Banging out Baguettes

After a busy start to October, I was ready to relax in the garden and kitchen this weekend. Today, I started in the garden replanting seeds after the armadillo debacle. Two types of radishes, two types of kale, carrots, calendulas, and black pansies. I also added more starter plants of cabbages and broccoli. This time, I put tomato cages and dog hair around all the newly seeded areas. Hoping that will keep the critters away. Tomorrow I’ll work on the front, flower gardens, adding snapdragons, violas, ornamental cabbages, and poppies.

This evening, it was time to get in the kitchen. All week, I thought about savory pies that I could make and looked at recipes while drooling at the thought of them. Instead, my adoptive Greek family asked me to bring bread for Sunday dinner. They suggested that I could just pick up a few loaves from Publix. Really? I mean, I love Publix products and they do have delicious breads, but really? Even though I’m just learning this thing called baking, I knew I had to make the bread myself.

wpid-20151024_170700-1.jpgA while back, I saved a recipe I found on Food52’s page. This one is called Dan Leader’s 4-hour Baguette and it promised to be the push I needed to make my own bread at home. I was skeptical, to say the least, but I gathered my ingredients and got busy with the bread making.

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Started off easy enough. Simple ingredients and directions. I did have to look up the proper conversion for the measurement on fine sea salt versus the Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt that the recipe called for. The recipe says you won’t use as much, but it didn’t say exactly how much less. It’s about half, so I used 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt.

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The kneading step is what gets to me. The recipes always seem to say to work on a “lightly floured surface” and I end up wondering what lightly floured really means as I keep having to add more and more flour so the dough doesn’t stick to my counter top and hands as I go. I didn’t do the full ten minutes of kneading. As usual, I can’t follow directions to the T and the dough really did look smooth and elastic-y. After the shaping and resting periods, the dough was ready to be cut, formed into the logs, and nestled in parchment paper rows for one more sitting until they were doubled in size. They looked so cute lined up like that. On one, I added a little nubbin tail. Tail bread baguette. It’s totally a thing.

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Once they fattened up, I scored them and popped them in that hot-as-Hades oven. I really need a new oven. Any temp over 400 and mine smokes like I’m burning wet newspaper in there. Since this recipe included using a cast iron skillet with ice cubes under the baking sheet to promote rise before browning of the crust, the smoke may have been even worse once those ice cubes evaporated. One day, I’ll have my new oven.

Luckily, the loaves came out looking pretty damn delicious. The crust was perfectly cooked and they had some rise, but weren’t pufftastic by any means. They looked almost fake, they were so handsome. I did that. I made bread. At home. From scratch. What what?!

Turns out they were right about this recipe being the push that I needed. After waiting a bit for the them to cool, I tore off a chunk of the butt with the nubbin tail, slathered it with butter, and was instantly addicted. The crispy, golden brown crust and soft crumb was the perfect combo. I banged out those baguettes and I’ll do it again.

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