Another great learning day at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Today we focused on how to manipulate one factor, mixing method, to create three completely different baguettes. The story behind these three baguettes is as interesting as the loaves themselves:
The first dough was called a 'short mix' and represents how bread was traditionally made before the heavy machinery was called in the mid-twentieth century. We still used the mixer, but we only mixed long enough to hydrate the flour before moving the dough to tubs for a long bulk fermentation. The dough was approximately 50% developed when it went into the tubs and we properly developed the gluten by folding the dough every 45 minutes. It was great to see how the dough changed over time, but better yet, how to tell when the gluten was sufficiently developed. This gentle mixing method allowed us to use more water and less yeast, which in turn delivers a more complex flavour.
the third dough we mixed was the 'intensive mix', which represents how dough was mixed after the introduction of high speed mixers. The gluten was 100% developed in the mixer and used less water and more yeast. The end result was a dough which was much tighter and easier to handle, which makes it perfect if we were going to use machines to divide and shape the loaves (we used our hands) at the expense of flavour, texture and colour. There's a place for intensive mixed doughs, but my preference is for looser doughs and longer fermentations to create a better flavour.
the second dough we mixed was the 'improved mix', which represents how artisan bakers pulled back from the intensive mix in order to extract better flavour while still getting the labour saving advantages of the mixer and shorter fermentation times. This was the same mix we used yesterday -- 70% gluten development, more water than the intensive mix but less than the short mix, and an amount of yeast between intensive mix and short mix too.
So much for the method -- how were the results?
The intensive mix gave a loaf that was much like I make at home when I don't use a preferment -- even, slightly dull colour, a chewy crust and a tight, white crumb. Not bad, but no real depth to the flavour or aroma.
The improved mix loaf was wonderful -- a shiny, crisp, crackling crust, light crumb with slightly irregular holes and a nice creamy colour.
The short mix was a delight as well. I got the best 'ears' from my slashes, but that was more due to getting the technique right for a change. The loaves had a slightly chewy crust and a creamy crumb with a wide variety of holes. The smell and taste was nicely complex wheaty flavour.
My favourite was the improved mix because of the crust. I just can't get enough of it! It's unlike anything I've had before; crisp and easy to chew even hours after it was baked. My supper tonight was a baguette with cheese and an apple and it was superb!
On another note: I ended up with 13 baguettes to take home to the hotel tonight. Let me tell you, I'm making friends in the lobby of the Hampton Inn! If any of my Orange Boot customers are feeling deprived, just head down to the Hampton in South San Francisco around 5:30PM and you won't regret it!