Sunday, 5 May 2013

Baguette



We have a long weekend in the UK this weekend. I'm not Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen, jumping over a bonfire or even drinking one of P.G Wodehouse's May Queen cocktails. I'm mostly having a relaxing time. But I did think it was time for a little culinary challenge.

I've made baguettes before but they've never been quite right. The crumb has been too stodgy or the crust has been too thick. They've been baguette-shaped but without the characteristic thin, crackling, slightly blistered crust and soft, irregular crumb. So I thought I would have another go.

Problem is, getting those bits right seems to be quite tricky. Various bits of advice including using French flour (lower protein, apparently), adding ice or warning not even to attempt it without a commercial steam oven were a bit off-putting. Julia Child's classic recipe was even more so.

Eventually I found this recipe. I've never used King Arthur flour (I don't know that it is available over here) but their recipes have a pretty good reputation, and the method seemed reasonably straightforward. 

Of course, when I set out I didn't actually calculate how long the process would take.

Fourteen hours for the pre-ferment (of course, that was the yeast putting the hours in, I slept for ten of them). Three hours for the first rise, with gentle knocking back every hour. Then dividing, resting for fifteen minutes, then shaping, then a second rise for an hour and a half, THEN baking. And then the torment of waiting for it to cool.

No wonder bakers have to get up so early.
Second rising

I had quite high expectations after all that carry on. I did mess with the recipe just the tiniest bit. After seeing all the stuff about the softer French wheat, I used a mixture of 2/3 strong white flour and 1/3 regular soft plain flour.
Apparently it's supposed to be seven slashes, but this wasn't as long as a proper one

The only other change I made was not spritzing the dough with water. Instead, I put a metal pan in the bottom of the oven when I preheated it, and just as I was about to bake I poured some boiling water into it - which of course erupted into clouds of steam.

The results were very, very pleasing. Because baguette has a reputation for going stale very quickly, when I divided the dough into thirds I froze two portions. I know whole cuisines have been founded on the things to do with stale bread but mostly I'd rather eat mine fresh. We'll see if the remaining portions rise as nicely when they are thawed and baked.

While the bread cooled, I cooked a steak and cut a few slivers of onion. Then lunch was served.

13 comments:

Cuisine de Provence said...

Wow! This baguette looks fabulous, not to mention the steak...

Emmyw said...

This looks fab!! You should be very proud :)

Susan said...

Now bagettes I have never tried, you did a great job of these :-)

Suelle said...

It looks very good to me!

Foodycat said...

C de P - thank you! The steak was a bit rarer than my absolute favourite but I couldn't wait any longer!

Emmy - I'm really delighted actually. Time to revisit all my favourite baguette-based sandwiches!

Susan - if you have the time I can recommend this recipe.

Suelle - thank you!

Choclette said...

Oh well done, after all your research and ten hours of sleep, I'm really glad it worked for you. It looks fantastic. I've never attempted a baguette, but if I shall be back for your recipe.

Caroline said...

Your baguette looks great. It's one of those things I keep meaning to try and then being put off by complicated recipes and the availability of other tasty sounding recipes that don't take nearly as long. Looks like it was well worth the effort though!

Alexandra Stafford said...

Wow, baguette, steak, butter...amazing! I haven't taken a stab at baguette in a long time either but have been thinking about it recently, too. Might just have to give this one a go!

Mary Bergfeld said...

Now that is a loaf to be proud of. I'll wager it was delicious. It certainly has wonderful color great eye appeal. It would be wonderful for breakfast. I hope your week is off to a great start. Blessings...Mary

GingerSnap said...

Looks yummy! :)

mscrankypants said...

I didn't realise the baguette was such a high maintenance piece of dough -- thanks for the educational piece!

Joanne said...

I've only ever made baguettes once and they okay but not great. But yours look amazing!

grace said...

we DO get up early! :) i'm impressed with your efforts here, and the sandwich looks scrumptious!

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