How to bake the perfect baguette – comparing four different recipes for delicious baguettes

How to bake the perfect baguette – comparing four different recipes for delicious baguettes

Posted on 22. Feb, 2016 by in Bread and conversation

One of the most important things to remember in life is that there are many ways to do the same thing.  With a few exceptions - and these fall into the realm of science - life, the universe, and everything including recipes for bread are pretty flexible.  Bread is VERY flexible - something I tell students and readers all the time.  Plenty of ways to skin a cat or shape a baguette or prepare a focaccia.  There is no ONE way there is only what you know and what you prefer versus what anyone else knows and prefers which is why it's great to continue to learn and experiment because one day soon you will discover something that you did not know and/or something you prefer to what you have always known.

Flour, water, salt, yeast and an infinite way of putting them together to bake bread.

Flour, water, salt, yeast and an infinite way of putting them together to bake bread.

Recently we here at the global HQ of Virtuous Bread embarked on the Great Baguette Bake Off.  Baking four different recipe (excluding my own to eliminate bias) I wanted to compare how four different people put together their baguettes.  What the approaches had in common were in the method.  I left the dough to hang about thinking for 15 minutes once all the ingredients had been added to the mixing bowl (for the technicians among you this is called leaving the dough to autolyse); I kneaded for 10 minutes in a machine on speed 1 with a dough hook; I left the dough to rise for 2 hours; I scaled it and left the blobs to rest for 15 minutes; I shaped in the identical way for all four recipes (described in the posts about them) and I left the shaped dough to rest for 30-45 minutes until they were ready for the oven.  I baked the dough at 230 degrees celsius for around 20 minutes.

Preliminary results of the baguette bake off.

Preliminary results of the baguette bake off.

As you may know from having followed, FCI (4th place) was fine.  Perfectly fine.  Week End Bakery (3rd place) was delicious but the dough was impossible for me to shape properly (blame the flour, blame the flour).  Bertinet (2nd place) was a very nice all rounder.  Brunkebergs (1st place) was delicious.

Inside the favourite - Brunkebergs baguettes by Helene Johansson

Inside the favourite - Brunkebergs baguettes by Helene Johansson

The reality is that there are as many approaches to baking a baguette as there are recipes and what I was testing was recipes.  I was not testing approaches although there is merit in taking the same recipes and trying four different methods, I did not do that in this bake off.

The point is really the dough stats, and here they are (in order of how they placed where Brunkebergs placed first in the bake off).  Sorry the chart is rather plain - I am not sure how to import it accurately from excel.

 

Brunkebergs

Bertinet

Week End Bakery

FCI

poolish % total flour

26%

0%

90%

14%

poolish hydration

100%

na

80%

100%

total dough hydration

75%

75%

80%

70%

Salt and yeast % were common across all four recipes.

So, there you have it.  Very different recipes all using the same four ingredients but with different results.  You understand now why bakers can get a bit obsessive and why I, at least, love excel spreadsheets so I can calculate percentages and record the changes that I make so that I can actually replicate what I like.

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