There’s a sweet little boulangerie in my city, for which I’ll use up $10 in gas in order to buy a $4 baguette that makes those at the grocery store taste like play dough. (For small town British Columbians who, like me, grew up pronouncing the surname Trottier as Trotty-er, a boulangerie is a French bakery. And, yes, I had to look it up. If you’re French and reading this, please don’t unsubscribe. More on you later.)
Anyway, the baguettes from this place are the real deal. Hard and crusty on the outside and all air holes and chewiness inside.
In a quest to create a more-than-passable baguette, I’ve been perusing and testing recipes in my own little kitchen baguetterie (to qualify as a boulangerie, an assortment of breads need to be made on site. Ergo.)
The easiest recipes produced basic, bland white bread.
Some of the more complex called for the kind of trickiness employed in folding fitted sheets.
One had – no kidding – 34 steps.
Since, as well as having a negative attention span, I’m essentially lazy, I want easy and authentic and, holy Hannah, last night I may have cracked it.
In the spirit of sharing an awfully good thing and to save you toil and time, herewith, my Almost-As-Good-As-It-Gets Baguette recipe.
Here’s what you need:
1 package of yeast
White flour – decent, not bleached
A linen cloth
A cast iron fry pan
A baking sheet or two
The recipe I used said to dump all the ingredients into a mixing bowl, however, to make sure your yeast is good, I recommend first mixing it with a bit of warm water and less than a teaspoon of sugar to ensure it bubbles.
If you’ve got a stand mixer, mix the ingredients until they’re smooth (if you’re mixing by hand, this is sticky dough so suggest you mix and knead right in the bowl) then cover and let it rest for an hour and a half.
Generously flour the linen cloth, cut the dough in half, and place on the cloth. With your palms, push each piece semi flat, then use a rolling pin action to quickly elongate it. Don’t overhandle, just make it long and thinnish. No awards for technique here.
Make a fold in the cloth between your loaves so they don’t touch. Rise to double.
Preheat the oven to stinking hot (475-500) and put the fry pan on the lowest rack.
Before you transfer your loaves to a baking sheet (parchment paper is a good idea here), use a razor blade or sharp knife (I used a fish filleter) to make three or four cuts in the top of each loaf. When you’ve put your pans in the oven, toss some ice cubes into the frying pan. The steam is the secret to the crust.
Bake for 20-30 minutes till dark and crusty and – what’d I tell you?
So back to the French.
Brigitte Macron, France’s new first lady, is exactly my age and a stunner in the way of Deneuve or Bardot.
If she were ever to read this (presumably with a critical eye to baguette baking), I have a question: Brigitte, what did your now-husband Emmanuel possess at age 15 that knocked you – then 39 – off your feet?
When I was 39, I had a 15-year old daughter, which meant I was exposed to 15-year old boys in my kitchen, at the door, and when I’d unexpectedly come home to a party in progress and find one throwing up on the lawn. From my observations and recollection, 15-year old boys are works in progress. Mostly limbs and appetites.
Emmanuelle Macron, France’s new president, must’ve been a different kind of 15.
Certainly he possessed something extraordinary.
No judgment, just curiosity. He was 15.
Brigitte, what was it?