La Baguette: The Proof

My Baguette is the most often baked bread in our house but, historically, it's not been the most reproducible. Each parameter seems critical.

I once took a statistical experimental design short course. I forgot most of what I learned because I don't use it anymore. In fact, my current profession only requires me to use an organ grinder and tincup for donations of loose change. But that's another whole thing.

When I did learn it, the first application (other than for chemical reaction scale-up, my previous career) I thought I would try is with this loaf but there were simply too many parameters and the dependent variable - the outcome - was too difficult to numerically characterize. What I do recall is when planning the design, you need to know boundary conditions of the independent variables; extreme values for each parameter. Using either of these extreme values would cause a failure and optimization would provide a value somewhere between these two extremes.

This long-winded discussion brings me to the value for the final proof time for this straight and fast dough. The final proof is probably the most critical part of any baked loaf of bread. Too long and it hits the oven, sinks and comes out dense; too short and it gets good oven spring but still comes out dense. However, this isn't my profession and experimentation with this value can mean my family gets a lousy loaf of bread. I have to be careful when I do my experimentation. My currently written recommendation for the final proof is 20-25 minutes for the Baguette. Last night, I decided to go dangerously close to what I guessed to be the lower limit of the final proof, 15 minutes. Oops, Frankie needed a diaper change at 12 minutes. I docked the loaf, tossed it in, threw in a shot of steam and dutifully went to change the diaper.

WOW! What an awesome result. Great oven spring, good crust, good volume, good color, just awesome. I think I established a new lower limit for the final proof parameter.

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