15 October 2010

Pain a l'Ancienne Mini Baguettes

I've cooked a few loaves of basic french bread and decided: time to try something harder. The first recipe that caught my eye was "Pain a l'Ancienne" (also from Artisan Breads Everyday). The recipe has one major difference from the french bread: the flour to water ratio is around 1.25 : 1, where the french bread has around 1.5 : 1. This leads to a couple differences in the prep. First, the dough is not something you would want to knead. It is gooey and sticky when first mixed:

Dough after 1 minute of mixing and 5 minutes of resting
The instructions call for a process Reinhart calls "stretch and fold". You place the dough on a flat surface, pull out a side, and fold it back over. You do this for each side, and repeat the process four times allowing a 10 minute rest between each time. The process was a joy - you get to coat your hands and a prep surface in oil and feel the bread get a little firmer (but not really less sticky) with each iteration.
Dough after fourth (and final) stretch and fold. Note how firm and cohesive it looks.
After that, you do the usual cold fermentation - stick it in the fridge, covered, for at least a night. I prepped the dough Wednesday and cooked it Friday morning, giving it two nights. When I took it out in the morning to prep, it had at least doubled in size. For baking, I decided to go with mini baguettes because the ciabatta variant would take around 3 hours to prep (compared to 1 hour for the baguettes).

The dough was great fun to work with - it was light and airy, much like pizza dough. I think, in fact, the recipe is the same as used for pizza later in the book. For prep, you coat a work surface in flour, flour the top of the bread, and flour your hands - the dough will stick to anything and everything that you give it a chance to. Oh, you also roll the formed baguettes in flour, just for good measure.
Coated dough, patted into a rectangle an inch or two short of how long you want the baguettes to be.

The formed baguettes. To form them, you cut off a strip of the main loaf, roll it in flour, and gently lift it onto the baking surface, stretching it by an inch or two.

Finished baguettes. They had amazing internal pockets - some up to pinky-sized.
The baguettes only used about 3/4 of the dough (need either more patience or a second, large baking sheet), so I formed it into a tiny tiny ciabatta and threw it in the oven with the baguettes on my toaster oven tray. It failed to keep its shape, so mayhaps the 3 hour prep time for the ciabatta (consisting mostly of letting the dough sit after a minute of work) is required.

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