Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pain à l’ancienne baguettes

There was a time when I thought that in order to have a great relationship, two people must have a lot in common with each other. I sought out guys who had the same interests as I did - who were passionate about art and music, who could quote Shakespeare and tell me about the Tokyo Imperial Palace, and who could talk about books and politics until the wee hours of the morning. And when I found them, I always wondered what was missing.

Then -- and ironically -- when A. and I were already engaged and I was having a panic attack and frantically thinking of running away to Rome a la Audrey Hepburn (I was very specific about Rome and there had to be a scooter), I had a "duh" moment. One of those moments when you realize something that, in retrospect, seems as obvious as the nose on your face, but at the time is a huge epiphany. I realized that our differences are what makes us such a strong couple. It just works for us, it's uniquely our own. It doesn't matter that I like French chanson and he likes Metallica, that I could spend a whole day walking around Paris and he prefers to lay on the beach in Hawaii or that he reads modern Japanese literature and I love Henry James. We have the important things -- the really important things -- in common, and we are better and happier as a team than we are on our own. And, as A. put it (gently and patiently enough to chill me out - in other words, using the tone of a SWAT team negotiator trying to disarm a crazy person with a time bomb), we have our love in common. What can I say, we have our romantic moments too.

As you can see, I didn't run away to Rome. And I can even accept our differences with a sense of humor now, like him eating the baguette warm from the oven, breaking the golden crust with a crunch heard in the next room, and me wanting to wait until it cools completely and slather it with butter and jam. God, I am so patient with his little quirks, no? ;)

This recipe comes by way of Jude at Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate - a blog that I've been reading with great pleasure. Thanks to him, I understand why these baguettes came out a bit flatter than I anticipated. Apparently, I used the wrong flour that was too soft to help the dough firm up properly. Since I'm so new to this whole baking-with-yeast thing, I didn't realize that my usual General Mills flour wasn't going to cut it. Next time, I'm definitely using King Arthur. Oh, and by the way, there will definitely be a next time. These baguettes were wonderful. The crust was a lovely deep shade, and crunchy too, hiding chewy soft insides with those beautiful irregular air pockets we all know and love. The labor was pretty minimal (except the soft flour and sticky dough, ugh) and I cannot wait to make it again. Thanks, Jude, for the recipe and for being so kind to answer my panicky emails with questions (omg, my dough is sticky, help! what do you mean, the flour is "too soft"??? aaaah!).

Pain à l’ancienne Baguettes

makes four 12- to 16-inch baguettes

unbleached all-purpose flour: 4 cups/17.6 oz/500 g
water, ice cold: 1 cup + 6 tbsp/11.5 oz/325 g

water: 3 tbsp + 1 tsp/1.8 oz/50 g
salt: 1.5 tsp/.3 oz/9 g
instant yeast: 1.5 tsp/.2 oz/5g


* Best to use King Arthur all-purpose flour or another flour with a higher protein content than regular supermarket all-purpose flour.
* Peter Reinhart’s pain à l’ancienne in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is based on a method very similar to this recipe. In Reinhart’s version, the salt and yeast are added before refrigeration.


Mix together the flour and the ice-cold water until a shaggy ball of dough is formed.

Knead 4 to 6 minutes, until the flour is thoroughly hydrated and a smooth ball of dough is formed.

Cover with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. The bread will be sweeter the longer the dough rests (this process of resting the dough before adding yeast is called autolyse).

Add the additional water, salt, and instant yeast to the cold dough. Knead until the water is completely absorbed, about 6 to 10 minutes. The dough will be very sticky.

The dough will initially have the consistency of chewing gum and will not readily absorb the additional water.

Ferment #1 90 minutes at room temperature

Using gravity and a bench scraper to help you, lift the dough to stretch it into a long rectangle and put it back on the counter with the short side facing you. The fold it into thirds vertically, like an envelope, and then fold again horizontally.

Ferment #2 90 minutes at room temperature

Stretch and fold again.

Ferment #3 2 to 3 hours at room temperature, or until almost doubled
in size

Preheat Oven 460ºF / 240ºC

Divide 4 equal pieces using a lightly moistened bench scraper

Preshape: On a lightly floured surface, gently shape each piece
into loose ovals by tucking the sides underneath the
pieces of dough. Handle as gently as possible to avoid

Pain à l'ancienne French Baguettes Shaping

Rest: 10 minutes

Shape: Stretch gently into strips, about 12 to 16 inches long.

Steam: 1 cup of boiling water poured in a heavy steam pan
(preferably cast iron)

Bake: Bake for 8 to 9 minutes at 460ºF / 240ºC. Rotate the
loaves and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the
crust is deeply browned. The thickest part of the
baguette will register 205ºF / 91ºC when done.

Cool: At least 30 minutes


Miette said...

Those sound to be crunched !



Passionate About Baking said...

Yes, how beautifully stated Irene. Me & mine are poles apart but are so good for each other. It's our anniv today, 14th one, & I'm nodding wildly as I read your post....that includes a high five for that fantastic bread! YUM!!

onesilentwinter said...

how wonderful!!! the perfect food!!

HHeller said...

Romantically cutesy and utterly delicious - I'm glad I've stumbled across your blog.

AnticiPlate said...

I see that you took a picture of the Stonewall Kitchen Jam. I use the blueberry version for my blueberry prosciutto pizza. They, unfortunately, dont carry it at Whole Foods anymore. Sadness.

