Posted by: lifewithbs | March 20, 2011

Pain a l’Ancienne

I am slowly working my way through Peter Reinhardt’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Reinhardt is a master bread baker, and this books has a great introduction section that explains the “science” behind creating an excellent loaf of bread. He also teaches his craft, and in the book he mentions that this recipe is the one that inspires the most excitement among his students. That statement, combined with the fact that this recipe requires only some mixing on day one and a minimal bit of fussing on day two, made it an obvious choice for a recent weekend project.

Pain a l’Ancienne

recipe from Peter Reinhardt’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

6 cups (27 ounces) unbleached bread flour

2 1/4 teaspoons (.56 ounce) salt

1 3/4 teaspoons (.19 ounce) instant yeast

2 1/4 cups pus 2 tablespoons to 3 cups (19 to 24 ounces) water, ice cold

Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting.

Day 1:

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and 19 ounces of water in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, and mix for 2 minutes on low speed. Switch to the dough hook and mix 5 to 6 minutes on medium speed. The dough should be sticking on the bottom of the bowl, but it should release from the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t, sprinkle a small amount of flour until this occurs. Dribble a small amount of water in if the dough seems too stiff and clears the bottom as well as the sides of the bowl.

Lightly oil a large bowl and immediately transfer the dough with a spatula or bowl scraper dipped in water into the bowl. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and cover the bowl with elastic wrap.

Place the bowl in the refrigerator and retard overnight.

Day 2:

Prepare the oven for hearth baking, According to Reinhart, the purpose of hearth baking is to radiate heat directly into the bread as immediately as possible in order to promote oven spring and a crisp crust. It also may involve  using steam to promote spring and contribute a shiny finish to the crust. To do this, place an empty pan with high sides (I used my brownie pan) on a top shelf in the oven. If you have a baking stone and want to use it, place it on the lower oven shelf. Since I have not had luck sliding dough from my pizza peel onto the baking stone, I decided to just use a baking sheet lined with a silpat. I didn’t put it in oven to preheat.

Preheat the oven to 500 F.

Check the dough to see if it has risen in the fridge. If will probably be partially risen, but not doubled in size. The amont of rise will depend on how cold the fridge is and how often the door was opened. Leave the dough out at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours to allow the dough to wake up, lose its chill, and continue fermenting.

When the dough has doubled from its prerefrigerated size, liberally sprinkle the counter with bread flour. Gently transfer the dough to the floured counter with a dough scraper that has been dipped in cold water, dipping your hands as well in order to keep the dough from sticking to you. Try to degas the dough as little as possible as your transfer it. If the dough is very wet, sprinkle more flour over the top as well as under it.

Dry your hands, dip them in flour, and roll the dough gently in the flour to coat it thoroughly and stretch it into an oblong shape about 8 inches long and six inches wide. If it is too sticky to handle, continue sprinkling flour. Dip a metal pastry scraper into cool water to keep it from sticking to the dough, and cut the dough in half widthwise with the pastry scraper by pressing it down through the dough until it severs, then dipping it again in the water and repeating this action until you have cut the full length of the dough.

Let the dough relax for five minutes.

Cut each half  of the dough into three equal pieces.

To shape the baguettes, take a piece of dough and gently stretch it to the length of your baking sheet or baking stone. If it springs back, let it rest for rive minutes and then gently pull it out again. Place three of the strips on the pan to bake together.

Score the dough strips with three diagonal cuts. Because the dough is sticky, you may have to dip the razor blade or serrated knife in water between each cut (I did).

Next time maybe I will have more luck with the shaping. It was hard to get all three dough strips the same size and weight, without handling them too much.

Ok, so the baking part seems complicated and ridiculous, but it really isn’t that bad once you know what you’re doing. Carefully slide the dough onto the baking stone if using, or place the baking sheet on the lower oven shelf. If you slide onto a baking stone, make sure the dough pieces are not touching.

Immediately (and carefully!) pour one cup of hot water into the steam pan and close the door. After 30 seconds, spray the oven walls with water (with a plant mister), taking care not to spray the light bulbs in the oven or the glass on the oven door. Close the oven door after spraying the walls. Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals. After the final spray, lower the oven to 475 and continue baking.

The bread should begin to turn golden brown within 8 or 9 minutes. If the loaves are baking unevenly, rotate the pan 180 degrees. Continue baking 10 to 15 minutes more or until the bread is a rich golden brown and the internal temperature registers 205 F.

Transfer the hot bread unto a cooling rack. They should feel light and air and will cool in about 20 minutes. While these are cooling, you can bake the remaining loaves.

My baguettes didn’t turn “golden brown” and were quite pale, but they got up to the correct internal temperature so I took them out. The most annoying thing that can happen with bread baking, to me at least, is overbaking or burning the bread. I would rather underbake a bit and have the bread be doughy.

But, even through they didn’t look quite right, they tasted and smelled wonderful, and I was pretty happy with my first attempt at baguettes. Next time I will try to get a darker color and take better pictures of the final product 🙂

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Responses

  1. where’s the izzy pic?

  2. Those baguettes look as good as the ones we buy at The Pantry! Glad to hear that they taste good too. You may need to check the temperature in your stove — maybe it’s not as hot as it’s supposed to be. I think I’d like to learn how to bake bread some time — when I have more time to hang out and watch the dough rise…

  3. Nice! I’d like to try that recipe sometimes… glad to hear it worked out for you.


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