I looked at a recipe for ficelle and thought “it’s pretty simple.” Sure, it starts with a poolish but I’ve worked with preferments before. And then to the main dough. No big deal. But, the technique got me. I screwed up before I even started.
I knew in November that I’d intended to make ficelle right after the new year. Did I prepare for it? Not well enough. First, I knew I wanted to use a traditional baking couche to proof the loaves. I didn’t have one. Then, I learned a flipping board would help to move the loaves from the couche to the baking stone. Oh. I found both online at Breadtopia.com but they didn’t arrive until around mid-month. Unfortunately, too late for the weekend I had planned to do the bake.
Finally, last weekend, I got to do some baking. I decided to try the recipe from Weekendbakery that I linked to earlier. Since I already maintain a sourdough starter, a 50:50 rye/all-purpose blend, I chose the natural leaven version for making the poolish. For the main dough, aside from the addition of semolina flour which was new to me, the bake went forward as planned. The only tricky part for me was in the shaping. The points on the ficelle ends seal the loaves but at least for the first loaf I had too much flour on the counter. So, the ends of the loaf were sliding around rather than rolling which prevented me from forming the points. Once I figured that out and cleared away the excess flour I was able to form the ends with ease. From this point, all that remained was transferring to the baking stone, slashing the tops and completing the bake.
The ficelle came out pretty good I thought. I was able to get them all pretty much the same length, the crust baked up well and the crumb was fairly open. Although it was fairly late in the evening when I finished, I ate one with butter warm from the oven. Sooo good.
Since I followed a one-day recipe, I was able to repeat everything the next day and make four more loaves. Although I never got around to my two ways goal – I intended to do a sourdough vs yeast version and note the difference – I’m pleased with the learning experience. I plan to play around with different recipes in the months ahead with the goal of graduating in a sense to trying a classic baguette later this year. We’ll see how that goes.