for the ferment
for the dough
The great flavour and crunch is really all down to using a type of French flour known as T55, and the Cotswold miller Matthews produce a great one - Matthews French T55 Baguette Flour - that gives a seriously good result. If you want the best then that’s the one to buy.
To give the crumb and crust a slight golden colour I added some semolina, and here the Italian mill Mulino Marino’s Organic Durum Semolina gave the ficelle a great colour and flavour, one to check out.
I baked them on a Welsh baking stone that you preheat in the oven so the base of the ficelle gets a great crispness and shape. Otherwise just bake them on a tray.
If you don’t have time to leave the ferment overnight you can double the yeast (to 2g) and it will rise and be bubbly in about 5 hours. Also, adding a 1g of extra yeast to the dough will make that rise extra-fast too, if you need to save time on the baking day.
Makes four large heart-shaped ficelle
The night before make the ferment. Pour the water into a bowl, whisk in the yeast, stir in the flour then leave about 8-12 hours until bubbly.
The following day add the water (start with 100g), flour and semolina mix and leave for 5 mins, adding more water in needed to get the dough to a soft consistency.
Knead for 5 mins in a stand mixer with a dough hook (or 10 minutes by hand), add the salt then mix through well. Cover and leave to rise for 2 hours (at about 21°C).
Stretch and fold the dough in the bowl 6 times with a 90 degree turn each fold, then rest covered for 30 mins. Divide the dough into quarters, shape into short fat oblong shapes, then cover and leave for 30 minutes
Roll or stretch pieces out into a longer oblong approximately 30cm x 10cm. Fold a third of the oblong down, a third up, and press down. Then bring the top and bottom edge together and pinch closed. Now roll with your hands starting from the centre and moving to the sides, with a soft and even touch elongating the ficelle to a sausage approximately 45cm long.
Slice in half diagonally at a 45° angle and bring the cut ends together to form a point, then bring the ends round so it makes a heart shape and roll the tip with the heal of your hand to make a point. Transfer to a square of baking paper, sit this on a dinner plate, and continue with the rest of the dough until you have 4 hearts.
Cover the plates and ficelle with a cloth and leave for 30 - 60 minutes to rise.
Heat the oven to 220°C-230°C, with a Welsh baking stone in place. Otherwise you can bake them on a baking tray.
When ready to bake (my pizza stone can do two ficelle at a time) score a heart within your heart and transfer to the pizza stone using a peel (or a piece of cardboard) and bake for 20 minutes until golden and crisp.