Monday, February 27, 2012

Alpine Baguettes with Pumpkin, Sesame, Sunflower and Flax Seeds

This is the first time that I baked with pumpkin seeds and I have been looking forward to it. I knew before I started that this would be a very wet formula. It can be difficult, but when handled correctly it can produce excellent, light loaves which are filled with nooks and crannies perfects for holding the smear of your choice. Also, this bread is a baguette, and baguette-baking is a skill that I have kind of forgotten over the years. I have not baked a baguette since my practical examination during Richard Miscovitch’s Artisan Breads and Roll Course during my Sophomore year of college.  That was four years ago.

My favorite thing about baguettes is there versatility in cooking. Here is an open faced cheddar sandwich which I broiled slightly.

This bread used a soaker, which contained 350 grams of water and 28g each of oats, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds. This soaker absorbed all of the water because of the oats and flax seeds in the mix. (Oats and flax seeds are thirsty little devils. )  I personally think that the flax seed flavor was overpowering in this bread. It was hard to taste the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seed, and the oats all but vanished in the finished product. If I make this bread again, I will certainly remove the flax seeds and bump up the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to 42 grams each (150%). I think this will help these seeds stand out more in the finished product.

I did not look at the level of hydration is this dough prior to mixing and I sure wish I had. I would have reduced the amount of water in the final dough. It is listed at a whopping 105 percent. That is higher than than the 80% hydration of a ciabbata, and ciabatta can be very difficult to work with if you haven't done it before. When you are calculating the water temperature for ciabbata you do not even included a friction factor for the mixing process. The Alpine baguette dough was 25% more hydrated that a typical ciabbata. This gives you an idea of what I was dealing with. Even though the seeds do require a soaker, I believe that 10-15% less water in the final mix would have made this dough much easier to work with.

This dough was so wet. I had to use the bench scraper and a ton of flour to even pre shape the loaf. If you have to mix this dough by hand, you might want to stick with a basic baguette formula and simply add a seed soaker. Kneading this by hand would be extremely messy and quite frankly, the frustration is not worth it. There are better formulas out there.

I was trying to teach my friend Caryn how to shape a baguette and it was so difficult. This is not a good bread to make if you are trying to practice your baguette technique, I would stick with a simple formula such as Jeffrey Hamelman's Baguette with Poolish formula from his book Bread (page 101). I recommend this formula with confidence.

This bread used a rye sourdough starter, but it also called for yeast.  I omitted the yeast because I had an appointment during the morning that I could not miss, and I figured this would give the dough more time to develop flavor. This might have impacted the dough, but I do not think it did. As soon as I returned home, I gave the dough a really good fold. I floured the counter and the dough very well and made sure to stretch the dough out as far as possible to really help to organize and increase gluten development. I actually did this twice, but I don't think that the second fold helped much.

Caryn and I were able to form rough baguette-like loaves, but once they were formed, getting them on to the peel to proof posed a real challenge. Even after flouring the peel with tons of semolina, the bread still stuck to the wooden board during the transfer process. To be honest, I was very surprised by how much the finished loaf actually resembled a baguette.  
Shaping these breads was rather difficult. 

This bread did form a good crust. I think that I may have steamed the oven too much because the crust was a little thicker than a typical baguette should be. Since I could only load one loaf at a time, I had to steam the oven three times.  I feel pretty confident that this impacted the crust as well. The scores were hard to do and the loaves did not open as much as I would have liked them to. Overall I really can’t complain. This bread was definitely not a personal favorite and I ended up giving about half of this bread away. That being said, it was on the list and it had to be done and it really did not come out half bad.


1 comment :

  1. Interesting and nice looking loaf.
    I often bake with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and probably would not have added them to the soaker but only to the final dough (did you toast them?).
    Did you ever make Pain a l'Ancienne? It has a very wet dough, too, and is not shaped at all, but just cut in slices (and looks very much like your baguettes).