Monday, February 16, 2009

Perfect Baguette: Part III

Does anyone remember my ranting about eating bad baguette after bad baguette in Columbus? It seems like a long time ago, but it never got better. The best bakery I came across was actually passing off sourdough as baguette-shaped imposters. At the time, this baguettelessness lead to some big talk about how I was actually going to bake them myself and become the artisan baking pro...

There was a loaf here and there, but admittedly my baguette-making had been unusually slow, which I readily blame on such problems as lack of ingredients, laziness, poor timing, vacationing, moving, and preoccupation with cake decorating and knitting. Consultation with blog records show that it has been well over a year since I last attempted baguettes. A year! Excuses no more. I recently acquired a copy of Baking Artisan Bread (written by my friend Devon's chef from school), loaded with fantastic pictures and descriptions to make beginners feel like they, too, can join the ranks of seasoned bakers.

Just look at those loaves! Crispy, chewy, and flavourful. Consultation with the book's trouble shooting section told me that my loaves were a little under-proofed, oh well. See how tight the crumb looks? It should have more holes, but whatever. Tastes good, and is on its way to being a regular in my kitchen. D said it was the best baguette we've had since moving out of the mid-west.

The Baguette recipe was rated as a medium-difficulty bread. I followed every instruction step by step (rare), and where I didn't have the equipment mentioned, I improvised - a dish towel instead of a couche, a greased mixing bowl covered in plastic wrap instead of a lidded box, a wooden chopping board instead of a peel. From start to finish, there were only a few hours of active work and a whole lot of waiting around spread over 1.5 days (machine mixing = no sore arms!) Shaping the dough was simple with all the nice pictures provided in the book. I was even brave enough to roll the tops in sesame seeds and trying out the snip/fan thing. Pretty. Of course, this means that it was no longer a true baguette, which only has flour, salt, yeast and water. Did you know that in France, there is a law that prohibits anything else to be added to a baguette sold in a bakery? I didn't know you could face charges involving bread. Be warned.

My dinky oven presented an annoying challenge. With its ridiculously small size (think large microwave), a regular cookie sheet just barely slides into the rack holders, and it burns things more quickly than a large oven. Forget about double-layering your pans to reduce bottom-burning. I ended up putting an extra cookie sheet on another level in hopes of offsetting some of the heat. It destroyed my pan, but at least my bread bottoms survived.

D and I devoured two loaves immediately by dunking the pieces in hot molten cheese (Valentine's day fondue) and I saved the other two in the freezer. With results this good, I'm sure going to be making a lot more out of that stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

oh yes! i remember your dilemma. practice makes perfect. tell us later how the bread tastes when out of the freezer. i love the snip/fan loaf. beautiful and more crusts=happy.

Allen said...

Wow those look delicious with the sesame seeds on top. :D Very nice work!