Artisan/Straight Dough Hybrid

A good bread can make even a quick meal seem special. But can a good bread be made when the night's hectic and time's short?

I think so. I've been playing playing around lately with my favorite hobby, the baguette recipe and realizing some nice unexpected results. That prep is a simple straight dough with a few small but significant modifications. Lately, I've been making the dough (up through step 6) and placing the resulting dough in the fridge.

This time, I made the dough (500 g) on Sunday and put it in the fridge (ca. 40-deg-F) and took off a piece on Tuesday, warmed it up for 20 minutes, baked it and repeated with the rest of the dough on Thursday. The resulting bread on the latter day was different, but each day good. Tuesday's was a bit bigger in volume; by Thursday, I think the yeast was nearly spent and the resulting loaf (pictured in this post) was a tad more dense than the one earlier in the week.

I suspect it's kind of a continuum where baking early is closest to the result of a typical straight dough but after several days in the fridge, even though a full shot of yeast is used, a more elaborate flavor profile develops; the resulting loaf has a bit more irregular crumb, open holes, etc. and it begins to approach a sourdough-derived loaf in texture.

I've repeated this a few times; here are a few specifics: After step 6 on the baguette recipe (for the delayed loaves I use chilled tap water anticipating not baking for at least 24 hours) I refrigerate the dough immediately. On the first or second day I want to make bread, I take about 250 grams of the dough and round the remaining dough and put it back in the fridge. With the portion I removed, I squash it into a disc (ca. 7" in diameter) to expose a lot of surface area and let it sit on the counter loosely covered with a dish towel for about 20 minutes to warm up (kind of a second rise). I then roll up the disc into a baguette shape (also a break from convention), dust it with flour and proceed as in the recipe using about 30 minutes for the final proof while the oven preheats to 450-deg-F. Last night, I only used about 200 grams and made something closer to a ficelle. It was very nice to have with leftover greans/cannelini bean/chicken soup we had.

Incidentally, the baguette, or better, the ficelle, offers another advantage for the busy weekday night. It can cool properly and quickly before the meal. A warm loaf is nice but if you crack into the baguette prematurely, the crumb doesn't get enough time to develop its flavor.