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Baguettes: wet dough?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,

My latest weekend bread experiment were baguettes. I followed the recipe from the Artisan website and the dough was really sloppy - at least as sloppy as the ciabatta recipe I'd tried recently. Rolling such a wet dough was a bit of a challenge, but I ended up with some kind of baguette shaped things which a nice crust and had a kind of ciabatta texture inside. They actually tasted pretty good though my poor stretching skills (especially with the dough being so wet) made them rather lumpy.

My questions to the knowledgable are

1) should the dough be this wet, or did something happen to make the dough sloppier than it should be

2) did I perhaps not mix/knead the dough enough to develop the gluten?

Thanks,

james
post #2 of 18
Baguettes are not as easy as the would seem, at least for me. The dough should be very well hydrated, but not nearly as wet as a ciabatta dough. I have founds the time is the best friend of baguette dough. A long cool fermentation allows the dough to come together and become more easily handled.
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi Kyle,

I left the biga sit over night for about 12 hours, and it was a pretty cool night. The recipe just called for more flour and water (and a little vinegar, what's that for?) to be added, but no more yeast. It was at this point that the dough became very, very sloppy. Perhaps my mixing technique with the wet dough was not effective enough to help the dough hold together. Maybe it was just one of those inexplicable things that seem to happen with baking.

Do you think there are enough people doing this kind of baking here to warrant a general "wet dough" thread?

james
post #4 of 18
I'm not sure what the vinegar is for. I've never used it in breads. As to your dough, is this the recipe you are using? I got it from theartisan.com.

Pane Francese - Baguette

(French Bread - Baguette)

Adapted from "Come Fare Il Pane", by Anna Bisio, published in 1997 by Giovanni De Vecchi Editore in Milan, Italy.

Ingredients

Pasta lievitata (Pasta lievitata is raised dough.)

2 1/4 Tsp. Yeast - active dry or 9/10 sm. cake yeast (15 g)
1/4 Cup Water - warm (59 g)
1/2 Cup + 1 Tbl. Water (133 g)
2 1/4 Cups + 4 Tsp. Flour - all purpose unbleached (310 g)

Final Dough

All Pasta Lievitata from above
3/4 Cup Flour - all purpose unbleached (100 g)
1/4 Cup +2 Tbl. Water (89 g)
1 1/2 Tsp. Salt (7.5 g)
Q.B. Vinegar - a few drops

If my math is right, the dough has a hydration level of 68%. This should not bee an overly sloppy dough. A regular white sandwich loaf is about 63%-65% and ciabatta is about 85%. I hate to say this but, maybe you need to add more flour.

Bread recipes should be looked at as guidelines rather than gospel. Differen kitchens anf flours will have different effects on the way a dough comes together. It sounds like your flour is not absorbing as much water as his did. What I look for in baguette dough is a dough that is just about to, but doesn't quite, grab the board when I knead. Don't be afraid to add a little more flour or a little less water to get the dough where you want it.

Hope this helps.
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Yep, that's the recipe. I used scales to measure the flour, but measuring cups/spoons to measure out the water (they are metric measures so 1/4 cup is 60 ml, which is close to the 59 ml in the recipe). I am pretty sure that you're right - I needed to add more flour.

I was beginning to come to the realisation that different flours produce different results myself. Someone gave me some Italian 00 flour labelled "pizza flour" so I tried that for our Saturday night pizza. This turned also turned out to be quite sloppy but I managed to salvage it and produce quite good pizzas. It was so different from the week before! I wonder if the ambient temperature doesn't also have something to do with it: the nights have started being cooler here (I'm in Australia, BTW), about 6-8 C, so maybe this affects the flours ability to absorb water?

To ask a silly question... how do you calculate moisture percentages? Is there a list somewhere on the Internet of what percentages various breads should have?

Thanks for all the help.

james
post #6 of 18
Those temps are a little on the chilly side. If my conversion is right that's about 42º-46º farenheit. In my experience room temp generally means 18º-23º C, or 65º-75º F. At your cooler temps almost all activity will cease. See if you can find a somewhat warmer environment to ferment your dough.

