The Fresh Loaf

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deux baguettes

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v's sis's picture
v's sis

deux baguettes

Many years ago, we lived for a while in a small town in France.  Every day I would walk to the bakery around the corner to buy our daily baguettes.  Could life be any better?   When it was my turn to order, I would conjure up my finest French: “Bonjour, Madam, je voudrais deux baguettes, s’il vous plait.”  To which Madam would reply “Combien”?  How many?  I would meekly raise two fingers.  As this continued over days and then weeks, I asked my bilingual friend why there seemed to be a failure of communication.  “When you say deux baguettes”, he said, “the French hear ‘de’. De and deux are not pronounced the same.  You need to extend the pronunciation of deux, drawing out the end of the word and lowering your pitch.   The proprietress hears you asking for de baguettes”, a grammatically nonsensical request for some baguettes.   But I knew that Madam was really just having her way with me, a little fun with l’americaine stupide.  And so it went.  Until it was time to return to the United States.  We did not want Madame to think, if we simply disappeared one day, that we had taken our business elsewhere.  So we went to the bakery for the last time and managed to convey to Madame that we were returning home, that we would miss les délicieuses baguettes, and we wished her well.  In return, she wished us bonne santé and told us we should revenez bientot, come back soon.  And then smiled!  Now, these many years later, while I await the magic of flour, water, salt and yeast and its promise of a Proustian feast of deux baguettes fresh from my own oven, I think of Madam.  These baguettes, scaled to deux, from DonD’s baguettes a l’ancienne with cold retardation, transport me back to France like no others. 

Comments

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

v's sis's picture
v's sis

I have made your San Joaquin SD baguettes and love them, too!

Leah

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Leah and Nice to 'Meet' you,

Love your story.  Such a wonderful picture it conjured up in my mind as I read it.

Your baguettes are stunning.  I can see you are a very quick learner just like your sister.  I can't help but wonder if we will soon be reading about your venturing forth into farmer's markets peddling your breads too.  To bad you don't live close to Varda because my very active imagination can see you two opening your own bakery - standing side by side shaping loaves and loading them into a deck oven all the while taking care of crowds of hungry customers …..  *^)  

Anyway - thanks for the post and photos.

Janet 

v's sis's picture
v's sis

Hi Janet,  I feel as if I already met you ages ago as I have spent so much time over the past year and more reading your posts and your helpful answers to folks' bread baking issues.  You are one of my bread baking heroes!  And I love your imagination!  Thank you for your very kind comments. 

Leah

lepainSamidien's picture
lepainSamidien

And even more beautiful baguettes !!! Le petit village où vous habitiez a l'air très sympa !

It looks like the French penchant for making super-bon baguettes rubbed off on you, and not just a little. Bravo et félicitations !

v's sis's picture
v's sis

seem to hold a very special place in our hearts. We ate lots of very delicious pain de campagne and other breads while in France but all my memories of bread from our time there center on baguettes.  Thank you for your kind words.  It sounds as if you have more than a passing familiarity with French!

Leah

Syd's picture
Syd

Wow!  You are a fast learner.  Those look really great.  How did they taste?  

All the best,

Syd

v's sis's picture
v's sis

Hi Syd,  Thank you so much!  But, of course there were many many terrible baguettes on the way to these.  I just had to invoke that most disliked of childhood mantras regarding piano lessons:  "practice makes perfect"! and just keep at it... These ones were indeed delicious.

Leah

mcs's picture
mcs

Very nice looking!  Funny story too.

I'll tell you a flip-flop version of that story.  About 5 years ago, I had a baking intern (TFL member) and English was not his native language although it was quite good.  Towards the end of the market we were selling at, one of my regular customers came up to order. I decided to let my intern wait on this guy:

"I'm going to take these breads, four of the cherry turnovers and a couple cheese danish."
"OK, how many of the danish would you like?"
"A couple."
"OK.  How many?"
"A couple."
"And how many, sir?"
"I said a couple!"
"Yes sir, but how many?"
"TWO!"

