Baguettes

As it’s Thanksgiving, I suppose I should post something about food.

Recipe and such after the cut.Recipe pulled from the King Arthur Flour site.

Starter
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Unbleached Bread Flour
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

Dough
All of the starter
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water*
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Unbleached Bread Flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Mix the starter ingredients together till smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight is good.

-Combine the starter, yeast, water, flour, and salt, and mix and knead them together — by hand, mixer or bread machine — till you’ve made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface should still be a bit rough.

-Allow the dough to rise, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

-Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface. Divide the dough into three pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.

-Fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel or edge of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a log.

-Place them directly onto the pan (lightly greased or parchment-lined). Cover them with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they have become quite puffy, but haven’t doubled in size; this will take about 60 to 90 minutes.

-Preheat your oven to 450°F.

-Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust. Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8” vertical slashes in each baguette. Place the baguettes in the oven.

-Bake the baguettes for about 25 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2 inches, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.

This has to be one of the most mediocre things I’ve cooked recently.  It’s not that the bread was inedible, it tasted fine when toasted with a little butter, it was just not at all a baguette.  The crust had the appropriate crispness, but the center was far too heavy and bland.  I can think of a few reasons why this happened:

1. Either I mismeasured (likely) the flour, or the recipe did not involve enough water.  When kneading the dough I ended up with a lot of dry flour, and it didn’t really adhere to the dough very well.

2. I overworked the dough.  Something I didn’t realize before I started, but kneading and mixing the dough too long leaves it dense and hard to work with.

3. I fudged some steps.  I didn’t have any plastic wrap to grease and cover the dough with, so I used some aluminum foil.  I’m not sure if this was super important, but it probably was.  I also should have left it in the oven for a bit longer.

4. I’m not French.  This is probably the key to making good baguettes.

In all the whole thing too a huge amount of time for what it produced, and I ended up disappointed.  I think perhaps I’ll just buy my baguettes and practice on simpler breads for a while before trying Advanced Bread Studies again.

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