Friday, August 6, 2010

Double down!

Double down...   ...let's just say that I am a poor excuse for a gambler, but I am learning when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.

What?  You didn't see that coming? 

OK, so there had been a bit of a problem with the Twin French loaves last time.  The problem being that no one could not tell the difference between the baguette with poolish and the baguette with pate fermentee.

Yeah, there was that little issue of garlic scape butter, and trust me, that stuff would have made warm cardboard taste darned good.  But still, I had given some to the neighbors, sans garlic, and it did not seem to matter.  No one seemed able to taste the difference.

And trust me, at this point they are not as bashful about saying what they like and dislike.  For instance, the Twin Boys next door.   "Hey Mister Steve, when are you gonna make me a banana creme pie?" , says Twin Number One.  Followed by Twin Number Two saying, " Forget him, I am older and I want pecan pie."  

They have quite gotten over the issue of shyness around me, and I am very pleased and satisfied by that fact.  These are boy's boys, through and through.  They love to play in the dirt, and if it is wet dirt, as in a muddy old river, they are even happier. 

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent.  What was my point?  

Oh, yes, to explain that, if there was a difference between the two breads, they would have had no hesitation in telling me so.  At. All.

So today, we would do it again.  And of course, as long as  it is going down, why not add some plain french bread and some of my old sourdough standby?  Sounds like a plan.  But this time it would be done by the book.  No more cups and hand full; this time, the scale would find good use.

Before being introduced to the Mellow Bakers, the sourdough was my reliable old standby for French of baguette bread.  Because of a book called "Ratios", this was the recipe that was used the most in our household for French baguettes.  

Five parts flour, three parts water, two parts starter, and one Tablespoon of Kosher salt.  I made a lot of it, and people liked it.  

I liked it!

 The plain French bread is from Hamelman's 'Bread' book, page 233.   

It is a straight yeast bread, and it gets it flavor from a long bulk ferment time.  Good stuff, but it gets a bit of a bad reputation because, as Hamelman himself admits, he likes the fuller flavor of a pre-ferment bread.  

But, I liked it!

The baguette with poolish is from page 101.

The poolish was dutifully started last night by adding flour, 

 water, and a little yeast, mixing well, and setting it to wait for at least 12 hours.  This time it was clearly marked, even using radically different bowls for each preferment. 


 The baguette with pate fermentee is from page 103.  

The pate fermentee- ( Aw, come on.  I hereby proclaim it to be 'fermented dough' from this point on!) 

The fermented dough was dutifully started last night by adding flour 
with water and salt and yeast.

As you can see, it is definitely
a much stiffer base to start from.


Again, it was clearly marked and was set off to work.

While yours truly set off to sleep, perchance to dream.


This morning - well, it was still morning after all, even if it was not the usual 5:30 a.m. - the breads were mixed and set out for bulk fermentation. 

For the poolish dough, the flour  

and water  

 were mixed with salt and yeast and the poolish was was added in as well. 

Want a better look at

the consistency?  It was a large sponge-like mass.  Smelled great!

For the fermented dough, the flour 

and water were mixed with  salt and yeast, but then the fermented dough was added in.  

This was indeed a different beast, at least in shape and form.
Then, off to the screen porch for bulk ferment.   An hour later, each yeast-based bread got a fold.  An hour later, another. 

The 5-3-2 sourdough prefers not to play the same games as the other breads.  Understood, and with some amount of empathy on my part as well. 

Then it was time to form and final proof the poolish. 

It was set in two batches, as there is only one baguette pan in my house.  I am already getting suggestions to reduce.  I was really happy to find out it was not my waistline she meant - this time.

 The cake sheet helps capture stray sesame seeds.

 And it was starting to look a little scorched after only twenty minutes at 455 F.  

Ol' Luke is like that, flaring up like an alcoholic relative after New Year's Eve.

And here is the first outcome, one right side up and one upside down to show those all-important 'dots'.

Next, the plain vanilla French bread goes in... 

(Probably shouldn't use that phrase in a cooking post, huh?)  

Correction, the plain French bread goes into the oven. 
It was a lot harder to score that the prefermented breads, but I still had hope.  Besides, there is always that garlic scape butter, calling to me from the fridge.  

Honestly, it is becoming an addiction.
But I have not seen any vampires.

And here are the two loaves of plain French bread.  

