Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baguettes Are Tricky Little Suckers

Over the end of last week, I made bread for a baby shower. Three of the loaves, two baguettes and one boule, were from a recipe out of Artisan Breads Across America, called Acme's Rustic Baguette.

I've been making breads from a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which I love - fast and easy and delicious. And they have a fabulous Gluten Free Loaf in their second book that's probably the best gluten free bread I've ever eaten, ever. But this kind of bread - not made in five minutes, but rather in about 20 hours - is a whole 'nother level of tasty.

I began baking on Thursday by making what they called a Scrap Dough and a Poolish. Combinations of tiny amounts of yeast, flour, and water that you add into the main dough the next day. The poolish sits out on your counter top and gets bubbly by the next morning, the scrap dough rises a bit and then comes out of the fridge, ready to be added, bit by bit, into the dough as you're putting it together.

What I love about the book, apart from their lengthy discussion on growing wheat, is that they give you a recipe synopsis, which lays out the recipe for you. So you know, as you're entering into the adventure, that the ride will last about 20 hours. Most of that time, you're sitting around (or in the case of the poolish - sleeping overnight) waiting for the timer to go off and let you play with the dough again.

Initially, the dough was much stickier than the wet doughs I usually work with, but by the time I'd folded it for the third time, it was getting a little more manageable. Once all the fermenting, turning, proofing and shaping was done, I had two baguettes and a boule.

Lessons learned? Baguettes are tricky little suckers. They look like you'd just roll out a tube of dough and go with it, but nope. Taking care not to pop any of the bubbles in the dough, you make a rectangle (harder than it sounds) fold it like an envelope, then fold it a couple more times, and then start rolling. You're not allowed to touch it a bunch, but you are to touch it with purpose. I liked that.

I don't have the shaping of those quite right yet, but I'm undaunted because the taste of the bread was great. Didn't matter what the shape was, and my boule was slightly 'underdeveloped,' it was still great. And they tell you that. No matter what you make, it will taste great.

What was really fun was taking pictures and sending them to a bread baking friend of mine who introduced me to the book and, prior to that, the bread. He analyzed my bread based on the pictures, so I have an idea of how to fix some stuff. And I went back over the book, looking at my finished product, and saw what he was talking about. I love the generosity of the cooks and bakers I know who share their time and talent. It's a great community to be part of.

Now I have a couple of loaves of bread in my freezer, part of one in the fridge, and lots of cheese to pop onto a slice of it whenever I want. The abundance of riches reminds me of the adage about how teaching a man to fish lets him eat for a lifetime. Forty years ago, my mom started making bread and made me learn how. Forty years later, up to my elbows in flour, kitchen looking like something exploded in it, I'm still getting to learn..and eat! I am a happy child.

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