Elra said...

Wow, those baguettes are beautiful. I made bread a lot, but never made baguette, how can that be?

Elyse said...

I'm in total agreement: differences make us stronger. And they always make life more interesting. Dating yourself just wouldn't be so fun, right?! I must admit, this post rang true for me: I'm a warm-from-the-oven type girl when it comes to any baked good (except cheesecake!), but my boyfriend Todd wants to wait for everything to cool!

Arundathi said...

thats so true about me and my husband too - and yes, i too would've run away to Rome (or maybe Paris) if I could've! :-) But my d-uh moment was when I met a person who was so similar to me that we almost didn't have anything to say to each other because we agreed on everything! and that was Boring! So here's to differences.
And here's to that fantastic looking bread. Jude's recipe are always amazing!

Ash said...

This is wonderful! What a great little read.
The baguette looks amazing! Photo's too!

Helene said...

Beautiful baguette.

Kevin said...

Those baguettes look great!!

Joie de vivre said...

These look wonderful. I love the story of you and your hubby. I agree, my hubby and I work BECAUSE of our differences. I'm very emotional, he's very analytical...together it works to make balanced decisions.

Joie de vivre said...

Thanks also for visiting my blog! It's fun to find yours!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

What a lovely story of your love for A. And your description of the bread is perfect...with the irregular air pockets of tastiness. It makes me want to make a loaf. And the photos are wonderful too.

Sara said...

I love pain a l'ancienne baguettes, I haven't made them in a while. I like to use the pain a l'ancienne formula to make focaccia, in fact I made some yesterday! said...

Another great resource for things like how flour protein content affects your baking is Cookwise by Shirley Corriher (also her book Bakewise, but I use Cookwise more often).

ChichaJo said...

Loved reading this post...I agree! It's the differences that draw us to one another and make a couple a good team. Keeps things exciting too! :)

Your bread is beyond gorgeous!

gkbloodsugar said...

Soft flour considered - nice job!

Kathy said...

Question: What do you bake your bread on? Baking stone? Cookie sheets? Oven racks?

Irene said...

Hey Kathy, I just baked it in a lightly oiled (sprayed with oil spray) cookie sheet. I did not pre-heat the cookie sheet in the oven since I did not have anything I could use to slide the dough onto the cookie sheet and I didn't want to get my eyebrows singed :). To my - admittedly not very refined - palette, it worked out really well!

oneordinaryday said...

I haven't had much luck in the bread baking dept., but I know a delicious bread when I see one. These look great!

toxobread said...

Wonderful looking baguettes! I love the look of those crusts as well as the irregular hole-filled crumb. (I think I would take a gazillion photos while the baguettes are cooling and then eat them slathered in butter and jam, mmmm.)
- Jackie

Jude said...

Glad you found it tasty... nice big air pockets, too. I actually like how your baguettes are shaped, a somewhat narrower ciabatta :)

Irene said...

Jude, my husband called them "ciabettes" or "bagabattas" - a cross between ciabatta and baguette. He thinks he's so funny. *eyeroll* :)

Merisi said...

This bread looks so good I want to eat it off the screen!

Loved the story about you and your husbands coupledom! ;-) I am a strong believer that what matters besides love is that each has a strong sense of enthusiasm, no matter if it is for different persuits. Good luck from one who actually met her husband in .... Rome :-)

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Anonymous said...

Great recipe! I've made it several times with delicious results. Finally, an easy to make, crunchy-crust, complex tasting bread. Thanks for posting it.

Bonnyblithe said...

I have a question about your recipe; what do you mean with your "steam" direction? I understand that you boil water... but then what do you do with the water/steam? I apologize for my ignorance but I just baked my first loaf of bread the day before yesterday. Thanks!

Irene said...

Hi! I'm by no means a bread baker, so my way of creating steam is kind of a hack way to do it - however, it works for me and it's really easy. While I preheat my oven, I usually put a loaf pan on the bottom of the oven to preheat it as well. Then, as you're putting your bread dough to bake, pour a cup of boiling water into the loaf pan and quickly close the door. The water coming into contact with the hot pan will create steam. Like I said, a hack way, but it works! :)

Anonymous said...

All the way on the other side of the world in New Zealand I have just taken my baguettes out of the oven and sadly mine look nothing like yours - I am going to have to give it another go as I am not too sure where I went wrong. I hope to find a solution soon........ as I love the smell of fresh baked bread throughout the house. Keep up the wonderful recipes. Regards.

Irene said...

These are really finicky - it depends on what kind of flour you used. The first time I made these, I used regular all-purpose flour and they were very flat. The second time, I used King Arthur flour, which has a higher protein content, and that worked out very well. Also the amount of water/flour depends on how hot/humid it is that day - the dough should be very sticky.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe myself. This was my first time in many years trying to make bread and I was so excited. I had to proof my yeast but in the process I was stupid and killed it with too hot of water. Of course I didn't realize it and added it to the dough. Can it be saved or am I screwed? I added some more live yeast but I don't know :(

Irene said...

Ack! Sorry this happened to you! I'm not sure if it will work or not, but hey, you can always try, right? :) Hopefully, it'll be ok and you won't have to re-do it. This is kind of a tough bread with which to get back into bread making, good luck!