The Fresh Loaf

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The great baguette quest N°1

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Janedo's picture
Janedo

The great baguette quest N°1

What makes a great baguette? Well, first of all, what's a baguette? It's a post-war, "we're sick of tough pain au levain, we want what the American's have", loaf of very light, white bread. It's made with yeast, very white flour that is very often, believe it or not, a mix of French soft and American hard wheat. Most French bakeries "cheat" and use white flour with stuff in it like ascorbic acid which produces an even light loaf. The baguette "tradition" is the no-cheat version, made with only flour, water, yeast and salt, no additives.

I'm not a huge fan of the baguette but it definitely has its uses. It makes great sandwiches, it sops up sauce very nicely and when it is very, very fresh, still warm out of the oven, it is quite heavenly!

But it's darn hard to find a really good one these days and no bakeries around where I live make a decent one.

It isn't that hard to make a baguette-style bread. There are loads of recipes, either straight method, on a poolish or even a sourdough version. But the question some of us have been asking is, How do you get those that really light, airy, big holed crumb? Is it the flour? The preferement? The fermentation? The kneading? The proofing? The baking? All of the above?

I have no clue really. I have ideas, suspicions. So, the only thing to do it TRY!

For my first test I simply took the recipe for Baguette Tradition from the web site of the INBP, L'Institut National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie. I thought I'd try their very straight method before doing some of my own experiments.

Well, I was actually impressed with the results. They don't LOOK that beautiful, but they were very tasty and very light. They look sort of heavy but when you pick one up, it is much lighter than you imagine. The crumb is light and melt-in-your-mouthish. The crust is crackly.

I used organic T55, tap water, Guérande salt and yeast.

Here's the recipe:

Poolish: 150g T55 flour, 150g water, 2 pinches yeast - 15 hr ferment

Dough: poolish, 300g T55 flour, 140g water, 8g salt, 1tsp yeast

The recipe called for fresh yeast and since I forgot to take it out of the freezer, I guessed on the regular yeast.

There is no autolyse. 10 min on first speed, 3 min on second (that's what the recipe says!)

30 min rise, fold, 30 min. Mise en couche oblong shape. 30 min rest, form 3 baguettes, proof 1 hr.

Incisions then 20 min bake with a medium steam at 250°C.

Baguette N°1

Baguette N°1 crumb

So, I let the baguettes proof until I found they were nicely risen and I could see the air pockets under the "skin". I sliced quite deeply, but at baking they didn't get that much spring which I found strange. I followed the instructions and baked at 250°C but wondered if a lower temp wouldn't have been better.

I think the basic recipe is definitely a good one and I'm going to try again changing the variables to see what I can get out of it. Longer/shorter proofing, longer mixing (I read in a French site that baguettes need "agressive kneeding) Any suggestions are welcome! 

 

Comments

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Hi Jane,
This is the project that got me started in artisan baking. It's interesting you don't have a choice of great bakeries to choose from when looking for wonderful Baguettes. Most of us in the US who have tasted the fresh French Baguette still warm, have the nutty aftertaste and chewy crumb etched in our memory. I do anyway.

A couple things about the recipe you posted that I would play with. First, I would add 5% light or medium rye to the poolish. That's 5% of the total flour so 22 grams of the 150 would be rye. Second, autolyse helps build the depth of flavors and insures the dough is properly hydrated. I would mix the poolish with the remaining ingredients (less the yeast) and let it all sit for an hour. Add the yeast and combine well. Third, Prof. Calvel suggests 2 periods of kneading or mixing. Both around 4-5 minutes with a rest in between. In the end, it is important to have a dough that will windowpane and trap the gas. I would let that test decide when the mixing is done.

These methods are what I use, along with a very hot oven and steam or a covered period to create what I consider a very acceptable Baguette. My T-55 is any good AP flour. Slashing is surface only. I don't cut deeply and I'm careful to not over proof, usually 30-45 minutes. Oven spring will save you!

Eric

proth5's picture
proth5

You live in Provence, n'est ce pas?  I would have to agree with you that I have not found baguettes in that region to be very good.  I spent a vacation driving around to boulangeries in the Luberon just tasting bread (Yes, I'll admit it.  If you have read my entries on grain milling you will already have questioned my sanity...) and really did not find good baguettes.  I thought it was just me.  Good to have someone agree with me.

