Saturday, October 31, 2015

French Bread Batards

Can you hear the angels singing for these homemade French batards?

Sooo, I'm finally getting around to posting these loaves that I made a week ago. I can't even tell you how excited I was about being able to make these in my own oven. It was crisp and chewy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. Mmm. I did not let these loaves rise quite long enough. They probably could have taken another 15-20 minutes of rising, but I had to get to my son's soccer game, so they had to go in the oven early. They still made my heart sing. 
This post has a ton of pictures at the end, along with a few videos, my favorite being the crackling loaves as they cool (you may need to turn up your volume). I wanted to show as much as I could the step by step process. Some of the pics of the turning stage were shot in different lighting because I had to actually carry my dough with me to church and do the mid-rise folding in our church kitchen. Yeah, some people saw me and laughed--but in a very loving way.
Again, I am thankful to King Arthur Flour and their Baking Education Center for teaching me how to make these loaves at home. Now I just need to find another half day to make these where I don't have to worry about any kind of time crunch. Next time, they will be perfect. I'm so excited.

French Bread Batards
       --From The King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center

Ingredients for Poolish
Ingredients for Final Dough
Materials and Tools Needed:
For the Poolish: The night before you are going to bake your break, combine the 2 cups flour, 1 cup water, and pinch of yeast in a large bowl. Mix until blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow poolish to sit and rise for about 15 hours at room temperature. The poolish will be bubbly and batter-like when ready.

For the Dough: When the poolish is ready, add the flour, water, yeast, and salt. Stir to combine and develop a relatively stiff but sticky dough. Although it's going to be quite sticky, don't add any more flour. 
Turn dough out onto a clean, dry, smooth work surface. Using your bench knife, cut off chunks of dough and scrape into a pile. Keep chopping until your pile of dough has been chopped and is all piled up. Gather the dough into a ball using your bench knife and cut into it again as you did before. Do this a total of 5-6 times. You will notice the dough gaining strength and not being so sticky. (See video below.)
Once dough has been cut 5-6 times, use both your hands like lobster claws, to pick up the dough at the top and bottom with only your fingers. Give the dough a quarter turn in your hands, slap the dough onto the work surface and fold the dough in half away from you. (See video below.) Repeat until dough is strong and almost resists being folded. The gluten is as developed as it's going to get at this point.
Place dough back into the mixing bowl, seam side down, and cover again with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise for 45 minutes. Then turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Pick up the top of the dough, stretch about 5-6 inches and fold about 2/3 of the way down the blob of dough. Repeat with bottom and left and right sides of dough. Place folded dough back into the bowl, seam side down, cover with plastic wrap again, and allow to rise another 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Either line an upside down baking sheet or pizza peel with parchment, or sprinkle a pizza peel with semolina flour. Set aside.
Turn risen dough out onto clean work surface and cut dough in half. Pre-form dough by pulling the edges up to meet in the middle, forming a sort of pouch that's pinched in the middle. Allow pouches to rest for about 20 minutes.
Working with one pouch of dough at a time, gently pull the top of the dough out and fold about 1/3 of the way down the dough. Gently pat the folded portion. Take the little nubby arms on the left and right of your fold, gently pull away from the ball of dough and fold to the middle, overlapping the arms. Gently pat the folded portion again. Pick dough up at the top and start rolling it down, sort of folding about halfway down the length of remaining dough (see pics below), and with the heel of your hand, press the seam you just created.  Roll/fold dough again to the bottom edge and seal by pressing firmly with the heals of your hands. Gently roll dough log, seam side down, back and forth to lengthen slightly and to taper the ends.
Place formed loaves onto prepared baking sheet/pizza peel, keeping them as far apart as you reasonably can.
Allow loaves to rise, covered, until puffy and pillowy, about 30-60 minutes. 
While dough rises, heat a medium pan of water to boiling and place a cast-iron skillet in the bottom of your oven, or on the bottom rack, whatever will be under the baking surface.
When loaves have risen, slash each one lengthwise with a razor. Slide loaves onto the baking stone and quickly (and carefully) pour boiling water into the hot cast iron skillet. Close the oven door. 
Bake at 500 degrees for 5 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, or until loaves are crusty and well-browned.
Remove loaves from oven, transfer to cooling racks, and allow to cool before attempting to slice.
Makes two good sized loaves

The poolish just stirred and ready to sit overnight
After an overnight sit the poolish is bubbly and smells amazing.
I really should have done the poolish in this bowl, but I forgot about bowl conservation. Next time.
At the KAF Baking Education Center we learned to use these handy plastic bowl scrapers to mix the dough.

Cutting the dough before kneading

Kneading the dough

I also forgot that I didn't have to wash the bowl between mixing and rising. Makes a nicer pic though.

Dough 45 minutes into rising. Ready to turn out and fold.

Fold in all sides. I really don't think it matters in what order. Someone correct me if I'm mistaken.

Done folding, ready to cover and rise another 45 minutes.

Darn plastic wrap make me tear my beautiful dough.

One half of the dough is pre-formed in its pouch shape. I can't even tell you how great this dough feels on my fingers.

Starting to form the actual loaf now

Arms folded in and patted slightly

Rolled over and pressed with heal of hand. Kind of hard to see.

Rolled and sealed, just need to taper the ends

Formed loaves ready to be transferred to the parchment lined baking sheet

Batards are risen and ready for slashing.

Ta da! (I forgot to take a pic after slashing because I was so excited about getting these loaves into the oven.)
I hope you can hear the crackling of the crust as it cools. Amazing.

The crumb is a little tight, but delicious nonetheless.

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