There is something philosophical in the pursuit of the hole in the bread. Actually, what you are looking for is the perfect nothingness. The hole which holds nothing and yet everything a bread lover seeks. Like every true seeker, I would follow many paths trying to find that elusive nothingness. I would stumble along the way, hit many road blocks, get distracted by little trinkets on the way. Sometimes I would hit upon something that I believed would actually result in an airy baguette. And when I did slice it, I would find a few scattered holes but nothing to really get excited about.
These experiments did not taste bad.They just were not what I was seeking. I increased the hydration, learnt to handle the dough more gently, baked at higher temperature, baked with steam, baked in a dutch oven. . . While the original photographs which accompanied the recipe looked fantastic, mine looked like a poor country cousin.
There was this one recipe, though, which kept drawing me back. I would gaze at the pictures with undisguised envy. Would the God smile upon me? Were these just pictures to fool you into thinking that the impossible was possible. Lure you in, like the siren song, only to lead you to a treacherous end. Tx Farmer’s recipe for sourdough baguettes seemed simple enough. I just kept postponing the inevitable. Maybe I did not want another disappointment. After months of going back and forth, I finally took the plunge. After all, what did I have to lose?
The work is spread over three days. Now don’t fear. I said “spread over three days”. On day 1 and 2 you will probably spend an all total of 10 minutes and this includes weighing the ingredients. Day three calls for a little more work but nothing that you cannot handle. The ingredients are pretty basic too. A good, strong starter, flour, water, salt. Now how much more basic can you get? Day one you just mix the flour and water and pop into the fridge for 12 hours. Day two, mix in your starter and salt stretch and fold every half hour for a couple of hours and back into the fridge. You will probably spend a minute on each round of stretch and fold. And day three where you actually rest, shape and proof the bread before baking it.
The moment of truth was when I cut through the crackling crust. Dare I look and face the disappointment of inevitable failure or be brave and look the enemy in the eye? A true Hamlet moment. And then I did. (Pause for effect) What accosted my eye was big gaping holes of nothingness. Who would have thought that seeing light streaming though my bread would actually bring tears to my eyes. Tx Farmer you certainly put everything you knew into this bread. Thank you again from the bottom of my bread eating being.
150 g very active sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
425g All-purpose flour
300g Cold water
1.Mix water and flour into a lumpy mass, cover and place in the fridge for 12 hours.
- Remove from the fridge, add the starter and salt to the dough, and mix until distributed. The dough will be very sticky, but you should resist the temptation to add more flour. Allow it to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, kneading by the “stretch and fold method” every 30 minutes. The dough may rise about 30% of its total volume but may not double. Place the dough covered in the fridge for 24 hours. So far so good? See I told you it is not all that complicated.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up for 1 to 2 hours
- Divide the dough into four pieces, taking care not to deflate it too much. Place each piece over floured parchment paper, and let it relax for 30 minutes.
- Shape each one as a baguette, proof for 30 to 50 minutes, and bake with steam at 240 C for 25 minutes.
That is it. You are done. Not so bad after all!
Let it completely cool before slicing and feasting your eyes on the nice open crumb.
For details on the method to stretch and fold the dough, and how to shape a baguette please refer to the post Song of the baguette