A view from my side.
So much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season! whew…mother had a bout with cancer recently that had me on two extended visits. Fortunately, things could not have gone better for her. A successful surgery, a clean slate of test results and labs, and she’s back on track. An amazing woman, she was up, out and about 2 days post op, visiting the gym she regularly attends telling them she’ll be back soon.
She is a huge reason I enjoy cooking as much as I do. Much of our family life revolves around the kitchen table (The Kitchen Table). She taught me early on how to find my way around a kitchen. My father also enjoyed cooking and almost all that was made in our kitchens over the years was made by hand, from scratch. Not that we didn’t use the electric mixer when convenient, but rarely, if ever, were boxed “mixes” used. It made for fun and tasty afternoons and weekends as we cooked up all sorts of goodies, often seasonal, over the years.
As I said in my last post, Hello Again, I’ve started making breads. I focused in on the French Baguette since that is my favorite bread to have on the table in the evening. My first foray into it was successful in the sense that bread was made and few bites were taken out of it. But I had become distracted in the process and neglected to add the salt at the appropriate time. While I did get it added, I feel it contributed to the overall desire to toss the bread into the yard for the birds to consume. I also think I under-kneaded the dough, had the heat too high and a few other issues.
So, I tried it again, wiser for the first attempt. The recipe seemed easy enough and I simply took my time and did not allow myself to get distracted while mixing, kneading and baking. Since this is new territory for me, I wanted to keep things simple and easy. I found such a recipe and gave it a go.
7 cups flour
3 cups water
3.5 tsp salt
5 tsp yeast
Pretty simple. I cut this in half to make my life even easier. After mixing the ingredients together with a wooden spoon in a bowl, I dumped it out onto the counter and kneaded it for about 10 minutes. When I was done kneading, I put it in a lightly greased bowl to rise.
After 1.5 hours of family time, I returned to the kitchen to shape the dough into the baguettes. I separated it into 3 sections and worked it into shape. I placed the rolled, shaped baguettes on a flour dusted kitchen towel and let them rise for another hour or so. When it was time, I transferred them a baking pan and popped them into the oven. The first time I did this recipe, put the dough into the oven at the prescribed high temp. I didn’t like the results and blamed the oven temp for part of it. So this time I dialed back the heat to 425 and monitored the baking time.
I popped a skillet into the oven during the pre-heat phase, letting it get nice and hot. Steam, it appears, helps the process and helps the bread attain that crispy crust that baguettes are known for. When it was time to put the bread into the oven, I dropped several ice cubes into the pan and they immediately steamed up the space. I left the bread in the oven for roughly 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes, I took the bread out and was semi happy with the results.
As I put them on the wire rack to cool, the aroma filled the room. These things smelled great! I was hard pressed to wait long enough for them to cool down before ripping into one to taste it. After about 10 minutes I picked one up, ripped off a piece, (because of course that ‘s what you do with baguettes right? I mean, who would cut one with a knife?) I slathered some butter on it and took a taste.
I have to confess, it was tasty. As this was also Thanksgiving Thursday, we nibbled on it while my brother cooked up the main meal. He did at least let me bake the third baguette before taking the kitchen away from me. So while he cooked, the rest of us sat around the kitchen table, talking and solving the problems of the world. It was a nice time, made nicer by the fact that the immediate family was present. Kid#4 with with me and she was getting to experience something I have taken for granted all my life…family conversation around the kitchen table while someone was cooking something good. It made me smile as we sat there, talking, laughing, enjoying the company and Breaking Bread.
(Here is the full recipe and link to where I got it. A great little site: Traditional French Baguette.)