I've never used Italian 00 flour but I understand that it is similar to semolina or pasta flour. If so, it will not absorb as much liquid as "regular" wheat flour. See if you can find a flour that has about 3g-4g of protein/30g serving, that is finely ground.

As to the percentages, they express what are called Baker's Percentage. All the ingredients are expressed as a % of the total flour weight in a recipe. In this case the total flour weight, in both the preferment and the final dough, is 489 g. The total water weight is 281 g. 281 is 68.5 % of 410. If you add the % totals for all the ingredients you will get more than 100% but that doesn't matter. Baker's % is a method used to relate ingredients to the flour, not the total. I'm not aware of a list of hydration levels for various breads, but it's probably out there :)
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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post #7 of 18
re vinegar-acids strengthen gluten.
hth, danny
post #8 of 18
Thanks Dano :)
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the info. I made a starter for another batch of baguettes a few hours ago and will try baking them tomorrow morning. I will definitely not make the dough as wet as last time. I dragged out a thermometer and with the heater on the kitchen is sitting at about 18C, so it should be ok. Not sure what the temp will drop to once I turn the heater off though!

Will post the results of my experiment if anyone's interested.

james
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 

Seam

Ok, today's baguettes were a lot better than last time. I held off on the water and made the dough a lot drier which was certainly easier to handle and roll. I got a nice crust and a reasonably fluffy inside which went down well for breakfast with butter and jam :)

Now a new problem emerges... how to properly seal the seam? A couple of my baguettes came apart at the seam as they baked which made the inside a little more holey than I would have liked. The Artisan says to use the heel of your palm to seal the seam but that didn't seem to do much. Other advice I've read says to kind of pinch it closed, which I also tried but still they came apart. Do I need to wet the seam as I pinch it closed? Is this a sign that the dough was perhaps too dry, or that I used too bench flour?

james
post #11 of 18
sounds like too dry a dough. It should be tacky to the touch. I portion, rest, form, resting as needed. For baguette stretch into rough rectangle, roll and pinch the seam, rest, finish forming. Dough must be wet enough to adhere to bench for proper forming-not sloppy but able to "roll" out to proper shape.
hth, danny
ps you are baking seam down too right?
post #12 of 18
Having urged you to tighten up your dough, I'm afraid I agree with Danny. I think you may have gone a tad too far. Just keep tweaking and you will find the right balance of flour and water. In the meantime, even the "mistakes" taste good :)
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
post #13 of 18
No, I don't think so. It's added to pie dough to weaken the gluten. I wouldn't ever put it in bread, and yes, from the description that baguette dought sounds wrong, somehow. French bread dough should be smooth, not lumpy, not wet, not sticky, though if you pinch it, it may hang on to you after a bit. But it shouldn't come off on your fingers.
It's not Dairy Queen.
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It's not Dairy Queen.
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post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 

Rolling

Here's my next silly question in my quest for baguette perfection :)

How important is the rolling procedure in making baguettes? Is it important to just roll the dough once, or can you roll the dough backwards and forwards with your fingers on the bench, elongating it as you go? Should elongating be done just by stretching, or is it ok to elongate by applying more pressure as you roll?

Yesterday's baguette experiment was a bit of a step backwards. In my efforts to avoid the seam splitting, I made the dough too wet and couldn't handle the dough very easily. It was difficult to portion the dough, and the dough had stuck to the bench, so I had to pull each portion off the main lump. By then it was horribly misshapen so I formed it back into balls then made the rolls with the aforementioned backwards and forwards motion. There also seemed to be a lot of air bubbles forming in the dough, even as it sat there after I rolled it. The resulting rolls were kind of dense yet holey, more like ciabatta than baguettes. They got eaten but were a bit disappointing. I suspect the dough was too wet and my rolling efforts compacted the dough too much. Any other thoughts?

james
post #15 of 18
I'm happy to see that the frustration level of your baguette quest has not yet surpassed you desire:)

Shaping is the last chance you have to scew up an otherwise perfect dough. The number of times you roll the dough is not important. What you want to avoid is over working the dough and deflating all those nice air pockets. I had the opportunity to work in a bakery. The scaled dough was preshaped by machine and then hand shaped into baguettes. We did this by starting with our hands side by side, in the center of preshaped dough. We gently rolled the dough back and forth while moving our hads out towards the ends. When I started it took me 3-4 of these passes to get the dough as long as it should be. By the end of my stay I could get it done in one. It just takes practice.

