Big, lacy holes are a right of passage in baguette making. Big holes in baguettes mean an airy, well-made loaf with a chewy, tasty crumb. Contributing factors to big holes may include very high hydration dough, extremely careful dough handling, years of experience or all of the above. Like oven steam, big holes are a goal that can elude the home baker.
Today I discovered a short cut which, while not producing the biggest holes in baguettes I’ve ever seen, definitely is a step in the right direction. I found this while watching a video on baguette making which had recently been posted to to Breadtopia. While I didn’t agree with some of the other techniques, and the loaf this baker produced actually didn’t have big holes, it gave me an idea for preshaping the dough, the step before it’s actually rolled out into baguettes.
Typically I preshape my dough into a ball… I use Jeffrey Hamelman’s “gingerbread man” technique to flatten a disk, fold in the arms and legs, then flip it over and shape into a ball tucking the open surfaces tight inside. The purpose of this is simply to provide a sealed surface so air has less chance of getting out as the dough expands. But the Breadtopia demo does something different. The baker pulls the unshaped dough piece out into a rectangle, then folds in the sides to meet in the middle, then folds from top and bottom like a business letter and finally shapes into a log. This adds a number of layers of lamination, each of which can trap some air. It’s the way I’ll be shaping my baguettes from now on.