we love bread at tartella. we love to eat it, draw it and bake it. when we bake it though, we tend to pick the easier types- the no-knead bread, the brioche, the quick breads. artisanal loafs we tend to leave to the professionals. until now. in the airport a few weeks ago, i picked up the May issue of Saveur magazine, purely for the cover photo and title, “Make This Bread.” and last week, i did. i’m not sure if it is the project that we are working on for a lovely bakery, or if it was the realization that i’m overspending on groceries (artisanal bread and european butter add up!), but i decided to put in the time to make this ‘Four Hour Baguette‘ recipe.
the instructions were straight forward, and it did indeed take about 4 hours. i’m always amazed by how few ingredients go into a good loaf of bread. water, yeast, flour and salt are all that’s required… plus, a good dose of hand-kneading and patience, of course! a few things to note on my first attempt at baking my own baguettes:
1. use fresh flour. i knew as i was scooping in the last of a bag of bread flour from the back of my pantry that i was taking a risk. and, even though the other 1/2 of the flour used was fresh and fancy flour (special ordered!), i could taste the faint staleness of the old flour in the finished loaves. never again.
2. check the time. this was just silliness on my part, especially with my magical temperature-changes-every-five-minutes-whether-i-turn-the-dial-or-not oven, but for some reason i just set the timer for the stated time and left it (i usually check about 5-10 minutes earlier. they came out ok, but barely. i might have taken them out a few minutes earlier with better results.
3. make 2 baguettes instead of 3. now that the weather is getting warmer, our favorite dinner is a caprese sandwich. slightly fatter baguettes would work better for holding in the fillings. the online reviews for the recipe suggest that you can cut this dough in half (instead of thirds) with the same great results.
4. keep a razor blade in the kitchen. no, not to end it all when you burn dinner, but to make nice neat slashes in your baguettes. i used a slightly dull knife, and ended up deflating the loaves more than neatly slashing.
even with these ‘notes for next time,’ the first-time results were delicious and far easier than i thought. even with revised time and strategy for home chefs, this won’t completely cut out my bread shopping habits. but, if i get into a routine, i could see this becoming a once every other week habit. here’s to baking more delicious bread at home!