So after attempting arlettes, it was now time to have a go at baking baguettes, and I did not hold out much hope. As I mentioned last week, bread and I have history, and it is not of the positive kind.
This time last year, I was ready to embark on a lifelong love affair with bread. I bulk-bought yeast, I purchased a variety of flours, I daydreamed romantic visions of a future filled with home-made loaves and a home scented with the aroma of bread. As it was, last year's bread week turned out to be a bitter disappointment, with a particular low point being when The Husband highlighted that I could have flown to Italy, purchased an authentic ciabatta, and brought it home again in less time than it took to make to the recipe. Ciabatta made me swear off bread, and I stored the yeast firmly at the back of the cupboard.
Now and then I am prone to bouts of optimism, I purchase some bread flour on a whim in the supermarket, I vow to make bread as part of my things to do before thirty challenge, I fondly gaze at the lovely sounding loaves in my recipe books. Not wanting to be fooled again, I approached the making of baguettes with more realistic expectations. However the recipe seemed simpler, and less time-consuming, and I harboured a secret hope that this time around bread and I would be destined for great things.
We were not. It's not bread, it's me. I just can't commit to the intense relationship required, the hours of waiting around, hoping it will prove. And it's just so clingy. The vision of joyfully kneading and rolling a perfect batch of baguettes was replaced with something more akin to a horror story, as dough wrapped itself around my fingers, stuck to every surface, refused to hold its shape. Having never heard of a couche, I fashioned my own out of tin foil, but every time I tried to move my carefully constructed baguette into it the dough stretched and bowed and took on a distinctly puddle like appearance.
In the end I took to squashing them into a vaguely appropriate shape, and covering with a tea-towel. I'm not sure what the extra hour of waiting did as they seemed to have changed very little in the intervening period.
I think in desperation I somewhat over-floured them, and even after baking, they were covered in rather a thick layer of flour. I took to banging them on the worktop before eating, which helped dissipate great clouds of it, and made them slightly less powdery to eat, as well as being a good way of venting any bread-based frustration.
They didn't go the desired golden brown colour, or maybe they did under all of the flour, but they did end up with a nice crisp crust. They were softer the next day, but after a quick blast in the oven they livened up again, and definitely tasted better a bit warm.
Overall, they weren't a complete disaster. They may not have been the most uniform batch of baguettes, but they were definitely baguettes, and they were nice enough to eat. I just don't enjoy working with bread dough, or at least not the ones I 've attempted so far. I know on the programme they mentioned that it was quite a wet dough, so if anyone knows of any dryer, easier to handle doughs please send them my way. I've got to do this another four times before February, and it isn't looking hopeful that we will be able to work out our differences! All that being said, having looked ahead to the next technical challenge, I may well be reminiscing about the good old days this time next week. A spanish wind torte (no I hadn't heard of it before) decorated with fondant violets awaits. A Friday night in kneading dough suddenly sounds like bliss! Come back bread - all is forgiven!
Paul Hollywood's Baguettes
Recipe reproduced from BBC Food
Makes 4 baguettes. Prep time 2.5 hours. Cooking time 10-30 minutes.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 10g salt
- 10g fast action yeast
- 370ml cool water
- olive oil
You will also need
- A stand mixer with dough hook
- A 2-2.5 litre square container
- A linen couche (or similar construction!)
- Lightly oil the square container.
- Place flour, salt and yeast in the mixing bowl, being careful to prevent the salt from sitting directly on the yeast.
- Add 300mls of the water and use the stand mixer with the dough hook on a slow setting. As the mixture comes together gradually add the remaining water and mix on a medium setting for 5-7 minutes until the dough is elastic.
- Put the dough into the square container and leave for an hour, or until doubled in size.
- Dredge the couche and worktop with flour.
- When dough is risen, place on the worktop, and handling gently, divide into four pieces.
- For each piece, shape into an oblong and fold the edges into the centre, rolling into a sausage shape, to make a seam that will sit on the base of the baguette. Gently roll the dough to about 15cm in length, and place in the couche with the seam on the bottom. pushing the sides of the couche up against the dough.
- Repeat for all four baguettes, and cover the couche and leave for an hour to rise.
- Preheat the oven to 240C/220C Fan and place a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven.
- When baguettes have risen, place on a baking tray, dust with flour. Slice four diagonal cuts down each baguette and place in oven. Fill the baking tray with hot water to produce steam.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.