Bâtard! Bouchon Bakery bread
After the success of the other Bouchon Bakery recipes I tried, and in light of my efforts to bake bread more regularly in order to better understand the process, I thought it would be interesting to try the Bouchon Bakery “Master Recipe” for bread.
Nearly all the breads in the book call for a pre-ferment, either a poolish or a sourdough starter, which makes these recipes different from the direct-method breads I’ve been baking so far this winter. The difference seems to lie primarily in flavour: when working with a pre-ferment, you can get away with a lot less manufactured yeast, because the yeast you do use has lots of time to eat, grow and reproduce. As it does so, it produces a lot of metabolic by-products, which are what give the dough its greater depth of flavour.
The bâtard recipe (and yes, that word does mean what it looks like) serves as a template for the other bread recipes in the book, so it was the right place for me to start. Besides, it uses a poolish as the pre-ferment, and I’m not quite ready to step into sourdough land. So I dutifully made up the poolish the night before, then mixed, fermented, folded, divided, pre-shaped, and shaped the dough as instructed. I did take two shortcuts, though: I don’t have the linen cloth recommended, so I just proofed the loaves on the counter, which I think led to them spreading out more than they should have. Next time, I’ll at least use a tea towel. I also didn’t go for the full steam-generating setup recommended, which definitely led to an inferior crust.
But the final product was still pretty great. I got incredible oven spring, a beautifully irregular crumb from the hydration level in the dough and the shaping technique, and fantastic depth of flavour. My slashing technique needs work, but apart from such aesthetic considerations, this was a damn good loaf. The time investment is not insignificant, and the results are still not as good as the best professional bread I can buy even here in Guelph, but I find it rewarding nonetheless. This is definitely a recipe I’ll be turning to again.