Baguette a l'ancienne in progress
I was perusing the forums at eGullet and noticed an interesting "demo". A member posted his (her?) process for making baguettes a l'ancienne, also known as slightly sour, naturally yeasted baguettes.
Now I was immediately impressed by the photos of big, uneven holes and a lovely crispy crust. Though the recipe takes a few days, it is a very low maintenance dough. All you need is about a tablespoon of sourdough starter, which doesn't have to be fed, or a small hunk of dough from an already proofed loaf. My results tasted great - moist, open texture and a fabulously crispy crust. I ended up simply brushing the baguettes with water before slashing them to avoid tossing water into my oven. Did I mention how great the crust was?
I am bad at shaping baguettes. They poof out all over the place in the oven. But I will make every effort never to complain about it again because the uglier baguettes turned out to have the more open, highly irregular crumb I was looking for. Though I have made this recipe a few times now, I will add a bit more water in the future, as I don't want the dryness of Southern California to mess with my results. The high hydration of the dough is important for the texture of the bread and the crust.
I highly encourage you to head over to the eGullet forums and read the original post. I am going to take the advice of the poster and tweak this a little more until it is as good as I can get it. And I won't say no to any of the trial runs.