Apparently my intern thought 'a couple' had the same meaning as 'du' in French  :)

-Mark

tssaweber's picture
tssaweber

Yes I'm the intern and my Oxford English teaching teachers didn't help me understand the Kalispell/Montana language. What also didn't help understand English was that you made me get up a 1 am in the morning so everything for the market was baked fresh that morning. This was a brain frying exercise!! 

In the mean time I know that:

a couple = 2

a few      = 3

and for anything else also the Americans (I'm one of them in the meantime) are using numbers.

Thomas

www.campingchicago.com

 

v's sis's picture
v's sis

But on behalf of all English speakers, I apologize for our very confusing language!   Thank you for making me laugh!  Leah

mcs's picture
mcs

OK, it was you.

I do recall you calling me some names in Swiss German that were not too nice.  I remember one in specific you said and I replied, "I'm going to take that as a compliment."  You responded, "It's not meant as a compliment!"  :)

Oh well, if it was that bad you wouldn't have returned a COUPLE more times.

-Mark

tssaweber's picture
tssaweber

Well you know that if I could I would bake with you every summer, which would be more than the few times I was up there!!

Thomas

 

v's sis's picture
v's sis

Hi Mark,  This is too funny!  And your "intern's" response also priceless!  Thanks for sharing!

Leah

v's sis's picture
v's sis

Hi Mark,

I have watched your baguette shaping video (the recent one) many times and am always blown away by your finesse.   I have been wondering what the purpose is of the intermediate shaping?  

thanks, Leah

mcs's picture
mcs

Hi Leah,
I've experimented with many different forms of shaping and preshaping, and settled on the technique you see in the video that you're referring to.  The shaping you use is dictated by a few things like: the scaling of the dough (what the shapes actually look like), the hydration of the dough (too wet and sticky?), the strength of the flour (high protein?), the strength of the dough from the mix (whether it was mixed until before, at or past the windowpane), the temperature it's proofing and retarding at, and also the timing of each stage of the process.

As a simple example, if the dough was scaled into the shape of a nice long rectangle, you could go directly from scaling to making into the final shape, as long as you are sure to get the proper surface tension at this time.  However, not only is it difficult to scale it perfectly (without a divider), the dough will be very cold (coming from the fridge, and will require a long final proof to get it up to the temperature you want it to be when it goes in the oven.

So the standard procedure is to scale it, then make it into a loose round or oblong shape, then later into the final shape.  The preshape then standardizes the irregular scaled pieces and provides some intermediary tension.

If I were to scale it, then preshape it into a round piece, when I go to final shape it, it would not be possible to lengthen it all the way to the length I want without destroying it.  I'm using winter wheat from Montana that is not as easy to manipulate as some French flours are.  Anyway, so I do the initial pre-shape, give it a tiny rest, then into the 'final pre-shape', which is just under half the final length.  As the dough warms up it becomes VERY difficult to work with, so I'm developing most of the tension here, while it's still cold.  In the final stage, I'm mostly creating the correct length and evening out the shape.

It's difficult to see in the video, but at the time of the final shaping, the dough is quite sticky, and I'm doing all I can to use a delicate but firm touch (only on the seam) and moving my fingers quickly enough so the dough doesn't stick to them.

Long answer, hope that makes sense!

-Mark

v's sis's picture
v's sis

That is wonderful information.  Thanks!

varda's picture
varda

Beautiful!  And great story to read with my coffee.   Now I have to get back to making baguettes.   Wish you were here!  -Varda

v's sis's picture
v's sis

to provide some reading material for your morning coffee!  Maybe we will manage some bread baking together this summer...  

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

Very nice!

v's sis's picture
v's sis

Thank you!

DonD's picture
DonD

I have not made these baguettes in a while but you inspired me!

v's sis's picture
v's sis

They are wonderful.  Thank you for them.