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Killer Bread

  • Hmmm...bread
  • I could look at pictures of bread all day long...

By Andy Corson, contributor

July 18th, 2009

When my wife and I first started selling at farmers' markets, the one question we got most often was, "do you have bread?" The bread seekers would turn around and walk away when we said, "No, sorry." So...we decided to start making bread.

I had made bread before in my home oven, and subjected the dough to a litany of tricks - spraying the oven walls, pouring hot water into a hot pan, baking in a pre-heated dutch oven - the last trick worked the best, but try finding a baguette shaped dutch oven!

In one of my previous posts (baked in its own bag) I tried yet another - baking bread in a parchment tent. As I mentioned in the post, the crust was crusty and the crumb was moist and vaguely shiny with nice sized holes, but the process was not baker-friendly. It took too long to seal the parchment bag, and the dough kept sticking to the paper despite having sprayed it with non-stick spray.

For my last bake (pictured above) I went back to the method I learned from Peter Reinhart - I heated a sheet pan in the oven with a steam pan on the oven floor (I used the sheet pan like the oven deck). I proofed the baguettes on parchment paper sprayed with non-stick spray, and once the oven was hot, I loaded the deck using a peel wide enough for the bread. Then I poured hot water into the pre-heated steam pan (if you have a restaurant supply store nearby, purchase a shallow hotel pan). I place a quarter sheet pan on the oven floor as well, and occasionally sprayed it with water during the first 10 minutes of baking. Check out Reinhart's books, The Bread Baker's Apprentice and Whole Grain Breads for more on his baking methods.

The bread came out very nice using this technique, and it was a hell of a lot easier than wrapping each baguette in parchment. When you are making 30+ baguettes. the method I used is a real time saver.

As for the recipe, Fine Cooking has a really good one. I used Rheinhart's recipe, which I will post below. The original can be found in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. My technique, however, is similar to the technique Rheinhart uses for whole grain breads - a pre-ferment and a pre-dough. You can do this with the Fine Cooking recipe as well.

Pre-ferment

Flour - 10 oz.

Yeast - 1/2 tsp.

Water - 6 oz. (room temp)

Pre-dough

Flour - 10 oz.

Salt - 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 tsp. (play around and salt to taste)

Water - 6 oz. (room temp)

Mix the ingredients for each component separately. Wrap the bowl with the pre-ferment and place in the refrigerator. Wrap the bowl with the pre-dough and leave on the counter for around 12 hours. You can make the pre-ferment 1-2 days in advance - just keep punching it down.

After both components have had some time to hydrate and develop, add another 1/2 tsp. of yeast and the same amount of salt as before to the dough and mix the two together in a mixer with a dough hook. Let this proof for a couple of hours. Divide, shape and let proof for 30 minutes (for baguettes) or 40 minutes for a boule or batard. Pre-heat the oven to 500 with a sheet pan or baking stone as your deck. Don't forget the steam pan, too. You can heat the oven while the bread is proofing.

Before putting the bread in the oven, you are going to slash the baguette. A razon blade, or lame, works well, but a serrated knife works, too. Now - the proof is literally in the proofing time with this one. If you proof too long the blade will not go easily through the dough and will get caught, but if you have proofed the dough for an ideal time, your blade will glide quickly through the dough.

Working quickly, slash the dough and slide it onto the deck with the peel. Pour 1/2 cup of water into the steam pan and close the oven. Turn the heat down to 450. After about 1 minute, spray the dry sheet pan in the bottom of the oven with a spray bottle (spray a stream, don't mist). Repeat every minute or so for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes are up, bake for an additional 10-20 minutes, depending on how dark you like the crust. And remember, practice makes perfect - you will have to play with the salt (and even yeast) and water until you get the recipe just the way you like it. I would suggest leaving the flour constant - no need for 4 variables!

Happy baking!

Andy

posted in: Blogs, bread, technique, oven, Peter Rheinhart, baguette
Comments (24)

rushtonwood writes: Hi, Andy

What bread flour do you use? King Arthur's?

Also what type of salt -- kosher or sea salt or what?

Thanks
Posted: 2:03 pm on October 7th

BasementBaker writes: It makes about 3 10oz. loaves. The total recipe makes 2 lbs. of dough, so just divide 32 oz. by the weight of each loaf to get the total loaves. Posted: 10:52 am on October 5th

cookie1 writes: How many baguettes does this recipe yield? Posted: 9:18 pm on September 28th

Pielove writes: I baked these baguettes today and they turned out excellent! I added 1 tsp Diamond Kosher salt each time (2tsp total), which was just the right amount. Also, I found the doughs a bit stiff, so I added a little more water when I combined the pre-dough and the pre-ferment. Posted: 9:58 pm on August 4th

slamdunk writes: I baked the baguettes this weekend. They turned out great!

Thanks for all your patient help.



Posted: 6:00 pm on August 2nd

BasementBaker writes: Just mix with the dough hook until the ingredients are all incorporated. Posted: 6:39 am on July 31st

slamdunk writes: Hi Andy,

I will mix again. I know the yeast is ok as I used it last night for pizza dough. Do I just let the dough hooks on the machine do all of the kneading?

Thanks
Susan Posted: 7:20 am on July 30th

BasementBaker writes: You can just put the pre-dough (no yeast) in the refrigerator. With the pre-ferment, try it again but mix the yeast with water first, then mix in the flour and let it sit on the counter for an hour before refrigerating. I am not sure what is wrong with the yeast, but it may be no good anymore - do you have a jar of yeast or the packets? The yeast could be dead even if you haven't reached the expire date. This has happened to me before. Posted: 7:05 am on July 30th

slamdunk writes: Hi Andy,

I am using red star yeast. I usually heat the water til it is warm enough to activate the yeast. Am I suppose to heat it like I usually do for other breads? Also, just checking again. I don't need until I use the dough hooks.. is that right?

