The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Greetings and a Baguette story

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kazd's picture
kazd

Greetings and a Baguette story

Hello all from Perth, Western Australia. Its currently late winter (but we had a balmy 21C here today, that's shortsleeves weather, not sure what is going on, but my bread rose beautifully :-)


I started my recent bread baking fun by visiting my favourite butcher (yes, butcher!) and what do I find in the back of his freezer? A frozen baguette, imported from France, parbaked I presume, with a label "180C for 10 minutes"). Brilliant.


Bought it, cooked it, died and went to heaven.


More or less tasted as I remembered from France. Well, I thought, I've baked before, how hard can a bagette be? 


I'm sure some of you are laughing right now.


So, I decided to sample the surrounding French patisseries and see what their baguettes were like. Amazingly, most of them did the same thing, imported frozen dough from France and baked on the premises! Only one bought dough from Melbourne. I asked the (French) proprietor why exactly they imported their baguettes (when they make their other bread from local ingredients). She shrugged (in a Gallic way) and talked about our flour being "too refined". I am puzzled as to what this means. Of course I realise flours are different around the world, but... too refined?


Is this a common thing in other parts of the world (eg the US?) Do your bakers import dough from France? 


Anyway this journey has just begun for me. I started with no-knead bread, but found it kind of boring. I tried Pain a l'ancienne too and thought it was great. I am now experimenting with fruit loafs and trying to find a good, regular wholemeal (wholewheat).  Taking advice from this site, I am trying a bread more than once to try to get it "right" (or at least, "really good"). 


I am learning lots from TFL and enjoying the conversation. Thanks guys. 


Kaz


 

holds99's picture
holds99

It's summer Here in St. Augustine, Florida, where I live, and it's very hot.  In fact, it's hotter this summer than any previous summer I can recall since I have lived here.


Most of the "artisan breads" sold in the supermarkets here are par-baked items, made in an industrial complex, flash frozen and shipped frozen to the super markets, where the super market bread dept. "bakers" thaw and bake the items in the supermarket's ovens.  Mostly grim stuff, but I guess it's all relatative to how much you know about bread and what it should really taste like.  I too spent time in France, when I was in school in Paris, and you are fortunate to have the genuine article (baguette) frozen or not.   I have composition books filled with formulas that I have been fiddling with over the years and have pretty much concluded that, because of the difference in U.S. (high protein) and French flour (T55) flours, I don't believe a real French baguette can be reproduced outside France.  For what it's worth, that's my opinion.  So, whatever you do, stay on very good terms with your butcher :>).


Hang in there and glad you found this site.


Howard

kazd's picture
kazd

Hi Howard, thanks for your comment. I have learned heaps from TFL and its nice to meet people who don't think its odd to care about bread!


I have no doubt the french baguettes imported here are produced in factories in France, but at least they would use French flour. The funny thing is, that apart from the one I baked myself, (or re-heated, perhaps I should say) I haven't found them that great. An ok crust but a bit fluffy. Not light and airy like my own Pain a l'ancienne.


So it amuses me that the french bread shops here are so dismissive of the local flour, but are happy to on-sell a pretty ordinary product, whereas they could probably make a better loaf by actually making it here. (These are shops that otherwise make and bake their own bread, I am not even considering "bakeries" that warm up frozen loaves).


After all they have steam ovens (not like me with my cupfuls of boiling water... aargh).


Still, I am not French, so perhaps can't fully understand the reverence the French have for the baguette :-) 

holds99's picture
holds99

In Paris each year the bread guild (I think) selects the "best baguette" and it seems to be an honor for which quite a few bakers compete.  Personally, I prefer the country bread (pain de compagne) in its various forms, which in my opinion, is true artisanal bread.  When I said I don't think a real French baguette can be made outside France I was simply refering to the many factors that go into the French baguette process, i.e. large specialty mixers, dividing equipment, huge Bongard steam injected ovens that cost a fortune, and then there's the T-55 flour, etc., coupled with Parisian culture that has elevated the baguette (for good or ill) to the top of the bread pyramid, so to speak. 


When I lived there, in the '80s, much of the dough that was used in the local boulangeries in my neighborhood was delivered from a dough distributor.  So, it reached a point where many of the bakers were using dough from the same distributor, which meant their bread (mostly baguettes) tasted pretty much the same, regardless of where you bought your loaf.  Needless to say, if you're buying your dough from a distributor it elimnates getting out of bed at 2:00 a.m. to start the mixing process.  Maybe things have changed since I was there.


I propose that we drink a toast to Lionel Poulane, whose efforts and success, during his lifetime, at reviving the hand made miche, baked in wood fired ovens, made at least some Parisians (and the rest of the world) aware of how great artisanal bread should look and taste.


EDIT: Here's a video clip about Poulane that may be of interest.


 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CJaqr_JIYM&NR=1


Hang in there and keep the oven light on.


Howard


 

kazd's picture
kazd

That was lovely to see.  I didn't realised he has passed away. He's sparked a renaissance in bread, it seems, and hopefully in people caring more about how they live and eat... 


To Lionel.

AW's picture
AW

Kaz, I posted a whole wheat sandwich bread on this blog. Search it. It's easy to find, easy to make, easy to love! As for the flour quandry Hamelman has a section about flour types. The answer might be in there. I haven't read the flour section in a while. Maybe check it out?

kazd's picture
kazd

Arlene, thanks for that. I found the recipe on your blog. It does look lovely. The last one I made had similar proportions of sugar and oil but also has an egg. I might try without an egg, that would be pretty close to yours. I've definitely learned I need oil/fat with wholemeal (or the crumb comes out like leather). 


I have Hamelman on order so I look forward to reading what he says.

AW's picture
AW

I agree the fat component is valuable in a sandwich bread without vital gluten. Let me know how it turns out sans egg. Also noteworthy is that one of our members, Paul, pulled together an errata for Bread.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/17831/numerous-corrections-hamelman039s-bread

kazd's picture
kazd

Ooh, thanks very much! I would never have though to check for errata. I will print it out and put it in my copy. And how nice to find the Mellow Bakers - now I can get some hints before starting a new loaf from Hamelman.

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Clicky here:



MellowBakers.com