BBA Challenge #14: French Bread

Ever wonder what would happen if you overproofed your dough and went ahead and baked it anyway?  Read on!

Given the above, you might wonder if I should even count this as an “entry” in the BBA Challenge.  I admit, it is questionable.  I am, however, not above posting on my mistakes, and in the name of baking, I press ahead! 

Actually, it didn’t start off all that badly.  This is the first time I had worked with a pate fermentee, though I can’t say it’s that hard (especially when you have a stand mixer).  Like many other breads in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, it’s just that a little forethought is necessary.

I had always wondered how what is essentially a “mini-dough” is worked into newly added water, flour, and yeast.   Turns out, you cut it up into ten smaller pieces.  Leave out to take off the chill from their night in the refrigerator…

And they even start to plump up a little!

While I have fallen off taking pictures of dough in the stand mixer, now that I’m using pate fermentee I made sure to get a few shots.  Funny to see a few pieces of dough thrown in with flour, salt and yeast.  Seems to be about 50% old dough and 50% new ingredients.

Same old drill:  set the dough aside to rise.

Then shape for a second rise.  (Interestingly, if I remember correctly, Julia Child’s recipe calls for three rises.  In a way this does as well, via the use of the pate fermentee).  My loaves are rising in a french bread shaper I got at a great sale at Bridge Kitchenware (otherwise I might not have bought such a special-purpose item!)

Sadly, here’s where it all went wrong.  I suddenly had to go into work for about 8 hours (yes, just another relaxing Saturday afternoon for this lawyer–and I note this post dates back two weeks so it was early November, not Thanksgiving weekend, when this debacle occured; though I did have to work part of Thanksgiving weekend too–boo hoo).  As I rushed out the door I failed to tell my mother-in-law, who was visiting, what was going on with the French Bread (as she would have happily taken over had she only known).  This was about 2 o’clock. 

At about 8pm I called home to let everyone know I’d be another hour or so.  My husband then said, “my mom wants to know if she is supposed to do something with the bread.”  “What do you mean?”  “Like, should it go in the oven?”  Uh-oh.  Can we say “over-proofed dough”?  But–why not see what happens?  Remembering that the recipe had lots of instructions on preparing the oven for hearth baking, spritzing and misting, etc. etc.  I wanted to simplify things so I said “sure, just tell your mom to stick it in at whatever temperature it says in the cookbook.”  I did NOT explain that the shapers were actually just that, and that the loaves should be removed to a separate pan.  However, my mother-in-law, noting that the loaves had probably swelled out of all proportion to what is a normal looking baguette, did place the shaper with loaves on a second pan.  Frankly, considering what that bread must have looked like, I am amazed she managed to transport it anywhere without total disintegration.  (The shaper pan is fine, by the way–we weren’t talking about a straw-woven banneton here!)

We didn’t get a photo of the loaves pre-baking, but here they are afterwards.  When I was deciding whether or not I could even post about this, my mother-in-law suggested I at least show what happens if you let it rise too long.  And why not?  Especially as it’s worth noting that, while these are not your most attractive baguettes, it was generally agreed that the bread was quite delicious.  Must have been all that extra flavor generated over the long rise!


2 thoughts on “BBA Challenge #14: French Bread

  1. Pingback: BBA Challenge #15: Italian Bread « Three Clever Sisters

  2. Pingback: BBA Challenge #21: Pain au Levain « Three Clever Sisters

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