The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

msmarguet's blog

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crackling country sister loaves

when these two batards crackled out of my oven they reminded me of my sister, marilyn, and me standing side-by-side in her kitchen over a pillowy-soft ooze of dough. i've been teaching her to make bread over the last 6 or 7 months.

. . . after 2 visits

• photos

• blog posts

• emails

• and back&forth sister chats 

• the result is the hand-over of my techniques to her, and a happy-homemade-bread-eating-khadr family.

kona sits in the kitchen with me every morning when i get up at my sister's to make the coffee and the bread. i think the khadrs should name the guest room the "patricia marie room" so that no one else gets too comfy in there.

on a recent visit to the bay, marilyn gave me the inspirational bread book from the legendary tartine bakery in san francisco, where chad robertson sells out of his bread everyday within one hour of opening. with chad's encouraging words, i adapted his basic country bread by mixing in my own experiences and techniques.

the crafting of my sister loaves 

(i always make two to share with friends and family) 

is the latest in my ongoing need to make bread.

this patty-cake starter is almost 2 years old. 

it smells like an over-ripe pear. it's milky, sweet and airy. 

i use it to make a leaven for my sister loaves based on the basic country bread recipe from tartine bakery.

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12-12-10 was a big day for me. 

it was the day i mastered the baguette. 

i have spent years trying. i've rolled hundreds of failures. i burned out the heating element in our oven. there were many times when i thought about bagging it. after all, i have big successes with the batard and the boule.

making a baguette is at once simple–flour, yeast, water, salt. and yet baffling–the dough is sticky and wet, more like a thick batter, so it's confounding to roll. and the shape is long and skinny . . . seemingly impossible to get into a blazing-steaming-hot oven. 

          the real deal is only 5-6 centimeters in diameter (a little less than 2.5") and weighs only 250 grams (just under 9 oz.). the crumb is light, airy and full of holes. the crust is crackling-crisp and sends little shards flying when you cut into it with a bread knife. to make baguettes i use a metric scale and a tape measure, a stone, tea towels, a mini-peel, wooden tongs . . . and patience.

i was alone in our kitchen when i got those first two good baguettes into the oven. i saw them spring through the dirty glass window of the oven door, and like so many baking mornings before, my husband and dogs were asleep. it was dark outside and the snow falling looked blue. my kitchen was orderly just like it ordinarily is. after the loaves cooled i cut into one and tasted a center slice to confirm i had done it. there was a quiet gratification in that solitary moment . . . an unexpected flash in a routine day that was significant, if just to me. i've made fresh loaves both mornings since then, and each time i've been happy to pull that same satisfaction from the oven. and i am looking forward to stretches of days out in front of me when i will again find happiness in the craft of something as basic as making bread.

msmarguet's picture

          if patience is a virtue, then let's just say i've spent most of my life striving for it . . . this is an oxymoron, i know, because being patient is the exact opposite of striving. but, i am not good at sitting still, calmly waiting for anything. i go when i'm awake, and i stop when i'm asleep, and there is not much in between. so for me there is a lesson in making bread: it is the valuable, heart warming activity of tolerance and the acceptance of what is to come. it requires me to give up most of the control to the bread, which is basically making itself, and needs only my humble service to keep it comfortable and tend to its care. 

         still, i have not learned even after years of making bread, and anxious with anticipatince is how i spent a day at work after the morning i made a sponge from my own wild yeast starter. i was so excited to have succeeded in growing yeast with nothing other than flour and water, that i couldn't wait to see the end result. oh, but confucius says, "desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly". isn't that just the truth when it comes to baking bread with yeast that isn't "fast-acting". there are no short cuts, no quick tricks, no set timers that will make this bread rise any faster. it is like watching grass grow. you simply have to submit to the yeast and the dough until they tell you it's time to bake.

scored and ready for baking.

          my forced patience over the 24 hours that it took to bake these patty-cake loaves was a reward that filled our home with a comforting smell, and my heart with a sense of accomplishment. it feels like i have been an assistant in the creation of something good, and now i anticipate, with serenity, the opportunity to do it over again.

patty-cake bread

• 1 cup of ripe chef starter click here to learn how to make a natural starter

• 2 cups of lukewarm water

• 1 cup of whole wheat flour

• 2 to 2 1/2 cups of white bread flour

• 1 tbl. of olive oil

• kosher salt


1. mix all the ingredients in the bowl of the kitchen aid just until combined. cover the bowl with a towel and let it rest about 20 minutes–this is called autolyse and allows the flour to absorb the water and for the gluten to start to develop.

2. knead the dough on the first setting about 6-8 min. until it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

3. cover the bowl with the towel and after 20 minutes fold it click to learn to fold a wet dough

4. fold it two more times after allowing it to rest for 20 minutes each time.

5. rub olive oil on the inside of a large bowl and put the dough in it, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise until double in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

6. gently remove the dough onto a lightly floured counter with the pastry scraper– you don't want to push out all of the air pockets that have developed.

7. cut it in half, and then each half in half again. cover it with a towel and let it rest 30 minutes.

8. gently form the pieces into rectangles with the long side nearest to you.

9. to form baguettes, work with one rectangle at a time and fold the top and bottom to the center. gently seal the two edges. fold the top edge to the bottom and seal. gently roll out to a long baguette shape, and put them seam side up onto a wooden peel dusted with corn meal. place rolled up towels or place-mats between the baguettes.

10. cover the shaped baguettes with the towel and allow them to proof until about double (that's when you make an indentation with your index finger and the spot holds instead of springing back).

11. raise the top rack in the oven to about 6-7 inches from the top and lay a baking stone onto it. put the bottom of the broiler pan on the bottom rack and fill it with water. preheat the oven for 1/2 hour to 450 degrees.

12. slash the tops of the loaves with a serrated knife or razor to about 1/4 inch deep.

13. push the loaves off of the wooden peel just like you would a pizza crust with one clean jerk.

14. bake them for about 30-35 minutes until the tops are dark brown and crispy– rotate them about half way through to make sure they bake evenly.

15. let them cool completely on the grate of the stove top before cutting.


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