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
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