Posted by: Jonjon | March 28, 2009

Baguette Epi 9.5/10 for texture, but as good as Pain L’ancienne, but 5x harder to make

Baguette Epi 9.5/10 for texture, but as good as Pain L’ancienne, but 5x harder to make

The first-stage, or old-dough starter
– A walnut-sized (1/2 ounce, or 14g) piece of fully risen dough (pizza, or other white flour bread dough.) [I used English muffin dough] 7g
– 1/4 cup (60g) warm water (105°F to 115°F, or 40-46°C) 30g
– 2/3 cup (85-93g*) unbleached all-purpose flour 45g

Cut the dough into small bits, soak in the water five minutes to soften. Mix in the flour, first with a spoon then knead. You’re not trying to develop gluten, just incorporate all the ingredients.

Put the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise in a warm place (between 80°F and 85°F or 27-29°C).

[I heated a glass of water in the microwave then placed the bowl with the glass of hot water in the microwave and closed the door. Periodically I took the dough out and reheated the water, to make sure the environment stayed warm.]

After 8 hours the starter dough should be bubbly, soft and sticky, and springy.

The second-stage starter
– The first-stage starter (above)
– 1/4 cup (60g) warm water (same temps as above) 30g
– 3/4 cup (94-105g*) unbleached all purpose flour 50g

Make this second sponge like the first. Rise for 4 hours in a warm environment (same temp as above). It should more than double.

After the rise, the sponge, when stretched, will show long, lacy strands of gluten and smell sweet and yeasty, even though no yeast has been added. Chill the risen sponge for at least 1 hour, but no more than 8 hours, before proceeding.

[Update: for batch 2 I forgot to put the sponge in the fridge overnight so it got very yeasty and alcoholy with the excess fermentation. However the bread still developed nicely, and tasted wonderful, if a little sour.]

The final dough
– 1 1/4 cups (296g) cool water (about 78°F or 25°C) 148g
– 1/2 tspn SAF instant yeast (not rapid rise) or 3/4 tspn active dry yeast ¼ teaspoon
– The second-stage starter (above)
– 3 1/3 cups (416-466g*) unbleached all purpose flour 230g
– 1 TB (12-13g) kosher salt 6g
[I don’t know much about kosher salt. I used regular, and rather than measuring a TB I tried to use the 2% of flour weight rule, which was less than one TB, but somehow the bread could have used a little more salt. Maybe I made a math mistake.]

You are advised to use a stand mixer here. Put the water into the bowl of the mixer [hold back a little water to add at the same time as the salt later] sprinkle the yeast, and stir by hand to mix. Deflate the second stage starter, break it into pieces, add it to the bowl and allow it to soften for 5 min. Add the flour, pulse the machine on and off so the flour doesn’t fly out, mix on low speed until flour is incorporated then let the dough rest for 10 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the water.

With the machine running at low speed, add the left-over water and sprinkle the salt onto the dough. Increase speed to medium high and mix and knead the dough for 5 to 8 minutes. The dough will be very soft and moist and may ride up the hook. Push the dough down periodically.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest in a warm place (between 80°F and 85°F or 27-29°C) for about 1 1/2 hours. The dough will probably double in bulk and it should have a network of bubbles visible under the surface.

[This somehow never worked with my schedule. So I let the dough rise more slowly, at a room temperature of about 19°C. Worked well too.]

Final [well almost final, there’s still the rise after shaping!] rise. Fold the dough down on itself a few times, without punching down, in order to redistribute the yeast, then cover again and let rise for 45 minutes.

“After this last rise, you must shape and bake the dough. If you refrigerate the dough now, or do anything else to retard it, you will have a sourdough bread, which is not what this dough is meant to be.”

[Update: Yeah well, as mentioned above, with batch 2 I made a mistake with starter two and definitely got some sour notes in my bread. But it still tasted wonderful. So you can’t follow the recommendations exactly, don’t worry too much.]

Shaping: I am too tired to type up the instructions for shaping. Look at the video. Also I am sure there are many resources on the web for shaping baguettes, couronnes, épis or pain fendu (which is what Sullivan demonstrates in the video above). Finally this site has good tips for shaping an épi.

Baking: If you have divided the dough into four baguettes (or mutant baguettes) as I did, preheat and prepare the oven as described here and bake for 20 minutes. It’s not the exact instructions from the recipe but close enough, and the ones I used. If you have any doubt, consult the video!

This had a similar texture to the L’ancienne. I think the Epi had even more chewy texture, but equally crispy crust. It wasn’t salty, despite the amount of salt used. The texture, crispy crust and very chewy inside was excellent. I didn’t need much flour while shaping this. It was wet, but drier than Pain L’ancienne.


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