It’s that time of year when the cold has finally sunk in, never quite “warming up” by mid-day. The puddles I see in the morning remain stiffly frozen in the street all throughout the day. The hours of sunlight are short and my walk home in the evening is usually in the dark. A good book, mug of tea, and warm blanket are about the best remedies to this sort of gray city winter weather. And so, I am left to contemplate the sunnier and warmer days. I do this by going for runs at the brightest times of day and dreaming of living somewhere that I could take advantage of the winter weather, skiing or snowshoeing everyday in the invigorating cold. I also tend to bake a lot more, enjoying the warmth of the oven and relaxing in the slower pace and necessary patience required to make a good loaf.
So, I was curled up this weekend on the couch dreaming of what breads to bake and possible winter wonderlands that I could one day reside in when I came across this recipe for Alpine Baguettes in Daniel Leader’s Local Breads. He vividly describes the Austrian bakery where he acquired this recipe from, nestled away at the bottom of a ski mountain. The owner Clemens Walch is both an honored skier and craftsman baker. He is adamant about good quality rye bread and treats baking with rye sourdoughs as a fine art. Leader recounts his experience there baking by night with Clemens and skiing by day, learning more about the intricacies of German and Austrian ryes while enjoying himself in the alpine air.
By the time I finished reading this section in Local Breads, I was both very jealous of Leader’s experience and very eager to try this recipe. The loaves do not typify what immediately comes to my mind when I think of a baguette. It is flatter and fatter than your standard French baguette. The crust is thin and crisp while the insides are chewy and nutty. It is a wet dough, making it somewhat difficult to handle, but a pause in the kneading process allows the flour to absorb more water and strengthen. The seeds are also a pleasant surprise, especially the pumpkin seeds … slightly exotic, but utterly delicious. Needless to say, I would be thrilled to be greeted by one of these loaves fresh from the oven after a hard day of skiing. But for now, they’re pretty good enjoyed from my couch with some hot tea and a good book.
Yield: 3 thick baguettes, ~12 inches long (368 g each)
100 g mature, 100% hydration rye sourdough
28 g rolled oats
28 g sunflower seeds
28 g pumpkin seeds
28 g flax seeds
28 g sesame seeds
525 g water
5 g instant yeast
500 g unbleached bread flour
10 g sea salt
12 to 24 hours before mixing the final dough, refresh your sourdough. Also, pour the rolled oats and seeds into a bowl and cover them with 175 g water. Soak them overnight, so that they swell and soften.
When you are ready to mix the final dough, pour the remaining 350 g water over the sourdough in a large mixing bowl. Break up the sourdough with a spoon so that it froths and dissolves a bit. Add to this the yeast, bread flour, soaked oats and seeds, and salt. Stir well to combine.
Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead for approximately 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes. Uncover the dough and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. It should be able to pass the window pane test.
Transfer the dough to an oiled container. Cover it and let is rise until it has doubled in volume (2 to 2 1/2 hours).
An hour before baking preheat the oven to 450 F with a baking stone and steam pan.
Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Flatten one piece of dough into a rectangle and fold it into thirds like a business letter. Turn it smooth side up. Repeat this process with the other two pieces. Cover the piece lightly and let rest on the counter for 10 minutes.
Shape the pieces of dough into a baguette about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Dust a piece of parchment paper with flour and place the baguettes on it, seam side down, about three inches apart. Cover lightly. Proof the baguettes at room temperature until they are puffy and light, 30-40 minutes.
Score the baguettes and slide them into the oven. Bake them with steam for 10-15 minutes and without steam for another 10-15. Turn the oven off and leave the baguettes in for another 5-10 minutes. Let the loaves cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack. These are delicious enjoyed warm.