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Monday, December 28, 2009

Baguettes from Scratch


"[Bread baking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells...there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."
M. F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

There are few pleasures in this world as pleasant as making and eating fresh bread. You cannot possibly be upset when baking bread, it is far too relaxing. Slathering butter on a hot baguette that came out of the oven less than 5 minutes ago makes any mess that was created during the creation of said item completely worth it. The recipe I used is here and it is terribly simple, just four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast.


Yeast before.


Yeast after. A thermometer for making sure your water is the right temperature for proofing yeast is one of the cheapest and best kitchen tools you can acquire.


Flour and salt waiting in my mixer. While I do use a mixer for making bread 95% of the time I do make it completely by hand from time to time.


Some action shots of my mixer after I had added in the yeast and water mixture.


Dough before rising. I don’t know why it looks so golden in this shot.


After the first rising.


Punching down dough is always strangely fun.


I floured my counter and patted down the dough with my hands and used a pizza cutter to cut it in half.


Usually I just roll my baguette dough to try to get the right shape. This recipe called for rolling the dough out flat and then rolling it into itself to make the baguette.


Oops. I rolled them out a bit too long.


I actually liked this method. Different but it works. I had trouble pinching the seams together for a few of them. Maybe a bit too much flour when I was rolling them out? I always thought that the slashes in baguettes were for purely decorative purposes but apparently they help the dough expand. They then were set aside to rise a second time.


After the second rising there were ready for their egg wash and a trip to the oven.


In search of that elusive crispy crust I have tried just egg white, just egg yolk and a whole egg mixed together. Next time I am using just water to see if that works.


Baking bread has to be one of the best smells ever. I wonder if they have a baking bread scented candle? They have candles that smell like cookies so bread would just be a natural choice.


Yum. Fresh bread, so humble but so good. I couldn’t resist cutting myself a piece when it came out of the oven.

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