About a week ago I decided to try making Bouchon Bakery‘s master recipe for Batardes.  It had taken me a few weeks to assemble the materials needed to generate oven steam but I was finally ready. I couldn’t wait to bite into a beautiful artisan loaf that had been baked by yours truly. Long story short —  my first endeavor was a big disappointment. Not only were my loaves much smaller than anticipated, but the bottoms did not brown up at all.  I felt extremely discouraged and quite honestly, I once again considered giving up on baking bread.

After a few days, I picked myself up and decided to figure out where I could make improvements. My husband had liked the flavor of the bread, so I felt like the recipe had hope. I googled a few things and discovered that too much water in the oven may have prevented the bottom of the bread from browning. The book had suggested using about a cup and a half of water for the steam. I had used two or more cups of water, thinking that more must be better. As far as the size of the loaves, I suspected that it had to do with my proofing time. Although the bread had proofed for the prescribed 60 minutes, it did not proof in a warm area, and it had not risen much. I had been rushing to get the bread baked in time for dinner, so I had gone against my better judgment and put it in the oven anyway. There is a small section in the book that talks about common mistakes people make when baking bread. It says that usually when people are unhappy with their bread, it is because one or more of the steps was not fully executed. As I think back on my bread baking, I can see that this is probably true.

For my second attempt at baking the master recipe, I decided to make demi-baguettes. The recipe uses the same ingredient ratio as the batarde recipe, but in smaller amounts (about a third of the master recipe). I mixed up the poolish the night before as it must sit for 12-15 hours prior to making the bread. A poolish is a type of preferment that is used for most french breads. A preferment is a small part of the recipe that is mixed ahead of time and allowed to ferment. This creates a better structure as well as a more complex flavor.  I added extra water to mine since the recipe describes it as having the consistency of pancake batter. I really appreciate the additional information provided in the recipe which helps me determine whether things are on track.

Due to running errands the next day, the poolish sat for a full 15 hours before I started the bread. I mixed the rest of the ingredients and after the 3-hour fermentation stage, I pre-shaped and shaped the dough as instructed. After proofing the dough, it again seemed like it had not risen much. This time, I decided to give the dough more time, and I moved it to a warmer location on top of the stove. After another 20 minutes, the dough had risen more and when I pushed a finger in it, it did not bounce right back. I used semolina flour on my bread peel which helped the loaves slide onto my new pizza stone. (For my first endeavor I had used a rimmed stoneware baking sheet but that proved problematic for the transfer.) Before closing the oven door, I threw 1-1/4 cups hot water into the hotel pan which was filled with lava rocks.

I baked the bread for the full 20 minutes at which point the demi-baguettes were nicely browned. I tested the internal temperature of the loaves and they were at 206 degrees so took them out and cooled them on a metal rack.

One the the loaves had cooled, I eagerly cut into one of the loaves. I was very pleased at the crunch of the knife slicing through the outer crust. It truly felt like a loaf that I would have purchased from a fancy bakery. The inside of the bread had a nice texture and was very soft yet maintained its shape. And finally, the flavor was exactly what I hoped for.  The only thing that I would change is I would like a slightly loftier shape that would be more round than oval.  Barring that, I was very happy with the results.  And considering that the loaf disappeared that night, I can say that my family heartily agreed.


Jampel, Sarah (October 11, 2020). A preferment is your ticket to baking better bread. Bon Appetit.


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Classic Brioche

I wasn’t able to make the Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache this last weekend because Hubby was unexpectedly in the hospital.  I am happy to say that we are finally home and all is as well as it can be until he gets the liver transplant.

Wednesday afternoon I decided to see what our project was for this weekend and it turned out to be  Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes.  A very key ingredient for this recipe is a loaf of brioche which can be store bought or homemade.  Since Rose provides a recipe for the brioche, and also because I know that I won’t be able to buy it  in my small town, I decided to go ahead and make the brioche.  I have been wanting to try making this bread for a while now.  I saw a recipe in a magazine some time ago and actually bought a cute little brioche pan but with wedding cake season and all I just haven’t had the time.

Rose says that this recipe is an “easy, enjoyable dough to make,” which I was really hoping was true.   I have made a fair amount of yeast breads in my time, but I have always used active dry yeast.   The Classic Brioche recipe calls for instant yeast, which is not available at my grocery store.  A quick google search yielded information that the two can be interchanged as long as the active dry yeast is proofed before using.  I had to modify the recipe a bit.

The first step of the  recipe calls for making a dough starter or sponge.  I combined the water (warm), sugar and yeast together so that it could proof before adding it to the flour and egg.  While I was waiting for this to happen, I read ahead in the directions and found out that in the second step you use an additional 1-1/4 teaspoons of yeast which is combined with dry ingredients.  I decided that I had better add the yeast from this step into what was proofing in step 1, so I went ahead and added an additional 1-1/4 teaspoons of yeast.  After I could see bubbles forming in the bowl, I added the rest of the ingredients for the starter.

Step two is to mix dry ingredients for the dough and put them on top of the sponge and allow it to rest for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. After letting it rest you add eggs and beat it with the dough hook and incorporate the butter.  The dough then raises for another  1-1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled.  At this point I deviated from the recipe because it was getting late and I hadn’t realized that it was supposed to raise an additional two hours before putting it in the refrigerator.  I was tired and didn’t want to stay up another two hours so I put the lid on the KitchenAid bowl and stuck it in the refrigerator.

Friday night I took the dough out of the refrigerator and let it warm up at  room temperature for about an hour.  I shaped the dough and put it in the pans to raise.   I wasn’t sure how much dough my brioche pan would hold, and thinking that it would only hold a half recipe of dough, that’s what I used and put the rest in a small loaf pan. (I later found out that my 7″ brioche pan will hold the same amount of dough as the 8-1/2″ loaf pan.)

The dough raised very nicely so I put on the egg glaze and slashed the tops.  I baked the loaves for about 20 minutes at which time the two small loaves had an internal temperature of 190 degrees.  The large loaf took another five minutes to finish baking.  I let the loaves cool for about 10 minutes before unmolding them and they came out very easily.   We decided to take a sample and we were very pleased.  Hubby even tried some preserves with his.

I am quite pleased with the recipe and intend to make this again.

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