! And the soup!
All look just wonderful. Love the sugar bowl shot too.
What a great start to the New Year. from breadsong
I look forward to more of your baking in 2011!
Great looking baguettes, Larry. Santa nicely rewarded your good deeds!
BTW, my peel is 2.5 inches shorter than my stone. On the rare occasions when I have managed to roll out baguettes longer than my peel, I use a cardboard square on top of the peel (held there tightly with my thumb). But I also use parchment between the peel and the bread, and I don't think you do.
Question: are baguettes supposed to turn up at the ends? Something I've never noticed or thought about until your remark.
The results of your experiment baking with and without the CC are very interesting. Aside from the color of the bottom crust, they both have the same wonderful characteristics.
Thanks for your comment and suggestion!
As for baguettes turning up at the ends, my more experienced colleagues regard that as an undesireable result. Sometimes it reflects on the dough and amount of proofing, but it can result from a too hot deck as well. In this case, I'm thinking the latter.
Happy baking in 2011!
What do you think are the ideal temperature and top and bottom heat settings for baking traditional baguettes?
Andy - The deck oven we use is gas and doesn't allow for top versus bottom heat settings (I've seen these mainly in electric ovens). I've found that temps anywhere in the 450 F - 475 F produce good baguettes in about 24 - 28 minutes, depending on the temp.
But I've noticed that if the temp runs up (which in our deck oven sometimes occurs), the ends of the baguettes turn up which I take to indicate too high a heat.
Yes, my deck ovens are electric, hence I asked you about top and bottom heat. I too would go between 230 and 245*C, which is the same range as you use.
I was asking because I find that the ends of the baguettes lifting during the baking is quite a common problem for me. We don't do full baguettes that often, as I have to take my own baguette peel in from home, and it is a pain carrying it to work on the train!
But this was a really big problem for me when I competed in the Lesaffre Cup at the NEC in Birmingham last year. The deck ovens we were given were being shared by a number of groups...both competitors and exhibitors. I used an authentic local and organic Type 55 French flour, with a Poolish and a 6 hour chilled fermentation. I was really pleased with the flavour and the crust and crumb aspects of the bread. However the volume was a little lacking, and the ends of the baguettes had lifted noticeably. I did ask the Head Judge about this at the time, when being given feedback. He didn't go into any detail, but made it clear he didn't consider it a big defect. Personally I think it definitely detracts from the appearance of the finished loaf, and is one of the main improvements I'd still like to make. The other one is the cuts which never open out as I would like.
Thanks for your information
when the "big boys" do it! Wow, Larry, those are all awesome. The baguettes look nearly (if not absolutely) perfect. Great color. Beautiful crumb. Nice "bloom" in the score. I don't bake baguetees (yet) but these certainly look like a target result to aim for.
I'm glad to hear Santa smiled on you so brightly too. Nothing like new toys to play with. Was it a "Super peel" or something else?
Great start to 2011!
Thanks OldWoodenSpoon! I haven't bothered with the cloth attachment that comes with the peel. Seems like a little semolina is all that's needed to slide the baguettes of without problem.
Good baking in 2011!
I tend to use my Super Peel most of the time, and especially when I bake boulles. I usually bake my boulles in a La Cloche baker, and I preheat both the top and the bottom. The super peel makes it easy to "drop" a loaf into the center of the hot bottom with reasonable accuracy and little damage to the rise. You might want to keep the cloth and the clips handy in case Santa brings you a La Cloche some day.
Great looking baguettes and boules, Wally.
When I still worked with a preheated dutch oven, I often let the bread rise on the insert from a springform pan and put it in with the loaf. It make the transfer easier. The bottoms came out the same color as the rest of the loaf. Maybe that's a way to dissipate a little of the heat inside the DO.
Along with the aluminum foil sling, that seems a good potential solution.
Wow, what a thoughtful Santa! I hope all this baking with your new goodies is making feel much better.
Your baguettes are so great looking. I also usally do a 69% hydration, great to work with and it does produce a nice open crumb..just as you say, with the right handling. I liked the way the ends pop up when they hit the hot stone, but didn't realize it's not disirable :/ I guess you should make the baguette straight at all angles. I got a chuckle from your steaming 'patent'..you must be steaming up some steam.
