The Slow Rise (Pointage En Bac) Method of making baguettes represents an effective and brilliant technique developed by French bakers in the second half of the twentieth century. Initially the method was conceived as a means of retarding shaped baguettes (this is known as pousse lente) and baking them hours later. It’s easy to imagine how this technique could be very beneficial to the baker if the only concern were production efficiency. There are, however, important considerations with retarding shaped baguettes, such as their tendency to flatten unless dough additives are included in the dough (such as ascorbic acid), less alacrity to the cuts, and the presence of bubbles on the surface of the baked loaves. A cousin to this method is the bulk retarding of the baguette dough itself, as opposed to the shaped loaves. In this case, one effective technique is as follows: Lightly mixed dough is folded 3 times over the course of an hour, similar to the method used in the Baguettes de Tradition. From this point on, the methods diverge. The Slow Rise dough is divided into units large enough to make 20 or so baguettes, then put into buckets and placed in a 46° to 50°F cooler for 15 to 18 hours. That temperature is warm enough so that enzymatic activity is sufficiently energetic in the dough, and warm enough for slight yeast activity to enhance things. Further, the temperature is a full 8° to 12°F warmer than typical refrigerator temperature, so once removed, the dough “wakes up” fairly quickly (the method can also be used with the dough kept at refrigerator temperatures, but it should warm to about 50°F before dividing). Using this technique, bakers are able to process baguettes over the course of several hours, and consumers have the happy benefit of buying bread at its peak eating quality at most any time of the day. Ever-enjoyable conversations with James MacGuire have given me a more detailed and complete understanding of this technique—thanks James!
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