There was much feasting this holiday season. We had family over for Christmas dinner and friends over to warm up our new place. I found myself spending more time in the kitchen than usual. Either that or I was frantically searching for new recipes.
A couple of girlfriends came with a bread machine the other day and I was thrilled. Yes, I am at that stage where receiving kitchen appliances excite me.
After putting the kids to bed one night, I decided to check out my new toy.
I was glad that It didn’t come with a 100 page manual in 10 different languages. The recipe that came with it looked simple enough for a non baker to understand. According to the recipe, you just need to put all the ingredients in the stated order, press a few buttons and voila! A freshly baked bread will be waiting for you for breakfast the next morning. The simplicity got me even more excited. It had been a long day and I was deadbeat but I thought how difficult could it be to measure the handful of ingredients and dump them into the machine. I could do everything in a jiffy and surprise the kids with a freshly baked loaf for breakfast the next day.
I took a quick glance at the recipe and picked out French bread as it required the least number of ingredients and could finish in just less than 2 hours! (I later realized I made a mistake, it would take more than 3 hours to complete)
I carefully measured everything, making sure they were added in the correct sequence. It took me less than 15 minutes. I happily texted my girlfriends and thanked them again for the wonderful gift. And left the machine running while I packed up the cardboard box that came with the machine.
It was then that I heard a rattling in the box. I took a closer look and found a small metal piece that looked like a part that should go into the bread pan. It turned out to be the kneading paddle! My heart sank. What was I thinking, trying to knead a dough without a kneading paddle?! There goes my first loaf of bread!
The heating coil was already red hot by then and I swiftly transferred everything onto a mixing bowl. I was ready to throw everything into the trash but my friend who was still on the chat had some experience at making bread suggested that I should try hand kneading.
I took her advice and gave the mix a quick knead, much like an attempt to resuscitate. Thereafter, I left the dough in an oiled bowl and cling wrapped it. I wasn’t hopeful that what I had done would be enough to save the dough. I was quite sure I had ‘killed’ the yeast knowing how fussy yeast was. Too hot, it dies and too cold, it remains dormant.
A quick search for a French bread recipe on the Internet yield so many different recipes. Unfortunately my brain at 12 midnight wasn’t capable of finding the closest match for the recipe that I had used especially when I had to do unit conversion.
Surprisingly the dough that had been sitting in the bowl for the last hour had grown in size. Ideally it should have doubled but I wasn’t complaining, the dough was still ‘alive’!
Without much delay, I turned the dough onto my kitchen top and started rolling it out, like what I saw in the videos. I wasn’t sure but I thought some kneading shouldn’t hurt.
I divided the dough into 2 and rolled each out into rectangular shapes before folding in the sides and sealing up the edges. I made a few slashes on top like on most baguettes. The oven temperature was set to 190 degC and for the next 30 minutes, (the timing was a rough guess, an average bteween 20 to 40 minutes) I planted myself in front of the oven, anxious to see how the bread would turn out.
After what seem like a long while, the alarm finally went off and 2 loaves of good looking bread emerged. It was already 1am in the morning.
The colour of the crust looked about right but it wasn’t crispy enough and the inside wasn’t as fluffy as those we like from Cedele. I was glad they were edible and didn’t taste like some rocks or stones. It was decent enough for my boys to gobble a whole loaf for breakfast the next morning.
And that was pretty much how I ended up making my first loaf of French baguette. An incidental hand knead loaf that I wasn’t even sure how to replicate! It was a mishmash of everything that I could gather on the Internet when my brain wasn’t functioning 100%.
Note : In case you are adventurous enough to give this a try using the labour intensive method, these are the ingredients I used
1. Water 260g
2. Salt 6g
3. Oil 9g
4. Sugar 12g
5. Bread Flour 400g
6. Yeast 5g