While the name translates to Ancient Bread, it couldn't be all that old. The key to this awesome bread is refrigeration. It's hard to imagine making it before the advent of the icebox. It's very simple to make as it has just flour, water, salt and yeast.
The blob above is what it looks like after about 8 minutes in the mixer.
This is a really wet dough. It feels very much like a ciabatta dough. I wouldn't try it without a mixer. It's mixed with ice water, 40º and put right into the fridge. It's this cold fermentation that necessitates the mixer. Ciabattas can be turned periodically as they ferment at room temp. The turning is what develops the gluten.
Because the dough needs to stay cold, you need the mixer in order to develop the gluten quickly. The larger blob above, is what it looks like after a night in the fridge. Make sure your work surface is really well floured. This stuff is really sticky.
It's easier to get the dough out of the bowl if your scraper is wet. Be gentle with it and resist the temptation to play with it. It needs to end up as an oblong, about 6"x8".
I could not resist the temptation! As you can see at right, I spread it too thin. No matter, it's a fairly forgiving dough. First you cut it across the middle and then into thirds lengthwise.
Each piece is then coaxed into a baguette. You don't roll them but rather you pick them up. The minute you do, you'll know how to coax them. Make sure your hands are dry and floured before you touch this stuff.
They bake, 3 at a time, in a really hot oven with steam. They start at 500º-550º for the first 5 minutes, then 450º. They get turned front to back after about 9 minutes and finish in another 10-15 minutes.
As I said, this is a fairly forgiving dough. Even though I spread it too thin, I was able to recover somewhat. Although the breads on the bottom of the pile look a little like narrow ciabattas rather than baguettes, they taste really good.
Even with my mauling, the crumb was nice and open. The crust has a nice, gentle crackle to it. Although this is a "2 day" bread, the total work time is about 30 minutes. This is remarkable stuff.