From flour to baguette

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In its kneading trough, the baguette slowly blends all its ingredients: type 55 Retrodor flour, water, and very small amounts of yeast and salt come together to make a large ball of dough.

 

Kneading allows tiny air pockets to be captured and compressed; they will do important work in the next phase.

 


 

The first fermentation, also called pointage, allows the dough to rest—productively, for it is now a living substance. Millions of micro-organisms from the yeast break down the carbohydrates in the flour, generating carbon dioxide. The gas is captured by the elastic structure of gluten, a form of protein contained in the wheat. This is what causes the dough to rise, in the gestational phase that turns flour into bread. This bulk fermentation lasting three hours is the critical moment in breadcraft: it is the source of the enticing aromas and tastes that will enchant the consumers at the end of the process.

 


 

During the weighing phase, a divider distributes the dough into small balls of equal weight. These unbaked loaves (les patôns) are left to rest in a phase called relaxation (la détente).

 

Afterward, the baker gives the unbaked loaves the elongated form characteristic of baguettes. This phase is called shaping or molding (le façonnage).

 


 

Now the artisan places the uncooked baguettes on a linen cloth, or “bed” (la couche) for another rest period called finishing (l’apprêt). During this second fermentation, the loaves expand further, under the action of the fermenting agents and the pockets of gas they form. This phase contributes less to the bread’s sensorial qualities than to its physical and chemical properties.

 

The baker then makes five evenly spaced incisions in the baguette. These characteristic slashes (la grigne) allow carbon dioxide to escape during baking and become lovely golden peaks on the crust.

 

Just before putting the baguettes in an oven heated to 250o C (482o F), the baker injects steam into the oven. Glazing the dough with a thin layer of water, the mist keeps the crust from drying too fast and slows down the evaporation of carbon dioxide. This helps to create the air pockets (alveoli) that continue to expand the dough. Thanks to the steam, the crumb will be more richly perfumed and the crust both thin and crispy.

 

The dough literally explodes when it is placed on the soleplate of the oven: a final burst of fermenting energy that can take place only in this artisanal-type oven.

 

The crumb develops gradually: the starch forms a viscous mass and the gluten coagulates. A properly-timed baking (20 minutes) makes the baguette perfectly digestible by completely transforming these two crucial elements in the raw dough.

 

The crust hardens and takes on a lovely golden color, while the alcohols produced by the successive fermentations turn into aromatic compounds as they burn off.

 

The long irregular alveoli of the crumb and its creamy color are characteristic of the Retrodor Baguette.

 

After the baguettes are removed from the oven (le défournement), the artisan lets them cool off; this phase is called resweating (ressuage).

 

Finally, they are ready for you to enjoy!