CLASSIC BAGUETTE WITH HOME STARTER
INGREDIENTS for 3 loaves:
Days 1-4 Capturing yeast:
1-1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) Thompson raisins
1 cup water (80 degrees)
Days 5-7 Levain:
1/2 cup water (80 degrees)
Testing for strength:
½ tablespoon starter
1- ½ tablespoons water
1-3/4 cups bread flour (8 ounces)
1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour (8 ounces)
2/3 cup semolina or durum wheat flour (4 ounces)
1/2 cup wheat germ (2 ounces)
1 cup wheat bran (2 ounces)
1 tablespoon gluten flour
1 teaspoon diastolic malt powder or liquid barley malt (optional)
1-3/4 cups Levain (1 pound)
1-1/2 cups cool water (12 ounces)
2 teaspoons sea salt
Capturing Yeast: Combine raisins in water in a glass container. leave it uncovered in a protected, relatively warm spot. Look for film of mold to begin to grow on the surface. On the 4th or 5th day, when the layer, though thin, is clearly visible, it's time to harvest this crop which will serve as the leavening for bread.
Levain: Strain the liquid from the raisins, pressing on them to release as much moisture as possible. Discard the raisins and pour the yeasty water into a quart-sized glass bowl. Stir in 3/4 cup flour to make a thick batter. Cover the bowl and set in a warm, spot protected from the cold. When the starter is bubbly and air bubbles are visible on the outside bottom and sides. Stir in equal amounts of flour and water to double the volume. Repeat 8 – 12 hours later.
Important: Discard ½ the volume of the levain before adding flour and water to double the remaining starter. This way you will strengthen the starter without greatly enlarging the volume.
Testing the Strength of the Levain: Take a small amount of starter, dilute it with water and work in enough flour to make a firm dough. Place this in a one cup measure and leave it in a warm protected place for 8 hours. If the dough expands to fill the cup measure the Levain is ready to use. If not, continue to feed it on an 8 hour basis.
Refrigeration: At any time, you may refrigerate the Levain. To reactivate, remove from the refrigerator, stir thoroughly, and add an equal volume flour and water to double the existing Levain. This starter can remain refrigerated one or more months.
Dough: Stir together the flours, bran, gluten flour and malt powder in the mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Pour in the starter and water. Mix with the paddle until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead slowly for 6 minutes Add extra flour sparingly to keep the bottom of the bowl clean.
Rest the dough in the bowl for 10 minutes. Knead the dough a sccond time at a higher speed for 3 minutes. Add the salt during this second kneading.
Rising: Place the dough in a large, steep-sided bowl. Let it triple over 3-4 hour. Gently scrape the risen dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 3 pieces. Dust lightly with flour, and let rest for 5 minutes.
Shaping: Shape baguettes by folding each piece in half lengthwise into a long, narrow baguette. Seal the edge closed with the heel of your hand, tuck under the ends, and place long loaves on a floured cloth sling or in a mold.
Baking: Allow the bread to rise, uncovered in a 100 oven for 30 minutes At the same time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove plastic, slash diagonally along each loaf. Place in the hot oven and then place a dozen ice cubes in a cast iron skillet on a low rack or oven bottom. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the Internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. Transfer breads to cooling rack to come to room temperature before slicing.
VARIATION: WALNUT BAGUETTE
Substitute 1/4 cup walnut oil for an equal amount of water
2-3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
Work the nuts into the dough with the salt during the second kneading..