As to the 'wetness' of your dough, this too takes practice. It is also a moving target. The amounts of flour and water will likely change depending on the weather. On humid days you will likely use less water etc. That's why is't helpful to learn what the properly hydrated dough "Feels" like. Once your fingers get smart, you will be able to more regularly repeat the dough.

Keep trying!
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
Your signature line pretty much describes what I'm going through at the moment, though I prefer the word "obsession" to "mental illness" :)

Well today was a holiday here which meant another opportunity to bake. I kept your advice in mind and I think I managed to get the wetness level of the dough about right, as it held together nicely when I rolled it and my seam didn't split when it baked. I also invested in a larger baking stone (two rectangular ones, actually, which I can push together) which means I can stretch the rolls without fear of them hanging over the edge. The finished product was quite good - a bit lighter since I was able to stretch more. Tell me, do you mean that I shouldn't push out any of the air which has formed in the dough? I assumed that forming the portions into rectangles would necessarily involve flattening the dough a bit, but maybe I'm wrong?

There is a Swiss bakery nearby and while I was waiting to buy some bread (back in the days when I bought bread :-) I was watching one of the staff putting dough balls into this machine which emerged as long skinny rolls. Is this the machine you mean? I wasn't aware that there was more stretching to be done after this.

I think that's pretty much what I'm doing but my rolls ended up a little fatter at the ends, and consequently looked a little dumbell-like. I wasn't too sure how to stretch the ends without further stretching the middle.

I'm also wondering if it's not time to move on from the Artisan recipe that I've been using. While I like it, it does have a rather fermented flavour, and perhaps I'd like to try for something lighter and fluffier. Any suggestions?

james
post #17 of 18
"do you mean that I shouldn't push out any of the air which has formed in the dough? I assumed that forming the portions into rectangles would necessarily involve flattening the dough a bit"

Bread baking does not lend it self well to absolutes, such as 'any' :) You sill lose some of the air that has been retained in the dough. You want to avoid losing all of it. Think of it as the differenec between caressing someone's neck and grabbing them by th throat :)

"I wasn't aware that there was more stretching to be done after this."

It sounds like a very similar machine. What comes out of it are preshaped blanks or slugs. They are finished by hand.

"I think that's pretty much what I'm doing but my rolls ended up a little fatter at the ends, and consequently looked a little dumbell-like. I wasn't too sure how to stretch the ends without further stretching the middle."

This is really just a matter of repetition. The more you do it the better you will get. Ideally you start out with your hands side by side, parallel to the board and in the center of the dough. Gently roll your hands back and forth while at the same time moving them out towards the end of the dough. Don't worry about trying to get it all done in one pass. Gently making multiple passes is better than one ill fated pass. As your hands approach the ends of the dough, angle your hands slightly so that your thumbs point up and your pinkies point down. This will taper the ends of the baguette.

This is one instance in which excess bench flour can work against you. You need the friction created between the dough and the board to help elongate the dough.

Get your hand's on a copy of Artisan Baking Across America, by Maggie Glezer. In it you will find the formula for Acme Bakery's Rustic Baguette. I've had very good luck with it.
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
Reply
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi Kyle,

Thanks for all the advice. Yesterday I made a special effort not to squash the dough too much before rolling, and I definitely got a lighter baguette. Slowly I'm getting more of a feel for this.

I was in the Swiss bakery again yesterday and got to watch the baker shaping the blanks as they came out of the machine. I was impressed at how quickly and effortlessly he grabbed each blank, stretched it, and put it on the baking tray, in one smooth motion. Comparing this to my cumbersome efforts earlier in the day I felt like a real beginner - which is what I am, after all!

I ordered a copy of Maggie Glezer's book, as well as The Village Baker, by Joe Ortiz (save on postage by buying more books - that's how I justified it to myself, anyway :-). I'm looking forward to doing more reading and trying some new recipes.

james
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