Baking Cooking

In which a baguette is not a Baguette

20/03/2013
Well after eight different loaves and ten bagels that all disappeared at speed, some sort of culinary disaster was inevitable.  The ninth?  Crashed and burned.
Well not literally burned, it hasn’t got to that stage quite yet.  But whilst this is a loaf of bread, and even in a vaguely baguette-esque shape, it is most emphatically not a Baguette.

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The taste was almost there; shades of a sunny French morning on H and my first wedding anniversary, sat people watching at a café in the shade of the Arc du Triomphe passed fleetingly across the taste buds before disappearing into the anonymity of plain white bread. 
 
The texture on the other hand was all wrong.  It just lacked that scrunch in the crust and the fluffy lightness of the interior that you expect from a baguette.  To the extent that this is due to the shape, I’m doomed, this is the longest a loaf of bread can be and still fit into my oven, even on the diagonal, so it will always be more short and squat than long and elegant.

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But I have a plan.  A real plan, not the plan to bin the bread, hide the book at the back of the recipe shelf and deny all knowledge that this family has ever allowed anything more exotic than an orange Warburton’s to grace our table, which I will neither confirm nor deny was the first thing that came to mind.
 
Plan number 1 is all to do with timing.  The recipe requires an overnight sponge (yeasty batter), which you turn into the dough early next morning, so that your petit mignon awake to fresh bread to go with their hot chocolate, bien sur (please note that in this particular fantasy they are both dressed like extras from Madeline with perfectly brushed hair and no sign of the rather fabulous bed head that Kitty develops overnight).
 
The potential issue is really what constitutes ‘overnight’.  Do you make the sponge at 9pm to use at 6am? Or earlier, later or somewhere in the middle?  I mean really, what is it with cookery book writers and their lack of specificity? Don’t they know that one day a Mama and occasional lawyer, with more than a touch of the control freak about her will stand in her kitchen with flour smears across her pinny, demanding answers from an inanimate book?  Clearly, these books need a defined terms section at the front, with capital letters and the judicious use of bold.  Or not.  
 
I made the sponge for this loaf at 3pm, and left it until about 9am the next morning.  At 8pm the yeast had risen and fallen which in any other dough I would consider strong evidence of overproving and start baking.  So it’s time to trust my intuition and bake.  Version 2 will get a sponge after Kitty has gone to bed, and a dough straight after breakfast. Depending on how sleepy/hungry she is, that’s about a 12 hour prove which I hope would get me more of the light and fluffy interior I’m looking for.
 
Plan 2 is the heat.  I’m going to turn the oven up at bit and check it with the oven thermometer before we bake.  Plain and simple.
 
And plan 3?  It’s time to go miniature.  I might not be able to make my oven longer, but I could perhaps make a couple of mini baguettes to get the proportion correct and see if that helps.
 
And if all that fails, denial and Warburtons it is.

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  • mandycharlie 21/03/2013 at 12:21 am

    Can you give a slower rise in the fridge. I imagine bakers or at least French bakers to be working most of the night, serving customers in the morning and knocking soon after 10 a.m., just leaving the staff to sell the rest by which point there vast ovens would have cooled and the thick stone walls of their building along with the tiled floors would become cool. Perhaps their last job would be to mix the dough and they would start again probably at midnight and work through the night. I think we need to start interviewing proper bakers, I noticed during my job search for a summer job this week that Davis’s in Kenilworth are looking for a baker and that they bake through the night.

  • mandycharlie 21/03/2013 at 9:29 am

    Another thought – you might need to buy French flour, to get that truly authentic crust and taste. I remember reading somewhere that we don’t have enough gluten in our flour, so we import American flour to mix with our flour so that we are able to make good bread. The French have different flour again – something to do with the gluten.

    • Carie 25/03/2013 at 7:11 pm

      That sounds like a possibility – the bakery in Leamington sells a specific French Bread flour so I might have to give it a whirl. The village baker at home used to bake through the night too; sadly retired when I was still quite little and there was no one to take over so there isn’t anyone to ask. Perhaps I need a fact finding mission to Paris …!