Fun With Francine – Baguettes!

Francine and I had another play date! Whoo hoo!

wpid-20140210_073632.jpgit’s a yeast party

I decided to try again with baguettes, as I tried in this post, only correcting some of my mistakes. Less whole wheat flour, more room temperature time. Again, this is loosely based on Pain a l’Ancienne from Peter Reinhart. This time, even looserly based.

wpid-20140222_080348.jpg“looserly based” – phrase made up by BMary to describe adventures in making a mess and ignoring better judgement of others

As this was a real fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventure, I feel that it would be okay for me to post the recipe. It’s not even close to the original.

wpid-20140223_105858.jpgcertainly worked though. yeah, baby, you eat that bowl, ya bad yeasty beasties.

Obviously, you would need a mother starter for this. If you don’t have one, well, you should make one. It’s not difficult, promise!

Francine is a whole wheat mother starter. There are as many varieties as there are types of flour. But they are basically wild yeast that you collect from where ever you choose to leave the flour/water mixture at. Don’t me intimidated. It works pretty flawlessly. Just be patient.

wpid-20140223_110034.jpgon the counter! this is like the best lazy person’s bread ever.

wpid-20140223_110347.jpguse a bench knife to cut it into strips. no shaping required!

wpid-20140223_120105.jpgbaked up decent, probably could still tweak it a bit.

wpid-20140223_134454.jpgwhat’s on the inside is what’s important.

Ok, so here we go:

2 and 1/4 C Water

3 and 1/2 C Bread Flour (or AP, whatever)

2 C Whole Wheat Flour

2 tsp Salt

1/2 C Mother Starter (that has been left at room temperature overnight)

Put water in bowl. Put starter in water in said bowl. Mix flours in gradually in said bowl. Add salt somewhere in between. Mix until consistent. Set on counter until the bread dough attempts to eat the bowl. Might be a long time. If it’s too late to bake, just chuck it in the fridge. Let it warm up an hour before you bake. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Like really, preheat that baby. Pull out dough onto well floured workspace. Stretch dough (try not to degass it!) into a rectangle shape. Cut with bench knife into long strips. Put onto a greased pan and allow to rest while oven preheats. Put bread in oven. (NO WAY!) After two minutes, turn down the temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for another 7ish. Check to make sure bread is baking evenly and has not turned into a calculadora. Rotate if it is not baking evenly and bake another 7 minutes, or until bread is at 205 degrees and brown and delicious looking. If it turns into a calculadora, call the oven repair person or your local priest. Try to wait ten minutes before consuming all loaves. Don’t burn yourself.

This version is much less bitter than the last one, due to the reduction in whole wheat. I think my next attempt will be a boule which is fancy French speak for shaping dough into a ball. If I do attempt that, I am probably going to have to modify the proofing times. We’ll see what happens!

Results from Francine a l’Ancienne!

Finally Francine got to work for me!

wpid-20140218_095833.jpgi’m awake!

If you recall yesterday morning we were here:



So I was pretty thrilled that we got Francine a l’Ancienne to wake up. Next time, I will probably feed her and leave her out overnight before I mix up another batch.

wpid-20140218_100040.jpghappy mess

wpid-20140218_100443.jpgnot my prettiest work, but this dough is wet.

wpid-20140218_100739.jpgit’s okay, i’ll eat the ugly pieces.

wpid-20140218_110444.jpgbaked up, my new gigantic cooling rack.

wpid-20140218_111102.jpgholy moly!

Well, I definitely scored on the crumb! I gave it a taste test and unfortunately, we do need some improvements. Too much whole wheat made the bread a little more bitter than I would like. It will be great with soup or to scoop up sauces in, but it could be better. I had planned on using more bread flour in my ratio (I think I ended up with 70% whole wheat and 30% bread flour) but the dough firmed up before I got to the ratio I was planning on, which was six cups of flour, not four and a half or so. So lesson learned for next time, however I don’t think there’s going to be a problem getting this bread eaten!

While Francine was baking I went out and fed the wild birds and scooped a poop zone aka turdundra for the greyhound. I don’t know about you, but I would not like to poop up to my elbows in snow. I took a few snaps so you could see how snowy it is here!

wpid-20140218_102455.jpgdoesn’t do it justice

wpid-20140218_102642.jpgsad flamingo

wpid-20140218_102600.jpgi almost had to borrow some huskies to get over to the tree

wpid-20140218_102631.jpglast years hops

It needs to warm up here before I go crazy!!!

Italian Baguette with Mother Starter

Ok, last post, I PROMISE.

Sorry, when I have time off, I get to work. So I did a bunch of stuff today. Last, but not least was an italian baguette in which I used the mother starter.

wpid-20140204_112110.jpgjust being stuff

I was planning on an italian baguette for my neighbor who has been plowing our driveway. Or, maybe he’s just playing with his bobcat. Either way, my fiance nor myself have had to shovel our very long driveway. Can’t complain at all.

