Pain à l’Ancienne Baguettes (Guest Post)
I had been thinking about this recipe for months before I finally tried it.
I have to say I was a little intimidated by the name and the process, but when I finally made Pain à l’Ancienne for the first time, I quickly realized how incredibly simple the recipe was. First of all, these are NO-KNEAD baguettes! It’s a two-day process, but the first day only involves assembling and mixing the ingredients. The shaping (if you can even call it that) and baking is all done on the second day.
This is a perfect recipe to try if you know you’re going to have a busy weekend but still want fresh bread. You can definitely assemble everything on a Friday night, put it in the fridge, and go out (my disco-naps take more time than the day-one steps for Pain à l’Ancienne). The next morning, you can take the dough out to de-chill while you go out for brunch and shopping. This dough is pretty forgiving if you find that you’ve spent a little too long out running errands or having fun.
While the bread doesn’t look like the baguettes you might find at a fancy bakery, they taste amazing due to the cold, delayed ferment. This is the recipe that Peter Reinhart adapted from his visit to Gosselin Boulangerie in France– the very recipe that you can find in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Reinhart says this also makes a good pizza dough or foccacia, but I haven’t tried that out yet (though I’ve made these baguettes several times).
A little cautionary tale about steaming your oven for bread: be very careful when spraying water into a hot oven. After many months of prepping my oven for hearth baking (getting the oven as hot as possible and spraying with water for steaming), I finally accidentally hit the oven light bulb with some water, causing it to explode rather dramatically.
Luckily, I was wearing both glasses and slippers so I was unfazed. I quickly searched the kitchen floor for any stray shards of glass while Allison, who never wears shoes while inside, stayed glued to her corner of the kitchen. After I made it safe to move around the kitchen again, I checked the baguettes that had been in the oven and found only one shard of glass embedded in the dough. Okay, please be assured that I do know that if glass has been broken in or around food, then it renders the food unsafe. But I was so hopeful about these baguettes and I really really wanted to salvage them, because they looked so pretty.
It wasn’t meant to be, though; when I went to place the baguette pan into the oven again, the bottom of the rack caught on the top shelf and, since the oven was so hot, I couldn’t get a good grip on the baguette pan so the baguettes fell upside-down onto the oven door and the bottom of the oven. They were still uncooked, and fell into a doughy, gooey pile. I cleaned up the hot oven as best as I could and tossed the ruined dough into the trash. Thankfully, since this recipe makes 4-6 loaves, I had enough dough saved for three more skinny baguettes (not pictured).
Allison said that she was impressed by my composure. She told me that if that happened to her, she probably would have run to the bedroom crying. I didn’t cry over ruined dough, but I did drown my sorrows in a small bowl of fresh bruschetta when the three baguettes were done. (And the oven light was surprisingly easy to replace– we didn’t even need to use a potato to extract the broken glass!)
Let’s hope your first try at Pain à l’Ancienne is easier than mine!
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Pain à l’Ancienne Baguettes
(Slightly adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.)
(Makes 4 to 6 baguettes)
~ 6 cups bread flour
~ 2¼ tsp. salt
~ 1¾ tsp. instant yeast
~ 3 cups ice water
~ 1 Tbsp. olive oil or spray olive oil
Special equipment needed: pastry (dough) scraper; baguette pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper; steaming pan; spray bottle filled with hot water.
How to make it:
1. DAY ONE: Combine flour, salt, yeast and 2¼ cups ice water in a large 4 quart bowl and mix well. The dough should be sticky on the bottom and should come cleanly off the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too dry, add a little more ice water, several tablespoons at a time. Lightly oil another large bowl and transfer the dough into the oiled bowl. Lightly mist the top of the dough with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the fridge and retard overnight.
2. DAY TWO: The next day, the dough should be partially risen, not quite doubled in size. Leave the bowl of dough out at room temperature for 2 hours (or longer if necessary) to allow the dough to lose its chill and continue to rise.
3. When the dough has doubled from its pre-refrigerated size, sprinkle ½ cup of bread flour on the counter. Gently transfer the dough to the counter, de-gassing it as little as possible. The dough should be pretty wet. Sprinkle a little more flour over the top. Use a metal pastry scraper to cut the dough, by pressing it down to sever it; do not saw the dough, but pinch-cut it. Once you’ve cut the dough into the form of 4 to 6 baguettes, let the dough sit and relax while you pre-heat the oven.
4. Place an empty steam pan (like a metal cake pan) on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Score the baguettes. The dough may still be too sticky for the cuts to stay open; it’s okay to omit the cuts if your dough doesn’t cooperate. Lightly spray your baguette pan with olive oil spray and carefully place dough into the pan. If you are not using a baguette pan, a cookie sheet with parchment paper (optionally sprinkled with semolina flour) will work in a pinch.
5. Place baguettes in the heated oven and pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan. Close the oven door and count to 30, open the oven door and spray the sides of the oven with hot water, then close the oven door again. Repeat this process three times, then lower the oven temperature to 475 degrees and continue baking for 10 minutes. The baguettes should already be a nice golden brown. Rotate the pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the internal temperature is at least 205 degrees.
6. Transfer the breads to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 again to bake the remaining baguettes.
Print this recipe! (PDF)