Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Challenge Completed: Baguettes!
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I had the inspiration to attempt making baguettes. But the process would be long: 20 hours! I decided to go for it anyway.
I have no claim to being an artisan baker (nor any desire really to be one). I am merely competent, having been a home-baker for a few decades. I have no problem making half a dozen loaves at a time, so I wasn't scared of a few baguettes.
It was the idea of staying on focus for 20 hours that wasn't too enthralling. But the recipe was easy, and the work was surprisingly simple. In fact, this is one of the laziest yeast dough recipes it has been my good fortune to make. I just set alarms to time when the dough needed attention and that kept me on track. But the bare truth, time-wise, is that I began at 10:15 PM on Monday and didn't get the loaves out of the oven until 8:30 PM on Tuesday.
The dough was unlike anything that I am accustomed to handling but that wasn't a problem--hard to describe, sorta sticky but dry at the same time. It only has four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water, plus a tiny bit of oil for greasing the pan and the plastic wrap.
I followed the recipe directions pretty much to the letter and also read the nicely-illustrated blog entry about how to make it which really made sense of the instructions. I only forgot one thing (misting the loaf) and my knife wasn't sharp enough for the slashes but it didn't matter in the long run; the bread was super-crusty and crunchy. Oh, and the loaves sang just like the blog said they could! They crackled and popped for several minutes after I took them out of the oven. Kinda amazing.
The results? The bread is just gorgeous. I absolutely will do this again!
As I was tidying the kitchen at the end of the day, I realized that I was going to have to store the baguettes somewhere.....but where? how? They are thin loaves but quite long--15 inches. I knew the bread would not stay as crispy as it had been when it came out of the oven but it would lose all semblance of crustiness if I stored it in plastic wrap or some combination of plastic bags. I couldn't see wrapping it in foil either because that would be wasteful--I rarely buy foil (perhaps once or twice a year) and I use it sparingly. (A penny saved, etc.)
Give this a try. You'll be glad you did.
Oh, and there's one other good reason to make baguettes. A decent loaf of French bread (not a baguette, mind you, just French) will cost about $2 here in South Mississippi. I figure that these loaves cost about 60 cents each to make (not including the electricity for the oven). Bargain! And the bread is so very much nicer than anything you might buy at the store.
I am very glad to have gotten this particular bee in my bonnet.
And it didn't sting one bit.
Life is good.