A French Baguette, An Incidental Bake

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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%.

IMG_4986Then again, I really shouldn’t be making bread the labour intensive way since now I have an all singing all dancing bread maker machine sitting in my kitchen!

 

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

Good Luck!

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