4 baguette recipes down, 3,994 to go.
I started this post (and made it into a title and one sentence, or, rather, misshapen clause) in the morning, hoping to remember my frustrations with homemade French baguette. But then, after my Chopped-inspired dream last night, I woke up with a culinary fervor I’ve never otherwise felt. I put a pot of potato-leek soup on the stove. At 7:30 a.m. Game face.
I viewed this slight change (preferring chopping leeks [and cleaning them oh-so-properly!] to a lazy, leisurely breakfast of tartine and café au lait) as pragmatic, convinced I’d eat a huge bowl of potato-leek soup for lunch.
(I ended up letting myself get far too hungry at a meeting and then needing tomato-basil soup. Literally needing it, to the point where I just had to drive through Panera. Ugh. That basically counts as fast food….. But that’s not the point)
It wasn’t until I got home in the afternoon, ready to start dinner, when I decided I’d take another stab at the homemade baguette.. out of sheer necessity. I hate buying bread (mine, no matter how nit-pickingly “off”, is always better, other than the delicious loaves from Café Eclectic!), and O has been requesting sandwiches. I reached for Kittencal’s Kitchenaid Baguette recipe, loving the sheer simplicity of it all (no knead!), but decided to make a few small changes.
My original loaves had been about twice as big as necessary. I’m sure that for “American French bread”, they were perfect, but for someone used to skinny batons, I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the loaf. I decided to turn 2 loaves into 4.
The crust was nonexistent–instead, the bread took a soft and light texture, consistent from the very outside edge, to the very center. My last batch, the batch that induced this round of carbo woes, developed an impressive crust–but it was just too much. Much too much. However, I decided that by emulating a few of the crust-development tricks, I could develop a beautifully golden, chewy texture that the loaves were previously missing.
As the dough rested, my culinary energy continued to grow, and I whipped together some homemade mayonnaise. After a disastrous attempt using a food processor the other day, I opted for Julia Child’s oddly humorous recipe (“THE CRISIS IS NOW OVER! Let the beating arm rest”) and a wire whisk.
One bowl of beautiful, creamy, pale, and full-flavored mayonnaise later, I became convinced that we needed fresh, homemade ranch dressing, using the dill I’d picked up at the farmer’s market (half of which I used to make my famous pickles), because, obviously, that’s what every good American girl does with a bowl of straight-up French dijon-based mayonnaise.
I punched the dough down, divided it up, formed four loaves, and let them rest.
The next obvious step was to start curing the duck legs leftover from the Great Duck Butchering of 2013 on Sunday, and something about slathering raw meat in heaps of salt is just so darn satisfying..
That I decided to upgrade our quiche, make it my own. I used Julia Child’s basic crab quiche recipe, threw in some dill and parsley, as well as bacon and cheese.
As my loaves proofed, I realized I still had enough pâte brisée to make a few small tarts, and that I could make good use of my petit 4″ tart forms (with petit removable bottoms) that I got at the restaurant supply the other day. I had strawberries.. so all I need is a pastry cream, right? Wait, isn’t pastry cream on my list? It should be. I’m going to put it on there, just so I can cross it off.
And cross it off I will, because damn. I made it, and I made it well. Memorized? Maybe not just yet.
But as the pastry cream cooled and I genuinely fell in love with myself just a little, I popped a first round of proofed baguettes in the oven, with a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack. I covered the glass window with a towel (sudden steam can cause the glass to shatter!) and poured about a mug of ice cubes into the hot cast iron skillet. 30 minutes later, as we finished up our quiche, I pulled a piping hot loaf from the oven and sawed off an end to enjoy at the table.
And so despite my lamenting only 12 hours prior, I sank my teeth into a slightly chewy, crunchy crust with a delicate, airy, yet solid center. Like being transported back to Paris, all those walks home, gnawing the “end half” off my fresh-baked baguette from the boulangerie down the street.
Lesson learned? Sometimes it just takes a bit of time to find the right method, the right recipe, the right style. But it’s there. Keep calm and crazy on.