I love the ICCooker. I haven't had any problem with the bottom getting to dark..in fact I've been very pleased to see the bottom of loaves are the same color as the top..very even cooking and coloring..must be the oven and large cool loaves..I do pre-heat both pieces..but place them into the cold oven separted, turn the oven on at 500 convection and as soon as it beeps, reaching the 500F, I slide my loaf onto the bottom piece with a parchment lined paddle and cover with the lid, shut the oven and reduce the temperature to 450F convection...sometimes I lower the temp. after the lid is removed...depending on the size of my loaf..I usually bake apx. 2lb. loaves..so maybe it's the size and coolness makes a difference on the bottom browning ?? A larger loaf may cool the just brought to 500F pans... the loaves go in the pan, only after a short warm up period after coming from the overnight refrigeration...bigger, cool loaf, helps cool off the hot preheated ICC, but yet it's warm enough to get nice oven spring...maybe that is what makes my bottom crust a nice even color with cracking. A lot of maybe's here..but I do get nice even crust coloring on top and bottom, no burning or overly dark...I think it's the sweet spot for me..I hope this helps.
The Very Best in The New Year Baking!
I can see how that could make a difference Sylvia. Thanks for the tips!
Wonderful!!!!Larry!! Love your bakes... absolutely professional work.
which recommended sprinkling the bottom of the cooker with something like semolina or cornmeal or a similar coarsely ground material as a thermal buffer between the surface of the cooker and the bottom of the loaf? Seems to me Eric (ehanner) might have suggested that approach.
Hi Larry job well done, awesome breads and wonderfull photography and descriptions
What a great christmas you have had, is there any chance of getting a picture of the combo cooker too please
many thanks Yozza
Here's a pic of the CC with the lid on:
I'd like to sit and enjoy one of your Doppio Espressos please kind sir!
I'll have one waiting.
I was just needing to reassure myself on the equipment you were using and great spotting by Andy with the coffee machine. Nice neat kitchen Larry.
Now i wonder if Andy could post a picture of his Baguette peel that he mentions is a pain to take on the train. Im sure other TFLrs would like to have a look at your weapon too
cheers guys Yozza
It's just a baguette loader with a neat handle attached by our woodworking technician friends at College. I pay them in cake!
That's funny Andy i use the same currency at our college with the carpentry boys and i am usually the go between man for the chefs if they need a cake board or some such thing. The best thing was getting the student builders to build the wood fired oven from plans i purchased for my oven and getting the Hospitality area to pay for the materials. I also got them to extend our office area to double its size in the warehouse for the cost of a end of term bar b q.
Good contacts are maintained with all the other areas, plumbing, hairdressing, library etc.
Just a thought though Andy do you SLIDE the baguette off lengthwise or with a sideways motion. One of the adavantages of being the person that turns their requisitions into purchase orders!
Hi Larry just having another look and it has just occured to me that the combo cooker could be used either way up, ie the smaller lid could have the dough piece on it and the former lid would make a good cloche or cover too.
And it's such a pleasure to read well-written and entertaining blogposts with beautiful photos like this one!
You'll find a treasure trove of beautiful pictures and narratives on TFL!
Thanks for another exemplary post, with plenty to chew on, so to speak.
Enjoy those new toys!
Larry, I had heard there was a Santa tasked for heavy loads. A stone AND a CC surely qualifies for this special delivery service.
Great looking breads on both fronts.
You are baking with a gas oven if I recall correctly. The extra browning on the bottom could be from the heat pattern with gas heat. I have had good luck using grits or course grind corn meal in the bottom of the CC. Also I have found that if you pre heat the oven to 500 and reduce it a minute after loading the dough in the CC, there isn't the need for the heat source to be running as long for the initial phase of covered baking. I think the over all heat is more even. If you put the CC in at 460F, the oven has to compensate for the open door heat loss and the additional cold mass, now sucking up the heat energy, for a longer time. The result is the bottom gets blasted by the heat source, longer, with the expected results of a darker bottom.
Franko, you just have to try proofing in the cold CC once. I know it is illogical that the results would be nearly identical to that in the preheated and scorching hot cast iron. You have to enter the Twilight Zone where certain aspects of physical science seemingly, do not apply.
Happy New Year Eric!
There's a few things I'll try, one of which may be the cold DO proof, but I prefer Jerry's idea of using the spring-form insert to dissipate heat. I've got a spare lying around and it's certainly easier to do than my idea of having a stone cut to size. Next bake I'll give it a go and let you know if it worked.
I may have a go with baking in the CC without pre-heating just to see the results.
One other suggestion I came across was from a friend who has baked pretty extensively in DOs. When I told him I placed my covered pot on top of the FibraMent stone he immediately objected and said he thought that was probably the culprit as it would increase the thermal mass on the bottom of the loaf.
I don't understand enough of the dynamics of heat and conduction to know if that is the case, but one thing I do intend to do next time is remove the stone. Now, FibraMent claims you don't need to do that and that, in fact, it's perfectly ok to place casseroles and pots directly on the stone to bake, but I'm not sure they know that much about bread baking and the possible overbaking of loaf bottoms that could occur.
Next DO bake will be without the stone and I'll report back on the results.
Great baking to you in 2011!