Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Poolish Baguettes: BBA

Moving right along... It's Day #26 in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge and we're making Poolish Baguettes.  As the name implies, these baguettes are made with an overnight poolish

According to Peter Reinhart, "in the Coupe du Monde bread competition, the poolish baguette is now the standard that all countries must replicate."  These baguettes, created by Bernard Ganachaud, are made with a medium-extraction flour that isn't available in America.  This type of  flour is slightly higher in ash content and bran than regular bread flour.  It is similar to clear flour which is whole-wheat flour that has been sifted once (instead of the usual twice) to remove the bran and germ. 

Obviously, we don't have this special flour, so we'll replicate it by sifting whole wheat flour once to remove the bran.  According to the commentary in the book, this should provide the right amount of fiber and ash. I'm using home-milled whole wheat flour so this experiment will be fun!

Poolish Baguettes
Makes: 3 Baguettes


  • 1 cup (7 ounces) poolish
  • 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) whole-wheat flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (.37 ounce) salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon (.08 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups (9 to 10 ounces) water, lukewarm
  • Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting


Making the Poolish (get the list of ingredients here)

For the step-by-step instructions for making the poolish, please refer to the Ciabatta post. Remove the poolish from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough to take off the chill.

Making the Dough

Pass the whole wheat flour through a sifter or strainer, sifting out the bran.  Sift as much of the flour through the strainer as will go and set aside the bran that remains in the strainer for another use - for example, making the Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire.

Stir together the flours, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl or in the bowl of your electric mixer.  I didn't use a stand mixer for this bread.  I just used a mixing bowl.  Add the poolish and  1 1/8 cups of the water and stir with a large spoon until the ingredients form a ball.

I started out with a wooden spoon, then switched to the danish dough whisk.

Transfer the dough to a counter sprinkled with flour. Knead for 10 minutes, sprinkling more flour as necessary.  The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.

Fermenting the Dough

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment at room temperature for 2 hours or until it doubles in size.

Remove the dough and knead it lightly for 1 minute.

Return the dough to the bowl and cover it again.

Ferment for additional 2 hours at room temperature or until the dough doubles in size again.

Shaping the Baguettes

Sprinkle flour on the counter and gently transfer the dough to the counter.  Divide it into 3 equal pieces using a metal dough scraper.  Try not to degas it anymore than necessary.

Shape the pieces into baguettes, as shown on page 74, or for detailed instructions on making baguettes, refer to the post on French Baguettes.

Proofing the Loaves

Prepare the loaves for proofing.  I'm using the couche method.  Refer to the Ciabatta post for detailed instructions on using a couche.

Proof the baguettes at room temperature for 50 to 60 minutes, or until they are about 1 1/2 times their original size.

Baking the Loaves

Prepare the oven for hearth baking.  Make sure to have an empty steam pan in place.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  For more detailed instructions on hearth baking, refer to the post on Pain À l'Ancienne Baguettes.  

Score the baguettes.  I used a serrated knife, but it was a bit too big and the slashes didn't work very well.  I recommend using a lame for scoring these baguettes.

The method described in the book is to dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with cornmeal and transfer the dough pieces to the peel or pan.  Then, slide the loaves onto the baking stone to bake.  Instead of using this method, I decided to bake the loaves in a special baguette pan so they would keep their shape. Mags at The Other Side of Fifty had mentioned this pan on her blog and I decided to give it a try.

For detailed instructions on hearth baking, including using the steam pan and spraying the oven walls with water at 30-second intervals, refer to the post on Pain À l'Ancienne Baguettes.

Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, rotate for even baking if necessary, then continue to bake for 8 to 12 more minutes.  The loaves should be a rich golden brown.

Remove the bread and cool on a rack for at least 40 minutes before slicing or serving.

Here is a shot of the crumb.  Looks pretty good.  Tastes great also.  I like these baguettes!

Thanks for joining us this week in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.

The next bread in Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is Portuguese Sweet Bread. 

Happy Baking!

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