18 March 2008

My imperfect elegant baguettes - a good reason for a smile!

When it’s gloomy outside (and it’s been so in Moscow lately), one of the things that could (re)charge me is a good laugh. Not just ha-ha-ha, but a good belly laugh that would brush off all my restraints, worries and unease stocked in the corners of my mind throughout the winter. Time has come to shake it off, point!

This girl said, this girl did. A visit to the Puppets House on Saturday (I even wasn’t the oldest among its visitors), and much fun throughout the whole weekend in my kitchen. To play around in a kitchen is one of my greatest anti-dotes against the gloominess. For me food is more than a passion, it’s a way to express myself. So, I wanted a laugh - I got it. And in between I went through a baguette-a-thon (isn’t it eloquent enough? *giggles*). My baguette-a-thon is an ongoing event, for every weekend within the last months I’ve been lounging a baguette making campaign with a purpose to learn HOW to bake a damn good home-made baguette. Until now there’ve been only the mishaps. Though every single time after I goof something up I learn what I must not do in the future and this is how one actually learns, right? Or you think I’m in denial? *wink, wink, wink*

By now I’ve made lots of research on baguettes already (and yes, I still keep messing it up), and have picked and incorporated two recipes* in one which, to my mind, can serve me good – though they do not…yet. *wink, wink, wink*


Yields 3-4

550 g strong unbleached flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp sea salt
300-400 ml warm water
1 egg, well beaten and mixed with 1 Tsp cold water


1. In a large bowl, combine 150 g flour, 1 tsp yeast and 2 tsp sea salt. Stir in 400 ml warm water and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

2..On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled.
My dough happened to be rising overnight. And judging the way I took care of the dough, I must admit I might be a very good parent one day. *smiles* To create a warm environment I wrapped up the bowl with the dough in a woollen blanket, I patted a bundle affectionately and sang it lullabies. When I unwrapped it in the morning the dough aroma was just divine. Sourish, alive…it practically smiled at me!

3. Punch the dough down and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into a large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edges with water and seal. Taper the ends. (Is there any other way to shape a baguette as I seem to misunderstand how to do it just right and relatively easy??)

4. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place the loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg with 1 tbsp of water and brush on. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until it has nearly doubled, around 35 to 40 minutes (or even more if your kitchen isn’t warm enough). Warning: I covered the loaves with a damp cloth and it glued so hard to the loaves, that I had really hard times to move the stuck cloth away. As a result the surface of the baguettes is uneven. *sigh*

5. With a very sharp knife (this is where my new chef’s knife came in oh-so-handy), make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across the top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 190 C (375 F) oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the bread tastes done. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

These baguettes were mishaps in appearances (again! *wink, wink*), though pretty much edible and tasty and with soooo crispy crust (Yum!); this is where this don’t-judge-a-boo
k-by-its-cover concept steps in to bang the drum for my sake. *wink* Ta da da da!

Oh, and of course my baguette-a-thon isn’t finished yet. I know one day I will make a flawless loaf. I simply know it!

I had fun this weekend. I really did.

And before I call my Tuesday a day (Tuesdays, you never cut me a slack and yet I love thee!) I want to take this opportunity to express my utter gratitude to Cookiemouse of Cookiemouse for awarding me with the Excellence Blog Award.

My first award thus far!!! And as the legend has it now I’ve got to pass a trophy to other 5 excellent food bloggers – I’m always in tatters when it comes to choosing among so many outstanding people running their blogs. Ok, no further ado. The award goes to:
1) Tiina of
Cinnamonda for having an excellent sense of taste and creating marvellous dishes – both sweet and savoury!!
2) Kate of
Aaplemint for her cooking talent that seems to be innate and stunning photography!!
3) Michele of
Oswego Tea for inspiration, motivation, great sense of humour and such a beautiful writing!!
4) Marieke of
Trifles.nl for creating a cosy (‘gezellig’ in dutch) atmosphere of a small dutch patisserie in her kitchen!!
5) Ximena of
Lobstersquad for her fabulous drawings and smart and humorous narration!!

*One of the recipes you can find
here and the other in Mireille Guiliano’s Book


Kate / Kajal said...

awww that is so sweet of you Anya ... thanks so much. I really feel honoured.

Toni said...

Anya - I don't know if you have access to a copy of The Joy of Cooking. It's an old-fashioned cook book by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. There is a totally simple and - to my mind - fool proof recipe for French baguettes in there. That was the first bread I ever baked, and I was amazed that it turned out so well!

Anyway, spring is coming, so hang on!

Cinnamonda said...

Thank you so much for the award, Anya!

Easter greetings,

Cookiemouse said...

To make a traditional baguette you could also try adding a bit of rye flour (say 10%) to the dough. Hope you have a lovely Easter (OK, I know, in April - you get two for the price of one!) and keep on laughing.

Astra Libris said...

Your baguettes are are gorgeous - they look perfect to me! I love how you've dressed them up, too! Thank you for the smile! :-)

anya said...

Dear Kate, Toni, Tiina, Cookiemouse and Astrid - a heartful thank you for your supportive, informative and simply kind comments!! :)

Happy Easter!!