Saturday, April 23, 2016

My Baguettes Have Ears! The Great Bread Quest

In 1990, when we moved to Holland, I fell in love with fabulous breads. Grocery stores sold fresh wheat bread that was wonderfully nutty with natural wheat, not just bread with brown color that was common in the US. The Dutch shopped daily and we could buy half a loaf at a time and have it sliced before our eyes.

In my quest to learn about bread I visited the bread museum in Hattem. It was fascinating to see a big trough that was used a long time ago where a man would walk in it to knead the dough. I bought their bread book. I tried some recipes.

We called a local commercial bakery to ask for a tour. We bought bread at various bakers to try different breads. It was before the internet, I wrote to a US company and signed up for a correspondence bakery course. The two volume book set was huge and boring. I didn't get very far and ended up selling it on Ebay about 10 years ago.

During one of our trips to Paris we had a hotel breakfast of coffee and crispy rolls with creamed honey. I know my eyes rolled back in my head with delight. There is nothing like great bread!

When we got back to the US in 1993 I bought a bread machine and the constant bread making started but who can stand the odd loaves they made?

Then about 8 years ago I discovered a YouTube video on no knead bread. Since then we've baked bread once or twice a week and I keep experimenting. The no knead method is easy but bread is usually heavy but better than purchased bread and so much more reasonably priced.

I've purchased bread book after bread book and oh, so much hassle flipping back and forth to bake. Very frustrating.

Baking and bakery videos on YouTube are fun to watch. The history of Poilane Bakery in Paris is interesting, watch here. Their bread, made in a wood fired oven, is shipped all over the world every day.

My dream has been to make light baguettes with "ears" and a thin crackly crust that sings when it comes out of the oven. Yes, singing is the cracking sounds when they start to cool, I've danced around the kitchen the times I've heard it.

Here is my first true complete success! A touch darker than they should be but unbelievably good. The "ears" are not perfect because I don't have a real lame to slash the dough but a razor blade held at the right angle did the job. Slashes on the back popped open and part of the middle loaf but the one on the left is just right.

My success comes from a class, King Arthur Flour's Artisan Bread Mastering Pre-Ferments taught by Amber Eisler. I don't have a large rectangular stone to bake on but had a baguette pan so used it and worked out fine.

The loaves "sang" and look at that structure, thin crust and lots of holes.

The batch was for 3 baguettes and large boule, here is my big baby that came out of the oven just before bedtime so it sat all night.

When morning came hubby sliced it and again, thin crispy crust, light and lots of holes.

My favorite breakfast, coffee, a piece of home made bread toast with peanut butter and a thin layer of Nusco, Dutch chocolate paste. Yummy!

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