Since tasting the baguette that would be declared best in the word this spring, I have decided I am very hard on myself and have finally decided that I am (mostly) happy with my baguette output.  (Ah! One of my teachers will be glad to hear this!  It took a trip to Paris, but the deed is done!)

For me, the key to contentment with my baguettes was reducing the amount of prefermented flour to about 12% of the total.  I don't know why that worked, but it was like a magic threshold.  Above 12% and I got a relatively tight crumb.  At 12% bien alveole. 

I have also been successful with a more gentle kneading process.  I mix my doughs with 30 "folds" with a plastic scraper repeated at 30 minute intervals - 4 times for white flour doughs.

But as I always say - that's what works for me.  It may or may not be what works best for you.  Just some things to think about as you try different variations. 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Thanks for the input! I'll definitely try again using your advice. Proth, I went to look at your baguettes... now, could you give me the recipe???

No, I'm not in Provence, I'm in Catalogne, near Spain... so even a WORSE place to try and find decent bread. 

I'll be in Paris next month and I'll definitely go try the BEST baguette. 

Jane 

Richelle's picture
Richelle

going to Paris... I can only vaguely remember the taste of a really nice french baguette... must have been almost 15 years ago... I still have a travel-voucher lying here though, a birthday present from my very generous husband, so what's stopping me? Well, the fact that if I want to travel, I have to go alone, as we can't both leave the farm for more than like 48 hours... having a multitude of animals to take care for has its disadvantages as well... We have very nice and able neighbours but we don't like to owe too many favors, better save those for emergencies.

You have been really busy and I think the results are very promising. I personally don't like a very, very open and light crumb, like a more creamy one better, and it looks like I'll have to try this recipe some day soon!

Richelle

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Yep, that's the problem with farm life! That's when girlfriends come in handy.

I sometimes like open crumb and sometimes NOT, like when I'm dealing with jam! Do try this recipe because with the organic flour (as you use, too), the resulting taste and texture was very, very nice even if it strayed from the classic baguette.

Jane 

proth5's picture
proth5

My baguettes are levain based.  But you could use a poolish instead of the levain build.  My starter is at 100% hydration.

This is for two loaves at a finished weight of 10.5 oz each

.75 oz starter

1.12 oz flour

1.12 oz water 

Mix and let ripen (8-10 hours) 

Bread

All of the levain build

10.95 oz all purpose flour

.25 oz salt

6.6 oz water 

Dough temperature 76F 

Mix to shaggy mass (Yes! Put the preferment in the autolyse!) – let rest 30 mins

Fold with plastic scraper  (30 strokes) – repeat 3 more times at 30 min intervals 

Bulk ferment at 76F for 1.5 hours – fold

Bulk ferment at 76F 2 hours

Preshape lightly but firmly, rest 15 mins

Shape.  Proof 1 hour or so

Slash

Bake with steam at 500F for about 20 mins

As you can see, simple in the extreme (he, he, he...)

 

I've never been to Catalogne, but I'm sure it it lovely.

 

If you will be in Paris, check out the boulangerie "Pain D'Epis" 63, Ave Bosquet (7 arr - near Ecole Militaire).  They do not have the distinction of the "best" baguette, but they make wonderful breads there.  I had the opportunity to tour this tiny boulangerie (and sample their work) and they are really working hard to become world class.

 

Happy baking!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I am very impressed with the crumb you get with this formula! And with a levain, at that.

I notice that you bake them at 500F. Most recipes I have seen bake baguettes at 440-460F, but the best result I have gotten to date was baked in a hotter oven. I'm curious as to how you arrived at the higher temperature, and what you gain. (I'm guessing better oven spring and bloom.)

Also, could you tell us the steaming method you use for baguettes?

I will be trying your recipe for sure!

Thanks again for sharing this.


David

proth5's picture
proth5

Uh, I don't know how I arrived at that temperature.  I think I just cranked the oven to maximum (and in case Mike Avery reads this, I checked it with an oven thermometer...)

I like the temperature because it lets me load a pizza immediately after finishing the days bread.

And it works.  For me.

My steaming method - I do not advocate that others do this - I really don't.  I have a very old gas oven that needs replacing and it will be replaced when I find my perfect oven (don't get me started on that!).  But the thing works (for now) and I feel no qualms about "oven abuse." That being said - here's what I do.

I do have a Hearthkit insert in the oven.

I have an old broiler pan in the bottom of the oven.  When I load the bread I pour "a goodly amount" of water into this pan with the aid of my long spouted Haws watering can (minus the rose).  I then use a hand held pressure sprayer to spray the sides of the Hearthkit.  I pump in a lot of water.  Then I close the door.

