Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not pain à l'ancienne, but pain ordinaire

So yesterday, after lusting over the thought of a fresh loaf of pain à l'ancienne, from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, I dived straight into the book a bit hastily and made the starter for regular old pain ordinaire.

Oh, gee, what a shame, right? Ha! Even the most ordinaire of pains ordinaires is probably light-years away from any other white bread out there.

I can hardly wait for this to be done. :)

However, I have managed to restrain myself and follow the author's suggestion to let the pre-ferment, or pâte fermentée, sit in the fridge overnight instead of using it right away. Letting it sit longer allows it to develop a more complex flavor, so if you're as crazy about bread as I am, the result is worth the extra effort and wait.

When I took it out of the fridge, the starter was nicely puffy, a good 1½ times larger than it was when it had gone in the fridge.

I was worried yesterday when I was putting the pâte fermentée together, because the recipe directions indicated that the water should be at room temperature. Ok, but what does "room temperature," really mean?

I live in a drafty old house with deplorable insulation. This morning, the air temperature outside was in the single-digits; in my kitchen, it was 56°F. So, whatever temperature constitutes "room temperature," I can bet it's not a mere 10 degrees warmer than the inside of my fridge! I saw in the book that Peter Reinhart made casual mention of a scenario where room temperature was 73°F.

That's a long way from 56°F! I ended up turning on the oven to warm up the kitchen a bit, bringing it up to the mid-to-lower 60°s.

The dough for pain ordinaire is now resting nicely in an oiled bowl next to the stove, covered in plastic wrap, where it can rise in warmth for the next two hours before shaping.

With luck, in 2 hours it will have grown to twice this size.

Edit (2:30): The baguettes have been shaped and are in the final proofing stage before being baked. They need to rise to 1½ times this size before I put them into a scorching-hot, moist oven.

I use a roasting pan of hot water in the bottom quadrant of the oven to create the necessary moist interior to attempt to mimic the conditions in a bread oven of a professional bakery.

Here are the two baguettes on their final rise:

Closer view:

Edit (5:00): When I took the baguettes out of the oven, they looked great. Nicely golden and crisp on the outside:

And with a lovely crumb on the inside:

Great. But how does it taste?

I sliced off a thick piece, slathered it with good salted butter and... *sigh* ... heaven.

Then I had to taste it, just the bread, to get a sense of it. The crust was sharp and crispy, but inside it was soft, not over-done. It wasn't tangy like a sourdough; it was creamy and smooth. Once I chewed it, there was a subtle "something else" just lingering on the palate, something slightly nutty, and wholly satisfying in that umami way.

The only disappointment was that the spots on the crust where I scored the dough hadn't bloomed properly. I think I need a razor to make the slashes next time. Also, I think I may have to shape them in a canvas couche to support the sides to that the baguette seems rounder in cross-section instead of the sides sloping down.

Still, it tastes phenomenal, so I'd say that it's a very successful first attempt.



  1. You need Baguette pans. They do wonders. And now I need to get yet another bread book. Sigh.



  2. I've seen them before I think on the King Arthur flour website. I may try shaping them on the canvas the next time and if that doesn't work out, I'll seek out the pans.

    Or maybe I'll just buy the pans...

    You do have to get this book. It's great. :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails