The minute just prior to loading a scorching 500 degree oven with delicate shaped baguettes is a case study in coordination and multitasking. You need to move quickly in a controlled manner — proofed baguettes can easily deflate if handled roughly and should be baked immediately to maintain its cylindrical shape. Several things should also be ready once the loaves are removed from the linen couche. To wit:
- parchment paper on a baking sheet
- a lamé for scoring
- oven mitts, because explaining forearm burn marks can be awkward
- boiling water for steaming the loaded oven
- a camera, because certain subcultures are obsessed with taking pictures in the kitchen (optional)
In the middle of all this, you also need the presence of mind to keep yourself from leaning too low when opening the oven doors. The sensation of eyelashes curling away from the backdraft and into an eyeball is decidedly unpleasant.
Waiter, there’s something in my… picnic hosted by The Passionate Cook
Things got tense once the baguettes were gently arranged in rows on the parchment and the lamé was nowhere in sight. The loaves were flattening right before my eyes and I was stuck at a critical step. Baguettes have to be scored or it will have zero chance of making the front pages of Tastespotting, Food Gawker, and FP Daily. Desperate for anything razor-like, I reached for my newly sharpened sushi knife.
Who knew that a Japanese technique for slicing fish would work so well on dough? The hiki-giri, or drawing cut, involves the entire edge of the long blade. A technique used for cutting sashimi, the heel of the knife is placed on the fish before drawing the blade backwards. Extra downward pressure is unnecessary — the cutting motion relies solely on the weight of the knife to ensure a clean cut. Replace the fish with proofed dough and the lamé seems useless all of a sudden. The cuts from the sushi knife were clean and barely dragged.
lamé – overrated unitasker
Last seen in action scoring Peter Reinhart’s French Baguettes*, the lamé is still nowhere to be found and I couldn’t care less. I’m glad I accidentally found a much better tool and technique for scoring dough.
* there’s a joke in there somewhere…
Eric Kayser’s Baguettes Monge
makes three 250-gram baguettes or four 180-gram ficelles
- I used Bernard Clayton’s suggestion for approximating French flour by using 3 parts all-purpose flour and 1 part bread flour. Use T65 flour if you’re lucky enough to have access to it.
- The final hydration of the dough is approximately 58%. The crumb will not be as open compared to more traditional baguette formulas, which is usually hydrated in the neighborhood of 60% to 70%.
For the Final Dough:
Ingredients Volume Ounces Grams liquid levain (100% hydration) 3.5 100 all-purpose flour 13.25 375 bread flour 4.4 125 water, at room temperature 270 ml instant yeast 1/2 tsp sea salt 1 1/4 tsp .35 10
Final Dough Instructions:
Mix Mix all of the ingredients until evenly incorporated Knead 8 to 10 minutes (must pass the windowpane test) Rest 5 minutes Knead 1 minute to further strengthen the gluten Bulk Ferment 60 minutes at room temperature Divide 3 pieces for baguettes or 4 for ficelles Shape baguettes, with pointed ends
Final Proof 90 minutes at room temperature
Preheat Oven 500ºF/260ºC Score 3 to 5 slashes
Steam 1 cup of boiling water poured in a heavy steam pan (preferably cast iron) Bake Lower the temperature immediately to 425ºF/220ºC. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaf if necessary and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Cool At least 15 minutes
- Maison Kayser Official Web Site
- Au Levain! bread baking blog (in French)
- Baguettes Monge discussion at The Fresh Loaf
- Crazy oven spring at Ye Olde Bread Blogge