Do not do this!  You have been warned!

Did I mention that I bake in a very dry climate at nearly exactly a mile high?  It may have some impact on my choice of how I steam.

Hope this helps.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I am going to try the higher temp., at least at the start of the bake. And, not having a garden sprayer, and wanting to keep the oven door closed during the bake, I'm going to try Hamelman's advice - Ice cubes in a loaf pan before loading, and hot water in another pan after loading.

I have 4 SF SD baguettes proofing and 3 white flour bagettes pre-formed.


David

proth5's picture
proth5

When Mr. Hamelman and I disagree, please keep in mind that Mr. Hamelman is always right.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Mr. Hamelman is always right in his kitchen, with his stove and his (Vermont) weather.

It's in the Magna Carta, or at least it's in Common Law going back that far. (Speaking authoritatively about that of which I know little. But, it's the sentiment that counts.)


David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Thanks so much! I will give it a try right away.

Thanks for the bakery tip. I'll put it on my list. I only have two short days and I want to do as much as possible (not museums, etc)

Jane 

proth5's picture
proth5

Helas!  Two days is better than none, but a lifetime would not be long enough. 

But the worst day in Paris is still better than the best day anywhere else.

Have fun!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Jane.

Very nice write-up!

Poolish baguettes are so much the current standard, they do seem like the logical starting point.

I am astonished at how little oven spring and bloom you got, especially since most of your breads have such extraordinary bloom and spring.

Eric and Proth5 - I would also appreciate your posting the baguette formulas that have given you the best results.

There seems to be such a diversity of opinion regarding the best hydration and mixing strategy, especially. I suspect there is more than one combination of variables that can produce good, if not great, baguettes. I have yet to find one that works for me.


David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

David,

Did you go look at Proth's baguette pictures? They look pretty darn authentic to me!!! A formula worth trying very soon.

I can't figure out if the lack of oven spring was because the baguettes were proofed to the max or of the extremely high heat sort of stops it in its tracks. Does that makes sense?

Jane 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Jane.

I haven't seen Proth's baguette pictures. I looked in forum entries (but not just photos) without finding them.

The baguettes I baked last night, which were not over-proofed, did not spring much either. The "rules" that apply to boules and batards don't seem to work for (my) baguettes. I feel mystified. I don't think too much heat could be the answer, unless it's combined with not enough steam.

From past experience, I'd guess that there is some variable that we have not yet identified, and, when we find it, it will seem obvious in hindsight.

BTW, I cut another one of the baguettes I baked last night. It was one that I folded one less time when shaping. FWIW, it had a significantly more open crumb. Still not great, but closer to the goal.


David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

David,

Here's the link.

http://s264.photobucket.com/albums/ii183/proth5/?action=view&current=WeeklyBaguette.jpg 

I've got the dough out but quite frankly it's risen like it didn't have any yeast at all! I think I'll make bâtards because the risk is too great to have the same problem as last time!

Oh yah, when we're pros, we'll think it was obvious! And we probably will not make baguettes very often. But we'll have the satisfaction of knowing we CAN! :-)

Jane 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Thanks for the link.

Proth's baguettes' crumb is enviable. I am envious. Just to make it worse - did you see his formula, above? He uses a levain! I have a new baguette hero.

I just don't know when to quite, I guess. I have a poolish I mixed last night. I'm going to have another go at Hamelman's formula. I am using Guisto's Baker's Choice flour, which is supposed to be like T55. (11-11.5% protein. He doesn't list the ash content.)

I have a SF SD "variation" dough fermenting. I'll form the loaves this afternoon, partially proof them and retard for baking tomorrow evening. Hmmm ... Maybe I should bake a couple of baguettes, if there is room in the refrigerator for a tray (doubtful).


David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Hi,

And there isn't even yeast!!!! OK, here we go! I really want to go to bed, but I think I'll have to quicky mix up the starter formula.

I'll be waiting for your bread news.

Jane 

proth5's picture
proth5

Plenty of wild yeast in my very mature, highly treasured, levain.

Do not try this without commercial yeast or a healthy levain.

If you are bound and determined to use commercial yeast, I have had success with using about half of the amount called for in most formulas.

I have been baking a (very)  long time and I assume a lot of stuff. I would be a very bad cookbook writer. I hope my directions were clear...

Happy Baking and good luck!

