In a brave effort to achieve the results of a professional bread oven, I have tried numerous approaches to make better baguettes, the last one being brushing the tops of the loaves with water in the first minutes of the bake. The results were quite flat loaves with a gray, dull and soft crust. The loaves flattening is an indicator for reduced surface tension, so that was something useful, because baguettes tightening up and becoming almost perfectly round is a common problem in domestic ovens.
The latest change made the difference. Apply water along the slashes of the baguettes for about 4-5 times for the first 5-8 minutes of the bake. Overdoing it will result in unattractive crusts, but using a brush that has only touched the surface of water and wetting only the inside of the slashes, i.e. the dough that is rising out of the center of the uncooked dough, turns even slack doughs into fluffy baguettes. I never had success with yeasted poolishes until now, first picture is such a dough.
Well, ideally. there are fine points because nature is not cheap like that and it’s not self-working. I admit this is not pretty nor elegant, either, it’s a trick. But since I found the results so remarkable I had to inform everyone.
(Probably going to add to this post over the next days or weeks.)