Home Bread-Bakers v103.n047.25

Pesky flours and the baguette

Ed Okie <okie@digital.net>
Sat, 01 Nov 2003 12:14:42 -0500
Had an opportunity to "go to school" last month while on vacation in 
Vermont, a French baguette (hands-on) class taught at King Arthur's 
facility. The instructor was from the Johnson & Wales Culinary School, 
works under chief baking guru Peter Reinhart.

Flour used was, no surprise, KA all-purpose. Striking, though, was the 
flour's fineness and lightness. . . compared to the very same flour 
purchased 1200 miles away here in Florida. Apparently significant 
compacting occurs during shipping, plus a climate humidity change (weighing 
ingredients is the sole salvation to this dilemma, the "cup" method an 
invitation to disaster). Though I have appreciable baking experience, the 
texture-difference of the same flour, Vermont-to-Florida, if I didn't know 
better I'd suggest the two flours were entirely different brands or types.

Net, net, flour variations remain problematic nationwide as evidenced by 
numerous discussions and gripes heard through the years; no one brand name 
is "the magic bullet," and price apparently has little correlation.

Eye-catching at the KA facility was their large commercial gas-fired oven: 
a 3-foot high oven with three separate "floors" (each about 12" high), 
roughly 6' wide with individual left-right door-slots (per floor), the oven 
about 10' deep. (A brick exterior added another several feet to these 

Striking was the temperature setting: 226C or 439F. A far cry from the 
always-advised 500F setting touted by media and gurus. Despite the 
(relatively) low temperature setting our 60-70 baguettes came out nicely 

One instructor-tip worth passing along: minimize the use of raw flour 
dusted on the countertop (particularly in the baguette's final preparation 
stage). He said that baking students are often surprised to learn that 
minimal flour dusting is advised (likely a direct reason for the 
better-browned crust).

Back home in Florida I applied the minimal-flour-dust method, along with a 
lower oven temperature, from a "normal" 475F setting, lowered to 440F. Much 
to my surprise: baguette crusts are more brown!

          - Ed Okie