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

Gosh I wish I had half the technique and skill that it took to make such great baguettes.  

Here's my attempt based on a recipe I've been working on for a while. 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7631/ 

If you decide to try it, please let me know how it goes.

Cheers

FP 

 

proth5's picture
proth5

I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath and say "I am being terribly hard on myself."

Those are lovely breads. 

As for slashing, it comes in time.  The best advice I was given on slashing was "Mental mise en place  Mental mise en place."  Cryptic, but useful in the end.  So I pass it along to you.

Happy Baking!

 

JIP's picture
JIP

I have had alot of luck with the Acme Baguettes in ABAA.  I actually started making them again recently and jumped right back into it.  Their recipe is for mini baguettes but I guess if you have a large oven you can make them any length you want.  They use 2 pre-ferments a poolish and "scrap dough" when I made them before and I have started this now I have saved some dough each time and used that instead of the recipe for scrap dough they have.  They in ABAA also have great tips on shaping baguettes correctly.  I have the process down but I am afraid to work them too hard since they say to be carefull not to degass them but since I have such a light touch I rarely get much surface tension.

 My last quest like this is here:

 http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2237/baguettes

And here:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2645/very-busy-day

 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

OK, so I have Proths' baguettes going BUT didn't really have the time to convert the weights (no oz here!) and so basically guessed which of course changes everything and then realized that I was very busy with other things and so haven't followed the procedure because I didn't want to do it by hand, then forgot the dough, but it was nicely risen. Was making some nice milk rolls at the same time, plus company, plus, plus, plus. So, now they are in their final rise and about ready to go in to the oven.

I am still convinced that sourdough baguettes are too chewy to be a great baguette. To me, if I want a baguette, I want a light, airy crumb, not chewy, with a thin crispy crust. Is that possible with sourdough?

I'm going to do the same as Howard and FP, the Acme ones because I have already done them and they weren't bad at all considering I used T65 and didn't follow the instructions to a "T".

So, David, what are you going to do with all those baguettes???? Your wife is going to cry STOOOOOP soon, no? 

Jane 

proth5's picture
proth5

Actually, I get what I consider to be a thin crispy crust with levain - but I don't insist on it.  Whatever goop it is that I have in my levain bucket defies all of the advice I've ever seen on these pages.  I can't actually send you a sample, but I don't consider the crumb to be chewy either. Is it my levain or the altitude or ???  Hard to know.

There are those who consider "levain baguette" an oxymoron.  I respectfully disagree.

I am an unrepentant adherent to the US customary unit system, but can give you the formula in grams if you want.  I can also convert my formula to a poolish with commercial yeast, if you would like.  I do make the commercial yeast baguettes from time to time and just convert the formula - it's easy to do.  I may actually try some this weekend. (Nah...I really love the levain baguettes)

Let me know about the formulas.

Happy baking!

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Oh yes, if you have the time I'd love to have grams and the poolish version. That would be great!

I don't know what goes with your sourdough. Mine is very healthy and active but I  don't get light, airy crumb in a baguette. 

Jane 

proth5's picture
proth5

I have a little spreadsheet that does all the work for me... Use the same method (yes! put the preferment in the autolyse!)  This keeps the hydration at 65% and the percent of prefermented flour at 12%.  This works for my hands and my altitude.

(Don't know what gives with my levain - but I'm not changing it)

Poolish

42.8 gms flour

42.8 gms water

pinch yeast

Bread

All of the poolish

314 gm flour

189 gm water

7 gm salt

1.4 gm or less instant yeast

 

Have fun!

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Great! Thanks. I'll definitely give it a try in the near future... as soon as my head and hands are clear.

Jane 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Okay, Pat. I'm going to make your baguettes sur levain this weekend!


David

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Jane.

I agree that "sourdough baguette" is an oxymoron. Yet, if you think "pain de compagne with more crust and less crumb," that's a terrific bread. What our local boulangerie calls "whole wheat sourdough baguette," which is quite similar to what I made this weekend, is my wife's favorite bread, expecially for pain perdu.

The crust is chewy, as you would expect with a pain au levain. I think there is no way to make it thin and crackly like a "real" baguette, but it becomes very crisp and crunchy when toasted, as I had it for breakfast.

What to do with all those baguettes? Well, we had one sweet baguette for dinner last night as rolls for ground turkey burgers. We had most of a sourdough baguette for breakfast. I froze 5 of them.