However, I discovered, to my dismay, I was very low on commercial yeast. I guess making a mother starter means you completely forget that you might need commercial yeast eventually and just pretend you never need to buy any more. Also, I was in pajamas and I do not go out in pajamas and I am really, really lazy. I couldn’t make it to the store, obviously.

Ugh. Apparently you can roll your eyes at yourself.

So I thought, since I was technically going to make a biga and I didn’t have time to let it chill in the fridge over night, why not use the mother starter, which has been in the fridge eating and farting whatever yeast eats and farts?

So I did. Ok, more accurately, I took a stab at it. Totally just went by the seat of my pants. What, would I put it in the oven and it would turn into a stapler? Worst case scenario, my fiance and I could eat bread stored in the freezer and I could make the neighbor’s baguette some other time. Most likely scenario, bread. Taste, a mystery. But I was fairly confident it would be bread.

So I mixed up the biga as I would normally and added several heaping spoonfuls of mother starter.

wpid-20140204_112258.jpguh, hi. no, we don’t know what she’s doing either.

A very, very wet, sticky biga was suddenly on my hands. Literally.


i know this is a spatula. spatulas for every occasion!

Adding flour until, gee, I don’t know, it became somewhat solid…

wpid-20140204_113139.jpgif i threw it at the ceiling, it would’ve stuck. like a turtle?

And then I left it to rise. Or, make itself into a pancake…

wpid-20140204_142906.jpgnot unlike my chest…

Eh, the dough was still awful wet, but again, seat of my pants. Keep on trucking

wpid-20140204_144903.jpgthat is unlike my chest.

wpid-20140204_144956.jpgback to the bowl with ye!

And then I looked at the clock, did some math and went, wow, Brittany, you’re an idiot. There was no way in ever loving Heaven that this was going to be on time. Corner cutting time! I left it to rise again until mostly doubled.

wpid-20140204_170436.jpgi do not lie when I say my fiance said, while I was taking this picture: “it looks like a butt.”

wpid-20140204_170602.jpgthere’s something wrong with that butt.

wpid-20140204_170624.jpgpinch, roll, pinch, roll


At this exact moment I had, ohhhh, an hour to finish up. And I needed about an hour and a half. Eh, whatever, this is the “screw the rules” bread. Again, I don’t think it’s going to be a file cabinet when I take it out.

wpid-20140204_175254.jpgit’s a lamp!

The oven spring was insane. It easily doubled or tripled in the oven. And, last bonehead move, promise:

wpid-20140204_175904.jpgcut it too early, but we were hungry!

It turned out really, really tasty. Just a little sour from the mother starter, but it was spot on delicious!

Tomorrow I am going to bring the neighbor his loaf, it’s late and cold and terrible out there. Also I wanted to give him instructions on storage and I wanted to make sure it didn’t taste like a desk chair.

Ciabatta Poolish

Considering tomorrow that I will have ample time to bake, I decided I will make ciabatta bread. Ciabatta was the first serious bread I made. By serious, I mean technically difficult and requiring more effort than combine, knead, proof, bake. It’s a very wet dough and produces bread that is delicious, chewy and full of holes. Fantastic for sandwiches or dipping in olive oil or eating directly out of the oven with a guilty look on your face.

I first made it in my tiny apartment kitchen and I believe the whole process took (aside from the poolish) 4 or 5 hours. It was insane and delightful. I struggled to get it right and in the end, although the bread was absolutely wonderful, I felt it wasn’t quite there. I went back to my sandwich breads and tried other recipes.

I have been hesitant to try it again, remembering the way I had to mother hen the dough. It’s sticky, it’s wet, it’s hard to handle. Also, I have made other breads that are easier and produce just as tasty results. But, I’ve got a window of free time tomorrow and I have loads more experience. I will not post the recipe, as it is not mine and it would not be very becoming of me. So you’ll have to be satisfied with pictures.

Day 1:

The Poolish

wpid-20140116_081036.jpgafter it has been first mixed, if i recall correctly, it stays this delightfully sticky

It has to ferment for about 4 or five hours at room temperature and then it goes into the refrigerator. A poolish is a pre-ferment to get more flavor and texture from the final product. It gives the recipe a kick in the pants before it’s even made. As they usually take about 5 to 10 minutes to put together and then live in the fridge, I would never dream of skipping them. It’s all about planning ahead.

And while we wait, some important bread baking tips:

  • Always make one ugly loaf that you have to eat immediately so no one can see it.
  • I won’t judge you if you eat the bread before it’s cooled sufficiently

wpid-20140116_090706.jpgone hour in, i can’t help it, i have to peek

  • If no one sees you eat an entire baguette, it doesn’t count. Besides, to the victor the spoils?
  • Right????
  • RIGHT???????
  • If you’re gluten free, I am really, really sorry.

Anyway, here’s where we are at after four hours.


It smells yeasty and wonderful! Can’t wait to bake it up tomorrow!