Bonjour Baguettes

I went to France once, for about 4 hours.  After University I went to visit my friend living in Ireland and on my way there I spent a week in England to see the sights.  I took day trips to Bath and Scotland and saw things I had read about for years. I had a tour booked to go to Paris to see Versailles and the Eiffel tower.  I studied history in University and was particularly interest in the French revolution so I was extra excited for my visit to France.  So excited in fact that when I missed the 4 am departure of the tour I immediately booked another round trip ticket to Paris.  It cost a fortune! I arrived in Paris a scared 20 year old with not even passable French and my epic journey to see the sights ended up featuring the train station, the souvenir shops inside the train station and a frightening walk outside of the train station where I was yelled at.  This lead to an email to my family later that day titled “Paris isn’t that great”.  Paris is probably amazing but all I can think of now is that I could have eaten a baguette in Paris but I chickened out!

With a bitter taste in my mouth I started on Paul’s baguette recipe.  In this episode a lot of the bakers get called out for presenting ciabatta’s instead of baguettes. The baguette recipe is almost identical to the ciabatta recipe.  Seriously the only difference is about 50ml of water.  So an accidental ciabatta is a very real risk.

Ciabatta’s are our go to bread lately and I’ve made Paul’s recipe at least 10 times.  The baguette dough felt very familiar. Dump everything into the mixer let, the Kitchen Aid do all the muscle work,  dump the whole thing into a big container and leave it along for an hour. Check.

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Then it came time to shape this blob of dough into the quintessential baguette shape.  No matter how much I oil my container I always have problems with the dough sticking to the sides.  Usually I get all the oil pooling around the edges and then onto the counter and some precious strands of gluten ripping off the sides.  Despite the less than smooth transition from container to counter I managed to get the blob out and in a sort of rectangular shape.

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And just look at those bubbles! I then had to turn my big rectangle into sausages.  I split the whole thing into four and gently rolled them out. It was pretty fun pinching the underbelly of the sausages together although I had some problems with consistency of shape.

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They were rustic. I was beyond confused about how to use the cloth to shape the loaves.  I know you are supposed to cradle them in the cloth but then how do you bake them?  Are you supposed to transfer them out of the cloth when it’s time to go in the oven?  My baguettes were too soft and fragile for all that jostling about so I just tucked them in for a floury nap with a nice linen cover.

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They puffed up a bit after the second rise and the cloth did keep them from sticking together.  It was time to bake my French creations.  I never know how to properly implement the steam oven thing.  Do I preheat the oven with an empty pan inside and then pour in the water when the loaves go in or does the pan with water start in the over before the loaves or does the pan filled with water go in with the loaves.  I still don’t know what’s right but I went with option number one.  (By the way it seems this blog is just turning into a place where I pose questions to the baking universe and hope for some divine inspiration.  I might need to get a bit more proactive when looking for my answers).

I baked the loaves for about 20 minutes and then admired my handy work.

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They stuck together a bit, the dreaded batch bake, and I forgot to score them across the top.  They were slightly more crusty than my usual ciabattas but overall probably dangerously close to the Italian loaf rather than a baguette.  There is only one thing to be done.  Return to Paris, for research of course!

3 thoughts on “Bonjour Baguettes

  1. I remember hearing about your sad, short trip to France. You definitely need a re-do especially now that you are a star baker. The baguettes look delicious and very impressive!

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  2. The baguettes look delicious. Mine come out different each time, but do look like baguettes (I think) rather than ciabattas. I take the easy way out and spray some water directly on the unbaked loaf, the parchment and the sheet. I’m still working on the perfect baguette …..

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  3. The last time I went to Paris I ended up seeing the inside of a hospital as an oh-so-charming classic bistro gave me gastroenteritis. It was terrifying but strangely hasn’t put me off – I’m planning to go next year to see an exhibition at the Quai-Branly (…I live in London so this isn’t insane). I love France.

    The baguettes look good and I do the exact same thing as you re: putting water in the oven. I think preheating the pan makes for more steam when you pour in the water. I have a horrible cheap sandwich tin I use for this exclusively (lol). I do think baguettes are just something that is going to be really hard for a home baker to achieve because they really require a wood-burning oven going up to about 500 degrees (Celcius). Ho hum.

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