The problem is not those 5 baguettes. It's the other dozen or so loaves or half-loaves in the freezer, plus the bags of whole wheat and whole rye flour and the jars of yeast, diastatic malt, various seeds, nuts and whole grains, homemade jam, chicken stock and tomato sauce.

It seems like I'm baking as if I were the one with 5 kids at home!


David

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Sorry. Double post. Please delete this message.

David

keesmees's picture
keesmees

janedo, I don't see a significant crust on your pic. do you use a baking stone?

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Nope, but I've got one ordered from my potist (person who makes pottery?). Should be ready. The thing is that I don't really like the idea of wasting all that electricity on heating a stone. Do you think it will make a big difference?

Jane 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I am of the opinion that a pre-heated stone makes a significant difference in oven spring and in crisping the bottom crust. I noticed an improvement when I started heating the stone for at least 45 minutes.


David

keesmees's picture
keesmees

yes. absolute significant difference. the heat-transmission of a baking stone on the dough is totally different from that of a bakingtray.

I preheat 45 minutes minimum.

difference with preheating without stone = half an hour * 2kW = 0.11 €.

Ergo: 11 €urocents is the difference between good and top :-) 

 

seeing the pics i have another question Janedo: Do you spray the dough with water before you put it in the oven?

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Nope. Just a really good steaming. I guess I should be spraying, too?

Jane 

keesmees's picture
keesmees

*1 better not spraying the dough. the evaporation withdraws heat from your dough and makes it in the initial phase extra cold. (the same thing happens when you put in a cold iron baking tray: it absorps quickly all the heat).

initial steaming in the oven is better. the steam condenses on the cold dough. the condensation-warmth makes the outside of the dough acute hot. don't steam too much.

open your oven-door twice after 10 minutes to let the steam out. but....

*2 when you open the oven-door you loose 30 percent of the heated air. thats another good reason to buy a stone.

*3 your last proof is about 1 hour. thats a long proof. the rising has topped already and the "coup de l'ame" can't spring anymore. 

(the coup with the bakers blade about horizontal) 

grtz kees

Janedo's picture
Janedo

OK, noted, thanks! I'll go get that baking stone very soon. And I'll do some more baguettes next week following all the advice. I'll show the results.

Jane 

keesmees's picture
keesmees

something went wrong with my post. when it is a doublure, the moderator can delete one.

tried to mimic your recipe this morning. (my dough is a bit wetter then yours: 0.666 against 0.644) but the recipe is quite comparable.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9191909@N07/2597745574/

my ovenspring was this time suboptimal and the holes in the crumb too small.

probably you can lower the temperature to 220-230.

I never get these irregular big holes, because I use a kind of starter and my priority is in the tasty crust and smooth elasticity of crumb and not in the holes. but the best way to get them is to handle your dough in the french way: perfunctory or in a slapdash manner.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9191909@N07/2597165231/in/photostream/

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Wow, that looks great. I didn't really understand which recipe you used. The one I posted or Pat's sourdough.

I agree with you that the flavour and texture are more important. You did get a nice crumb, though. It is airy enough for my taste anyway.

Jane 

keesmees's picture
keesmees

A quest it iszzz. I used the handling of the dough from the recipe you posted in your initial posting.  instead of the two pinches yeast I used 10 ml starter in the poolish and T65/high gluten-flour instead of T55, but the rest is about the same.

grtz kees

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Potter?

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

I don't preheat my stone any longer than it takes to preheat the oven and I get great spring. There are those who use a cold start and swear by it, but intuitively it doesn't make sense to me. Since I've never tried, what can I say? I'm happy with my results..if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Janedo's picture
Janedo

OK, I'll give news when I finally get the thing! I have to find the time to go to the potter's shop down the road.

Jane 

Richelle's picture
Richelle

I placed two 30x30 cm 2cm thick unglazed terra cotta tiles side by side on a rack at the lower part of my oven (obtained at our local building material´s yard) and it gives me very satisfactory results. The oven int. is 90 cms wide, so this leaves enough room for the hot air to distribute evenly. Like Paddy, I only heat as long as it takes my oven to reach the desired temperature, which is 250 C for most breads, even if the recipe tells me otherwise. At lower staring temps the crust becomes too thick to our taste and doesn´t brown as I like it to. 

I have a gas oven, so steaming isn´t very effectful. I either spray the loaves lightly with room temp. water just before they go into the oven and once again after 3 minutes or so - or I place an old emaille pan over the bread to create a steam-trap.

