I live in a very small apartment complex where pets are not really allowed. Some days, I wished I had a fluffy dog to tickle and be lazy with. I guess small cats are okay but I’m a total dog person and don’t consider felines to be much of a companion (sorry to all cat lovers out there) so I guess I need to resort to living pet-less for now. When I’m baking with yeasts, however, I feel like I have millions of companions around me. Yeasts are microorganisms that are very much alive, and their lives and existence are obvious when you witness them grow into different shapes and sizes in front of my eyes! Once you get over the initial “yuck” feeling (yeasts are, afterall, bacteria), I’m sure you too will find the transformation very intriguing.
Welcome to Part II of my first baguette-making endeavor with the expert guidance of Peter Reinhart and his award-winning book, Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The pate fermantee that I let rest overnight came out of the refrigerator this morning nicely relaxed and rested, and it was time for me to chop them into small pieces to be added to the dough.
1. Small gas pockets were produced overnight in the pate fermantee. The dough at this point is very light and airy, and still very chilled.
2. Cut the dough in small pieces and let it rest at room temperature for about an hour. These pieces will later be added to the actual dough. I started this process at 7:00 a.m. when I woke up so that I can enjoy the freshly-baked baguette in time for lunch! The entire process, from this step to the actual baking, will take about five hours, although the actual work time is less than one hour.
3. After you let it rest for an hour, you will notice the change in size. See, yeasts are alive!
4. Now it’s time to make the dough. The pate fermantee is something that will be added to the dough and is not a dough itself. Mix the precise amount of flours, salt, yeast, and water in the electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix for about a minute.
5. Once a ball is formed, take it out of the mixer and knead for about 10 minutes.
6. After kneading, the dough should be “soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.” I love this phrase. It sounds like a poetry to me (am I a dork?).
7. Put the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover, and let it rest for about 2 hours. This is a good time to clean your workspace, read a book, do laundry, go back to work (if you work from home), or go save the world.
8. Look at this! The dough has swelled and is now about 1-1/2 times larger than the original size. At this point, you are ready to start making baguettes!
9. Put the dough on a lightly-floured work surface and divide into three equal sizes. It’s important not to push down on the dough as you want to keep as much of the gas / air in the dough.
10. The next step is pretty difficult to explain (since I’m still learning how to do it properly myself) so I’m going to attached the link to the video here that will show you how to properly roll the baguettes (thank you, Pinch My Salt, for leading me to this footage). Once you’re done, let the dough rest for final proof until it is again about 1-1/2 times the original size.
11. Here is where I made a silly rookie mistake. I was supposed to roll the dough over and score (slash with a sharp knife or a razor, as seen on pink lines above) the bread before popping them in the oven… and I didn’t to that! I was so busy prepping the oven and totally forgot to do this step. So you will notice on my finished products that they are lacking those lovely lines across that make baguettes, well, baguettes! Nonetheless, it’s time to bake the bread.
There are several steps that you must take to properly prep the oven to bake these French breads. Pick up the book for more information. I never knew where were so much little details that go into baking wonderful baguettes but each step is important and is worth you taking the time! It will take about 30 minutes for each baguette to come out golden brown. Enjoy the wonderful aroma that fills the entire house! It’s absolutely, absolutely DIVINE!
Because of the slight hiccup at the end, I was not completely happy with the end result at first. I really wanted my baguettes to look like these and these, but after I tore off the piece and took a bite of the bread freshly out of the oven (quite literally) all my reservations went out the window. The crust of the bread was flaky and light yet still chewy, and the flavor was better than any of the banquette I’ve had recently. I will admit that I’ve had better baguettes in the past but the only ones that I can think of that would rival this homemade version are perhaps La Brea Bakery, Porto’s, and a few upscale restaurants. These are definitely 1,000 times better than those sold at local supermarkets!
My boyfriend and I ate a sandwich with butter and prosciutto that night, inspired by a book, Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book. It was a simple supper, with an even more simple salad of iceberg lettuce on the side, but it was everything I wanted in dinner.
I look forward to recreating more wonderful breads at home. Please stay tuned! Thanks for coming along on my first baguette-baking journey!