Victory is mine! If you haven't been following my occasional series of posts, six months ago I set out to improve my baguette skills by making a batch Hamelman's "Baguettes with Poolish" every Saturday and blogging about it here. I haven't been entirely rigorous about the blogging, but I've kept up the baking, skipping only one weekend in all that time. Here's what I said I wanted to achieve in week 1:
My objective: produce a reliable, tasty and beautiful baguette through practice, trial and error. I don't really imagine that I will truly master the baguette--better home bakers than I have tried in vain, I know. But I'm hoping to turn what is usually a hit-or-miss process into something I can do over and over again well, if not perfectly.
I submit to you that I have achieved this objective.
Exhibit A: Last week's bake (week 26 if you're counting)
What is notable about this batch is not how well they turned out, per se (though they aren't bad, eh?), but the fact that I did several things wrong, and they still came out quite well. The plastic wrap stuck to the baguette in the middle, making it hard to score, I forgot to turn the oven down from the pre-heat temperature for the first 6 minutes of the bake, and I purposely omitted the "leave in the oven with the door cracked" step because I needed the oven. And still they were good. Crust was a bit chewy, but it was thin, the crumb was nice and the flavor was great.
Exhibit B: Todays bake
The scores didn't come out quite perfectly--the baguettes took longer than usual to proof, and may have stil been a little under-proofed. But everything else was spot on. Crust was thin and crisp, crumb open and creamy, flavor sweet and nutty. If every baguette I ever make again is like this, I'll be happy.
More to the point, if every baguette I make again is a random draw from the last 4-5 weeks of baguettes, I'll be more than happy. There is still room for improvement, but at this point I think the benefit of making my baguettes a little bit better is less than the benefit of making a wider variety of breads (or even a wider variety of baguette recipes), and much less than the benefit starting a new quest (I have a couple in mind, but that's for another post).
Thanks to everyone who has followed along with my occasionally long-winded adventure, and thanks especially to those (Larry in particular) who helped point me in the right direction early in the process. It has been a wild ride the last 6 months (not least due to the birth of my daughter in week 6). Sometime soon I'll write up a post specifically reflecting on the lessons I've learned from Saturday Baguettes.
Happy baking, everyone,