I had only made a half batch of this and the sourdough, since I wanted to make sure that the neighbors would still be willing accomplices to the taste-testing.  

I will have two complete sets of four types, with two poolish and two pate, er - fermented dough loaves for myself and the neighbors down the road.  Hey, you never know when they will see me walking around delivering bread in my shorts, tennis shoes, and a tee shirt. 

Wrapped and numbered for delivery... will notice that there are no number 4's.  On purpose!

Finally, and for sure a lot later, my old stand by sourdough came off the super-peel onto the baguette pan.  I could handle the other doughs, but that sourdough stuff can be like sub-floor adhesive; some of the best glue out there.  

But I'm gonna keep those sourdough; I tried it, and I still like the sourdough the best!

Some of these neighbors have hinted, rather broadly, that they are starting to feel 'left out'.  Boy, they don't know the half of it.  The neighbor to the north has gone on a diet since this whole bread baking thing got underway.  


I can only hope!

Here are the loaves made with fermented dough.


It will be interesting to hear what they all think of the differences.  For myself, I can only say that I like them all.

Good thing I have lots of willing neighbors. 

What's that?  Oh, sorry, Emma and Phoebe.  You have been more help than I could have hoped, my thirteen year old puppies!

Yeah, OK, you get some, too.

Of course.


Tomorrow I will update this with the results, if there are any!


  1. Steve, you crack me up. I am so impressed with this experiment; I can't wait to hear what everyone says about the three versions! I love taste tests!!

  2. I call it 'old dough' at home :) You've missed out the one where you make it with ice cold water though, tsk tsk....

    ...Seriously Steve, you are an absolute star! Apart from anything else just finding the energy to take all those pics, let alone make all those lovely baguettes. Hope you're having a day off today, though pecan pie sounds good. All the best Joanna

  3. Damn - I lost track of which one was which half way down! But I can see why you don't mind my loooong posts - good!

    Hey Steve, I've got a question - I give away some of my bread too, but not as much now as I used to. The reason for that is that I always bake up two loaves at a time, and I'd eat one, and give one away. But after awhile, I realized that when I gave away one I really liked, I kinda was sorry - but then sometimes I gave away a loaf that wasn't so good, and I was kinda sorry again. That ever happen to you?

    I'll be back.

  4. Happens all the time, Doc, but we can always make more!

    I gave the neighbors a disclaimer - I am doing this as part of a group and to learn, so sometimes it will be, shall we say, unusual.

    Like the loaf of Oat Flour bread. Not rolled outs. Oat flour. About as mealy a taste as I have tried.

    Or some of those early sourdoughs that we now use to drive lawn edging spikes...

    Nah, long, short, the post will vary primarily by how much free time I have available.

    Thanks Doc, good to see you.

  5. OK. Here is the wrap-up. sorry - I neglected to post it here earlier...

    All the neighbors knew and recognized the sourdough baguettes... ...what can I say? So, throw the control (#4) out of the group.

    One set of neighbors preferred the 'straight' French bread baguette (#3). They said that they were all good, but that #3 was 'complimentary with anything you'd want to eat it with.' Their kids nearly finished it while we talked.

    Another set preferred #1, the poolish baguette. They thought #3 was OK, but plain, and they thought #2 had a 'dark' flavor to it. They said it was close, and a hard choice. When I checked their loaf to see about the 'dark' remark, I saw a few errant sesame seeds that were probably veterans of two bakings... bad. When you get about so olde, you need someone to remind you to wear those glasses! Hey, those holes in the baguette pan look a lot like dark sesame seeds on a dark background!

    The third neighbor liked #2, the pate fermentee or old dough, the best. He is the self-professed 'foodie', and said they were all good, but that #2 had some 'subtle complexities' that the rest lacked.

    I tried them all that night. The next day, I tried them again. If I was forced, at gunpoint, I might have to choose #2 as well, but it is a difficult choice. At least this time, without the garlic scape butter, I can tell the difference. Plus, i am kind of impressed that anything I have baked can win by it's 'subtle complexities'!

    And now that the taste test is over, I can get that garlic scape butter out again! :drool:

  6. I am more than impressed! In fact, I tried to leave a comment here three times in the past 48 hours, but no luck! I have my fingers crossed for today! ;-)

    not sure what I loved the most: the boys playing in the mud, your baguettes, or the puppies! About the same age as ours...

    great post!