With this kind of heat-retaining surface (60x30 cm), opening the oven door for spraying is absolutely no problem with regards to temp. loss...

Anxiously waiting for your newest test-results,

Richelle

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

For what it's worth, I've just experimented with making straight yeast baguettes (60 2 2 formula) but rather than use my usual all-purpose flour, I used medium strength italian 00 flour (00 referring to finely milled). It's not clear from the packaging whether the flour is milled from durum wheat or regular wheat. 

The crumb I got was very fine and light and had  a texture similar to your average 'cookie-cutter' baguette. There was very little 'chew'.  The crust seemed to exhibit none of the larger blisters I normally get when baking but instead a lighter but more uniform colouration. I'm sure with a bit of tweaking on fermentation and possibly hydration, one could also develop a more open crumb. These variations have also been noticed when using 00 flour for pizza dough.  The way the dough scorches and the texture one can acheive is definitely different from the AP flour I normally use.  

Sadly I don't have (easy) access to T55 flour for comparison but is it possible that what is sold in europe as 'baguette flour' is more finely milled than the 'average all-purpose' flour?  If so,  it might account for at least some of the differences between the 'classic' french baguette and the variants found across the world.

--FP 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, FP.

00 flour is lower protein than either American AP flour or French T55. It's main virtue is that it makes an extremely extensible dough. King Arthur Flour's 00 clone is 8.5% protein.

FWIW, King Arthur Flour's "French Style Flour" is meant to be a T55 clone in terms of protein and ash content. I believe Guisto's Baker's Choice flour is about the same. I have used both, and they give a more extensible, less elastic dough than King Arthur AP flour. The crumb ends up definitely softer. Another option is King Arthur "European Artisan" flour. It seems to fall somewhere in between AP and T55. It has some ascorbic acid and white whole wheat in it. I wonder if it is supposed to approximate T65. In any case, it gives a nice chewy yet tender crumb, which is my preference for most French-style breads.

When Jane comes to San Francisco for baking classes, she is going to bring her own flour and, I assume, will be FedExing slices of the breads she makes to all of us. ;-)


David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

So, yesterday I was really really busy as I offered my catering services (that is a joke) to a good friend who wanted to celebrate her husband's birthday but had no time to prepare. I went and bought his gifts and we had a very casual dinner ouside in my garden. Well, in the afternoon I was looking out the window and I see a red car drive up to the house and noticed that, well, it was my HUSBAND. His arrival was unannounced. I ended up spending the afternoon chatting with him and later I ran to the grocery store with my friend to get the necessary for the dinner. There was absolutely NOTHING home made (goes against all my principles). Anyway, she grabbed three baguettes. When we got to my place and were preparing everything, I took one of the baguettes and with a bread knife sliced on a very sharp angle to admire the light, open crumb.......

WHAT crumb????? The blasted thing was airy and light but the crumb was very uniform with NO, I repeat NO big holes. I tasted it and it was like eating cardboard.

OK, it was industrial. But you must know that many, if not most, French eat these things and call it bread. Last night, after the party, I finished Sara Taber's book The bread of Three Rivers, recommended to me by Mike Avery, and it was very à propos because she learned in her adventures that the best French baguettes were probably made in Japan.

And so this said, I do not lose hope in the great baguette quest because for one, even my not perfect baguettes are ten times better than those baguettes from yesterday.  And then, I can tell you all, avid bakers, that YOUR baguettes, that look so wonderful, made from top ingredients and lots of love and attention, are veritable "chef d'oeuvres" of the baking world. And any Frenchman would be very very impressed with your creations!

So, I will now let hubby settle back in to the crazy life of a family of seven and starting Monday (OK, maybe tomorrow) I will test a recipe.

Happy Weekend

Jane 

proth5's picture
proth5

I believe that Thomas Planchot, Alexandre Lopez, and Christophe Debersee would disagree with the best baguettes coming from Japan as they (representing France) won this year's Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie.  They produced some tasty and beautiful breads indeed.

I will agree that I have tasted many a substandard, industrial baguette in France (even in Paris, more's the pity), but I believe that many of the bakers in France are reclaiming their baking patrimony.

So, don't be too quick to write off the French bakers...

Hate to be contrary, but I needed to stand up for the country that (this year, at least) produced the best bread in the world.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

As I see it, that the french are capabale of making such stellar bread and still subject their people to what Jane described makes their situation all the more piteable.


David

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