Bouabsa Baguettes at the Beach
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were down in the Outer Banks of North Carolina for our annual fall pilgrimage to Hatteras Village for a week of relaxation, fishing, oystering and clamming. As usual, we were joined by a couple of dear friends who are also lovers of good food and wine. We always bring everything but the kitchen sink down there so that we can all take turns cooking fantastic seafood meals to go with the several cases of wines that made the trip with us. The problem is that we cannot find good bread down there so this year, I decided to bring the most essential of ingredients and utensils so that I can bake some French Baguettes. Also my friend Barbara, ever since tasting my Baguettes had repeatedly asked me to give her a tutorial on how to make them. Because of our busy play schedule during the day, I thought that the Anis Bouabsa formula would be perfect because aside from being a great recipe, it allows me to spend 3 hours each evening over 2 days and we would have fresh Baguettes for dinner.
So with Barbara as my Assistant Baker and with a lot of trepidation, I proceeded to show her step by step how to weigh and mix the ingredients, to master the art of the Autolyse, the Stretch and Fold, the Cold Retardation, the Shaping and Scoring and finally the Baking with Steam. Trouble was I was not armed with my usual battery of utensils that I normally use in my baking. No Mixer, no Thermometer, no Couche, no Baking Stone, no Lame, no Calibrated Oven, no Water Spritzer Bottle, no Cast Iron Skillet, no Lava Rocks. Was I doomed for failure?
Au Contraire, Mon Frere! As I proceeded with mixing and working the dough by hand, it developed beautifully and after the cold retardation, I shaped the loaves and proofed them on a perforated baguette pan I brought along that I used to bake with in my pre-TFL days. I used a plain double edged razor blade to score the loaves. I put a broiler pan in the old electric oven and poured in 1 cup of hot water for steam. The baguettes rose fine, the ears opened up nicely, the crust was crackly, the crumb was open and soft and best of all the taste was fantastic, as good as any I have baked under more ideal conditions. We greatly enjoyed the Baguettes with our Japanese style Bouillabaisse.
No Frills Baguettes
Roughing it Crumb
I think that sometimes we are too dependent on non-essential gadgets. It goes to show that we can make great bread with good ingredients, our hands and the most rudimentary utensils.
My friend Barbara was so excited about the results that once she got home, she decided to make a batch of baguettes on her own and she sent me these photos.
Barbara's Outstanding Baguettes
Barbara's Amazing Baguette Crumb
I would say that she graduated from Baguette 101 Magna Cum Laude!