For those of you who have been following my other threads on my attempts to make a genuine New Orleans French bread, I have, at last, suceeded beyond my wildest expectations. On my 71st test run, in desperation, I tried something called a "cold oven bake". Here are the formulas that I've been testing: Peter Reinhart's, Rose Levy Berranbaum's, Daniel T DiMuzio's and my own (a 67.5% hydration). In the end I settled on Beranbaum's because it gave me the depth of flavor that I was looking for. But, instead of starting the bake at a Temp of 450 F, I started with a cold oven. Yes, stone cold! I pour 300 ml of water directly on the oven floor (DO NOT TRY THIS WITH AN ELECTRIC OVEN). I use a double baguette pan (the kind with thousands of tiny holes) and I "push" the proofing far beyond what I would dare if using a hot oven. The proofed loaves shake like a bowl full of Jello. Also, I do NOT slash because I get a fantastic oven spring without slashing. I spritz the loaves and set them in the COLD OVEN. Only now do I turn on the oven, set to 400 F or slightly under. Within a minute or so the glass oven door is steamed up. At about 10 minutes into the bake the water has evaporated from the oven floor. At about the 18 minute mark I see the first hint of browning. A few minutes later I rotate the baguette pan so the back is now in the front. You may not have to do this if your oven bakes more even than mine. I bake for a total of 31-32 minutes and then I crack open the oven door a few inches turn the temp down very low and "vent/dry the loaves for another 8 minutes. The interior temp of the loaves are now 210 F. I then place them on a cooling rack upside down (kudos to Cakeface for this idea). The result is a loaf with a shatteringly brittle thin crust with a SLIGHTLY moist, wildly open crumb and excellent depth of flavor.
I want to thank all of you who helped me along this fantastic journey. I especially wish to thank Cakeface, Kokopuffs and Boar D Laze who sent me numerous personal massages offering advise and support.