Le Frickin Baguette

Our daily bread is a simple loaf but the most challenging. It is a basic french baguette made by a simple recipe using a straightforward process. The recipe is trivial:

200 grams water
3 grams active dry yeast
300 grams unbleached white flour
5 grams salt.

It is made by adding the ingredients, in that order, to the bowl of a mixer (or bowl of a bread pan - I like bread machine mixers) in what is called a straight dough preparation. Basically, a straight dough prep is mix everything together for the final dough (no starter, poolish, biga, etc.), let rise, punch, let rise again, punch again, let proof (another rise) in the form of the final loaf and launch into the hot oven for final baking. This simple recipe has been tackled by Julia Child (and many others) in some, but not exhaustive detail. The process is deceptively simple. Some of the factors diffcult to control are: flour (I hate King Arthur's), yeast (there is no rigorous and quantitative quality check for home bakers), kneading method, baking method (cooking surface, how to steam the over, type of oven, ...), etc. Even the way the final loaves are vented prior to baking can have a profound impact on the final oven spring and consequently appearance and taste of final loaf. But despite these and many other factors I can only try to control, I tirelessly pursue reproducibility. Another big problem is frequency of baking. While baking several times a week may sound like enough, baking several hundred times each day is probably the only way to observe reliable trands. So the infrequency of the method actually becomes a parameter to deal with. Very frustrating. I won't deny this is a total obsession but one of my more healthy and fun outlets. I only mention this in case someone asks "what's the recipe for your simplest bread?".

It's not a recipe, it's a lifestyle.

p.s.: Short of a full experimental design approach to finding a better method, I'm currently looking for a surrogate endpoint to make an evaluation of some of the parameters I now believe to be the most critical. I'll be considering the brand of flour, brand of yeast, yeast charge, kneading method and relating those to the volume of the dough after the first rise in a controlled environment chamber (probably the bread machine). I'll keep you all posted on the results.

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