Thursday, September 3, 2015

Baguettes (starring Emile Henry) and onion sourdough

This week: baguettes! (Cue Flight of the Conchords' Foux Du Fafa.) I also made an onion sourdough before the weekend (new for me), mixing the dough Thursday night and shaping it Friday morning before going to work.

The baguette baker

This Emile Henry baguette baker was the last of my birthday presents to arrive. 

From my enabling-in-a-good-way husband

The baker came with a recipe book filled with lies, such as using flour to prevent sticking. Unfortunately, I believed the book the first time I tried making baguettes.

The first batch of baguettes stuck badly

All the baguettes stuck to the pan. One even stuck to the top of the pan, which made removing the top a challenge. When I finally managed to get the top off, most of the stuck loaf's crust tore off.

The biggest loaf stuck to the top

As a result, Saturday night we had pieces of baguette with dinner. Delicious, crusty pieces, but still... pieces.

What we could scrape out of the baguette pan

Lessons for next time:
  • Oil, don't flour, the pan.
  • Be careful about watering the tops of the baguettes.
  • Put the biggest baguette in the center.
  • Always look at King Arthur's site before trying to use equipment they carry.

Baguette trial #1

Here are more details about my first try with the baguette baker.

I looked at four recipes:
  • Hensperger's pain de paris (p. 216)
  • Hensperger's classic baguettes (p. 204)
  • Emile Henry's "The real French baguette"
  • King Arthur's recipe for sourdough baguettes
I ended up using kind of a mix:
  • 1/2 cup + 2 T lukewarm water
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (I used white only)
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour (most called for all-purpose flour plus gluten, but I had no all-purpose)
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 T yeast
The recipe in the Emile Henry book called for just 2 cups of flour (3/4 less than the King Arthur recipe, if you count the half cup in the sourdough starter), so I considered taking out 1/3 of the dough for baking separately. But then I weighed the dough, and it was just over the 600 g that the Emile Henry dough should have weighed, so I decided against removing any.

The dough was quite slack (my new word of the week), but I used a ton of flour on the board, and a dough card as necessary. I managed to shape the baguettes, more or less, although my hands ended up covered in dough.

Shaped and ready to rise

I don't trust my ability to eyeball quantities, so I weighed the dough when dividing it in 3. That was kind of a pain, so I should just try to just eyeball it in the future.

After rising

I decided to slash one baguette, leave one unslashed, and put sesame seeds on one. I brushed all of them with water.

After slashing, splashing, and seeding

Coming out of the oven, they looked nice enough, even though half the top of the slashed one came off.

Fresh out of the oven

The crusts were crunchy, and the insides were delish. If only they had come out of the baker in one piece, I would have called them successful.

A success, if you ignore the fact that the loaves were in many pieces

Baguette trial #2

The next day I tried again, using the King Arthur recipe for sourdough baguettes, sugar and all. I halved it because 3 baguettes is plenty. So, along with the salt/yeast adjustments I always make, that meant:
  • 5/8 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (I mixed my white and wheat starters to get the thick pancake batter consistency it called for)
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour (I had gotten all-purpose flour in the meantime, but I didn't want to change too much from the last time, so I used bread flour and no additional gluten)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon bread yeast (not instant yeast)
I put all this into the bread machine and got the dough cycle going. I started 4 pm Sunday afternoon, and started shaping the loaves around 5:30 pm. By 5:50 they were shaped and in the pan. (The kitchen was fairly warm but probably a few degrees cooler than the day before.)


I decided to experiment a bit with the toppings, and to forgo slashing. The middle baguette had just canola oil spray; the others had olive oil and seeds (pumpkin or fennel). I feared that oil with toppings was a bad idea, but the egg yolk wash that the recipe recommended sounded like it might stick to the pan.

Ready to go into the oven
Top: olive oil & pumpkin seeds
Middle: canola oil spray
Bottom: olive oil & fennel seeds

I preheated the oven to 475. At 7:15 (perhaps a bit early, but I was out of time) I put loaves into oven, turning it down to 450.

Oil meant no sticking, and less crunch. Boo.

The results were OK but not great. This time, there was no sticking at all, but the crust wasn't as crunchy, and the loaves were flat. The taste was fine, but I don't see any reason to add sugar to the dough.

Next time, I'll oil the pan but water the baguettes. I'll also make sure the baguettes rise long enough.

Onion sourdough

Thursday night I cooked an onion in some olive oil.

Cooked and cooled onion

I then made my usual Josey Baker sourdough loaf, but with the cooled onion added.

The dough just after mixing

I did the usual 4 stretches of the dough. This dough was pretty darned slack, probably because of the olive oil in the onions.

After the final stretch

After less than an hour of rise time, I put the dough into the fridge.

About to go into the refrigerator
The green line is the dough's height just after mixing

When I woke up the next morning, I took the dough out of the refrigerator. The kitchen was pretty warm (81) before I opened the back door, which cooled us off a few degrees.

Fresh out of the fridge

I shaped the bread and put it in the long covered baker.

Shaped and ready to rise again

Almost 3 hours later, I decided it was ready to go.

Ready to slash

My guys took it out of the oven and sent me this pic.

All baked

My husband adored this bread warm. It was fine once cool, too, but when it was warm you could really smell and taste the onion.

A slice of onion sourdough

  • 9.5 oz onion
  • Thursday night:
    • 20:25 mix all done
    • 21:05 stretch #1
    • 21:25 stretch #2
    • 21:45 stretch #3
    • 22:05 stretch #4
    • 22:50 into the fridge
  • Friday morning:
    • 6:15 took out of fridge, let rest a bit, started to shape
    • 6:35 shaping complete; resting in baker
    • 9:18 slashed (badly) and put into oven, which I then turned on to 425 degrees
    • After the oven got to 425, I set a timer for 30 minutes and left for work.
    • My peeps took off the lid at 30 minutes, and then left it in the oven to brown for a few minutes more.

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