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Baguettes baking issues in the Tropics

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  • Baguettes baking issues in the Tropics

    Sorry but this is going to be a long post:

    I've been testing the Parisian baguette recipe from the FB Bread cookbook in my WFO over the holidays. While the instructions are pretty clear, I think I am hitting some problems that are related to the weather. To set the context right, December is a cool time of the year for us with room temperature at about 80F and humidity at about 55%. My kitchen is a bit warmer at 85F.

    When I start working the dough in the mixer, the internal temp gets to about 87F after running at speed 2 on a Kitchen Aid for about 4 mins. The dough is still quite sticky so I work it by hand for a few more minutes, adding flour as I go along to get it to the tacky stage.

    Even though I work the dough thoroughly ( including slamming as recommended on the video) the dough won't pass a window pane test, it will rip. But after all the kneading I worry that I might over work the dough.

    The resulting bread looks ok with a light brown color, although I would prefer a thicker crust. Internal texture is on the chewy side, with mostly small holes and a few medium sized ones. Oven temp is about 500 and I steam 10 minutes prior and just before I put in the bread.

    Key concerns for me are:
    1. Is passing the window pane a critical test? Do I keep kneading until I get it?
    2. With the room temperature at 85F, my dough will always exceed the recommended internal temp max of 81F. How do I deal with this?
    3. (Not directly related to weather) I suspect the gluten content of the bread flour I can source is not great (I have no way of getting the actual content). Is adding vital gluten an option? If so how do I figure out how much? And how will it affect the overall bread texture?

    Many thanks in advance!

  • #2
    Re: Baguettes baking issues in the Tropics

    Couple of ideas for you!

    First, it is almost impossible to overwork the dough by hand so don't sweat the hand kneading. This is especially true for wetter doughs. You don't mention your hydration but most people agree that the best baguettes are made with relatively wet dough.

    Second, I would suggest using chilled water to make the dough so the temp is lower. Otherwise the yeast is going to be overactive and the proof times too short. Get the temp down ten degrees or more (probably start with water in the 65 range.

    Third put the dough in an ice chest (no ice) so it won't heat up so fast from the ambient temp.

    Are you baking in the WFO or your oven. I am going to guess your crust is suffering from being overproofed and the oven under humidified. (a few loaves will not humidify a WFO adequately to give great crust.) I could easily be wrong, but both contribute to brown (and not golden) crust (and humidification is critical to thickness).

    To your questions.
    1) Many bakers prefer to not take their doughs to the windowpane point - especially for rustic doughs. But you are almost certainly underkneaded.
    2) See above.
    3) Baguettes are traditionally made from softer wheat so???. You might benefit from some for rustic boules but shouldn't be necessary.

    Good Luck!


    • #3
      Re: Baguettes baking issues in the Tropics

      Jay, many thanks for the input.

      I am baking in a WFO (using plans from FB of course!). When you say under humidified, I guess this means I should mist the oven more before I put in the bread.

      I will use you suggestions to keep the dough temp lower. If I don't use a windowpane test, how do I gauge if I have kneaded the dough enough?

      On hydration, I used the recipe from FB here, which is about 10 oz of flour to 7 oz of water. I guess that is 70% hyrdation? Should it be more? The dough comes out of the mixer quite wet and is a challenge to handle.