I think I had better start again with my mixes. The predough has been out on my counter for 14 hours or so. Should I mix another one of these too?

Thanks!
SlamDunk Posted: 4:02 pm on July 29th

BasementBaker writes: What kind of yeast are you using? you can take it out of the refrigerator and let it get to room temp - leave it out for about 5 hours and see if it starts to rise. If it doesn't, you can try again but mix the yeast first with warm water, then mix the dough and put it in the refrigerator. I forgot to mention that the best yeast to use for this recipe is instant or Red Star brand. Did you use Fleischman's?

Andy Posted: 3:29 pm on July 29th

slamdunk writes: Hi Basement Baker,

I am making your baguette recipe. I made the pre-ferment dough and put it in the refrigerator last night. It is not rising. I did not knead it at all. Is it suppose to rise? Did I do something wrong?

Can you let me know?
Thanks
Slam Posted: 11:30 am on July 29th

BasementBaker writes: The part about the clay pot or casserole is true, but it has to be pre-heated (preferably around 500 F). Cold ovens don't work - The dough will stick to the vessel and become baked-on. A hot surface is the only way to achieve crispy crust and keep the bread from sticking. That is why professionals use a hot oven and slide the bread onto the deck with a peel. Who told you that you could use a cold vessel? That is crazy talk. Posted: 6:58 am on July 27th

volpina writes: THank you! I can't wait to try your baguette. Rumour has it that an artisan bread can be made successfully in a clay pot or casserole WITHOUT preheating the oven and simply placed in a cold oven set at high heat. What do you think?
Susan Posted: 6:40 pm on July 26th

BasementBaker writes: Volpina - yes, it would work to use an iron skillet on the top shelf. --Andy Posted: 4:01 pm on July 26th

volpina writes: Would an iron skillet suffice as the steam tray? What about placing it on the top shelf over the bread? I have an electric stove so can't place it on the floor. The bottom shelf where I would place the steam skillet is completely covered by the pizza stone on the shelf above it. Thank you!
Susan Posted: 7:09 pm on July 25th

BasementBaker writes: You should be able to make 2-3 depending on the size. Posted: 1:50 pm on July 24th

slamdunk writes: Hi BasementBaker,

Thanks so much for your help. Only one more question I promise
:) How many baguettes does this recipe make?

Thanks... I will let you know how I do with this new baking project.

Slam Posted: 11:58 am on July 24th

BasementBaker writes: Slam - if you have a paper supply store near you, you can buy quart size bags - these are kraft paper bags made for quart-sized liquor bottles, but the work great for baguettes. Posted: 6:05 am on July 24th

Kris1967 writes: Hi Slamdunk-

I would say the book is absolutely worth buying. My husband bought it for me years ago and it's been well used. I've tried lots of different bread recipes and techniques and this is my "go-to" book without question. It's great for any home baker- experienced or not. There are also good photos illustrating exactly how to form a baguette the proper way, as well as other fun and aesthetically pleasing loaf/roll formations. That sounded really food geekish, I know...oh well. I am what I am! Posted: 7:31 pm on July 23rd

slamdunk writes: Dear BasementBaker,

Thanks so much for the detailed info. I am excited to give it a try. I have always wanted to try baguettes but have been intimidated. How many baguettes does this recipe make?

Thanks for your help.

Susan

One additional question.. How do you wrap these when you sell them at the market?

Thanks again Posted: 3:49 pm on July 23rd

BasementBaker writes: Slamdunk - Put one oven rack as low as it can go and put one near the top. Place a sheet pan or stone on the lowest rack and another pan on the top rack for your steam pan (if your oven is gas, you can place the steam pan on the oven floor and the two racks more in the middle). Heat the oven to 500 for 30 minutes while the bread proofs. Prepare some hot water in a spray bottle. When you slide the dough onto the sheet pan or stone, quickly pour a few ounces of water into the hot steam pan and shut the door. After about 5 minutes spray walls of the oven with the spray bottle. Repeat every 30 seconds or so for the next 5 minutes. The most important thing it to have your baking surface hot when you slide the dough onto it. Posted: 1:20 pm on July 23rd

slamdunk writes: Hi Andy,

I am not understanding the method you used to prepare the oven for baking. Can you explain the process again?

Thanks
Posted: 12:07 pm on July 23rd

slamdunk writes: Hi Kris,

this book sounds interesting. Do you think it is worth purchasing? I didn't want to buy a lot of extra equipment and pans. Can you let me know>

Thanks! Posted: 12:04 pm on July 23rd

Kris1967 writes: I've been really happy with the baguettes and other breads I've made at home using the method and recipes found in the book "The Best Bread Ever" by Charles Van Over. Dough is made quickly in the food processor, very little kneading is involved and you don't need any fancy equipment to get GREAT results. Check it out and you won't be disappointed! The basic baguette recipe makes a fantastic loaf- super crust that shatters when you cut into it and a wonderful, chewy, interior with nice holes and real flavor. Freezes wonderfully too. Posted: 9:56 pm on July 22nd

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About the Basement Baker

The Basement Baker is about following your passion and starting a community oriented bakery. Whether you are thinking of starting your own food business...or just looking for a little baking inspiration, the Basement Baker is blogging about it.

Andy Corson works for the Taunton Press and runs his own baking company, American Artisan Bakery, out of the basement kitchen of a 19th century church in Sandy Hook, CT. 

When he is not at his day job, baking or blogging, Andy can be found selling his products throughout western Connecticut or searching the area for locally grown ingredients.

www.bakelocal.com