Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Perfect Baguette: Part II

The baguette-making continues. Yesterday I tried out another recipe for authentic French baguette from the book French Women Don't Get Fat. The author began making her own baguettes after moving to the US from Paris and being unable to find a decent baguette. I guess this is a more common problem than one thinks. She goes on to write how dead easy it is to make a good baguette, and that people have this mislead belief that bread-making is incredibly difficult hard work. Sounds good to me. I was hopeful that another French recipe would yield a tasty, crusty, chewy stick (and no, this was not a diet recipe).

The ingrediants were all purpose flour, active dry yeast, warm water, salt, and egg wash. I mixed the yeast with water this time (according to the recipe) and let it sit 10 minutes. Then it went into a bowl with the flour, salt and more warm water and yielded a gooey dough. My only complaint about the recipe at this point was that it called for "4-5 cups of all purpose flour" without any further explanation for how to decide the final quantity. I went with 4.5 cups.

I kneaded for about 20 minutes even though her recipe said 6-10 minutes (but by machine) and passed the windowpane test. Now, this is where I think I'm having some bread problems. After about an hour of rising, my dough was only slightly risen, definitely not doubled. I think I'm doing something wrong with the yeast, but then again, I was trying to follow the recipe.

Then I shaped the dough into baguette-like loaves and was pleased to see them cooperate somewhat on the second rising (remember last time they failed to rise whatsoever). I skipped the egg wash and just brushed with water, and used scissors for slashing - not so pretty, but at least they had slash marks. The actual baking was done at a lower temperature (450 F) than the first recipe I used and called for a pan of hot water to be placed next to the bread.

Overall, not a bad bread! It was lacking a bit in the golden colour and chewiness department, but was quite tasty and crusty even though it didn't look as nice as the first batch. This time I remembered to double my cookie sheets and grease them (thanks Hazel) so I wouldn't have burnt and stuck bottoms. I think next time I will put a little sugar in the yeast (4 people have now suggested this to me, who knew that this was common knowledge), bake it at a higher temperature, and use more spraying in the first few minutes in the oven.

Now if we can just hurry up and eat this batch so I can do batch #3! The good news is that we have lots of visitors coming in the next while, so they can help eat through all the trials (I am excited about their visit for other reasons too, but those are not relevant to this blog). I have been eating nutella baguettewiches for the past two days...yummy!

Happy Hallowe'en!

1 comment:

Kenneth said...

Yeah, definitely add a tablespoon of sugar, and even a quarter cup of flour to the water/yeast mixture to get it multiplying. Also, I wonder if the reason it was slower to rise this time is because the weather (and your apartment) is colder. I often let my dough sit near the oven as it is preheating, because the little boost in temperature speeds up the rising. The 4-5 cup range on the flour is not uncommon - flour takes on different amounts of water based on humidity, temperature, and a range of other factors (e.g., the type of flour you use). I generally add a half to a full cup at a time until it is approaching the right consistency, then I add flour more slowly. Most recipes that have you use a stand mixer say to add flour until the dough doesn't stick to the side of the bowl (or at least, sticks much less to the bowl). The egg wash will really help to get the bread nice and golden colored on top - the water (in the pan, via ice cubes thrown into the oven, or brushed on) will aid in crispening (not a word) the crust, but will often lead to a burnt crust without the egg wash.