Philippe Gosselin………..who? Yes yes, another one of these lame introductions. Philippe Gosselin, he of the delayed cold fermentation Baguette a l’Ancienne. Thin, knobbly baguette sticks with huge airy holes that tastes and feels in the mouth unlike any other baguette I have eaten. What is cold fermentation you ask? And how the devil do I know so much about his methods? First, we have to start from the beginning.
The beginning that is, of my walk from Patrick Roger, Laduree and Marquise de Sevigne on the left bank around the St Germain area across the Pont Neuf to Philippe Gosselin’s place.
Don’t ask me what this guy on the horse as to do with Baguettes, but this is a lame Simpson moment too gold to pass up. Jebbediah Springfield…..statue…….oh forget it!
Thats the beauty of Paris, you can and I literally have walked all the way from the hostel in Montmartre right into the heart of Paris, dropping by big name pastry chefs and chocolatiers along the way and seeing the sights.
Pont Neuf was on the way to Philippe Gosselin’s boulangerie and it ticks all the right boxes.
(1) Beautiful Scenery – Check
(2) River runs through it – Check
(3) Hordes of tourists being cattle-prodded and transformed into submissive bipedal cattle – Check
(4) Highly acclaimed French romance in action on said scenic bridge – Check
My apologies if you’ve been wanting to read about Baguette, but I’m just too damn lazy to write a seperate ‘Pont Neuf’ Sightseeing in France post so lumping it in here was the only way to get it outta the way!
Back to Baguettes. Yes, he won a prize, blah blah blah, but so have many others. What interested me most was the method of delayed cold fermentation, where flour and ice cold water are combined overnight to bring the various enzymes and bacteria to life within the dough and start converting complex sugars into simpler ones that we can taste.
I first read about this in Peter Reinhardt’s awesome book, ‘The Bread Maker’s Apprentice.’ This book is amazing in its detail and ever since reading it when it was first published years ago, I always wanted to have a Gosselin.
As described in the book, take some flour and put it on your tongue. It probably tastes just like sawdust and is disgusting. Thats because the good stuff inside has not been liberated yet for our tongues to be able to taste it. Add water and yeast and these complex sugars and what have yous start to break down into simpler components that we taste and know as bread.
Along these lines, delayed cold fermentation seeks to bring this a step further, by lengthening the time that enzymes can act on this ‘breaking down process’, it liberates even more flavours for us to enjoy.
This process makes lots of sense really, for the baker without much equipment as such a long period of flour+water enables the flour to fully hydrate and go through the process of Autolyse. Now, in science, Autolyse describes the breaking down of cells by enzymatic action. We just went through that.
In bakery, it takes a different meaning, as coined and championed by Professor Raymond Calvel who wrote a science book for bread called, “The Taste of Bread”.
In his explanation, Autolyse is the brief resting of flour + water only after kneading it till it comes togather. During this rest period, the flours continue to hydrate and the proteins gliadin and glutenin start to do the tango to form Gluten, the all important protein that captures the carbon dioxide from the fermentation to create airy bread.
After this autolyse period, just a brief kneading is enough to form strong enough gluten as opposed to non-stop harsh kneading in bread machines that introduces oxygen into the mix the subsequently diminishes gustatory and mechanical qualities due to oxidation. Like I said…..Prof. Calvel’s book is AMAZINGLY informative.
Look at those beauties and their beautiful gold colour. Professor Calvel explains that such colour can be attributed to the presence of more sugars with which to achieve the browning reactions in the oven. Autolysis at work! At 1.15 Euros, they were a steal.
What better place to eat this than in a beautiful park around the corner from the boulangerie? The name of this place escapes me.
The crust was perfect, with the enticing high pitched ‘crrrrssshhhh’ crunch that gave way to a cushioned interior that is the hallmark of a perfectly formed and baked baguette.
Was it a wood fired oven? Sure did taste like it as the flavour, crust and crumb was totally of a different texture from breads baked in a deck oven. This is not your normally shaped baguette, as they are not folded and shaped into long torpedos, but rather gently stretched to length with as little handling as possible. The aim, apparently in baguette a l’Ancienne is not in its rusticity, but in the large, irregular airy holes within.
Look at that crust, the crumb, those huge holes! I cannot describe the sheer pleasure that came from simply tearing that piece off the baguette.
When it hit my mouth, the first thing that shocked me was the crunch. OH MY F*&^ING GOD, the crunch!!!! Every bite was like biting into crackling. A perfect balance of crust and crumb, as it was so crisp outside, but extremely moist and tender inside. This baguette was not straight from the oven, as it was cold inside, yet it still stayed crisp.
Usually, I really loathe baguettes as the crust abrades the top of my mouth and pisses me off for the whole day. Not this one, as the crust quickly disintegrates and disappears in the mouth, releasing its flavours that start off as caramelized bread with a hint of wood and bitterness, to a sweet taste of wheat, a hint of almonds/hazelnuts and a slight sourdough tang. The results of cold fermentation? Definitely. Was there lots of pre-ferment from the previous batch added into the mix? Possibly…that I do not know.
Thanks to delayed cold fermentation, the baguette was sweet and flavourful with every bite even though no sugar was added. I ate the whole baguette on its own, well, the pigeons helped clean up bits and bobs, but the moist interiors and naturally beautiful flavours allowed me to eat it plain and enjoy the true taste of bread. Amazing.
This was the best baguette I have ever eaten. Heck, this was the best damn piece of bread I’ve ever eaten and that is no exaggeration. Having eaten a few MOF breads along with Pain Poilane (Lionel, not Max), the Gosselin trumps them all. I shall play around with making this kind of baguette soon and see what happens.