French Bread

Bread is one of those everyday things that still amazes me. It’s a simple but effective solution to hunger for the rich and the poor alike. Just about any person you meet on the street can tell you something about what kind of bread they prefer and how it tastes.

As of now, I’m not yet sure if I would like to specialize in bread making, since I don’t have enough experience to definitively say that this is or isn’t what I’m meant to do. But I am trying my hand out in small ways. The experience is both exciting and relaxing.

My first attempt at making the legendary white bread (i.e. the baguette) at home waspfft. I have to say that doing it in basic pastry class spawned more desirable results. Perhaps it’s because we used fresh yeast in school or maybe it had to do with the proofing cabinet, but I’m not afraid to try and try again at home until I get something that is closer to what I produced before.

Here’s a peek at what my dough experiment looked like:

The soft dough shaped after initial proofing stage

From this photo it looks like a chubbier version of the popular mantou sticks. Silly comparison, isn’t it?

For those who aren’t into bread making, you’d be surprised to know that a good baguette requires very little ingredients. You’d need: Bread flour, water, salt, and yeast. That’s it. It’s a revelation to bakers that drives home the point of having good quality ingredients in your pantry and a solid knowledge of baking technique on the brain. –It also helps to have a durable stand mixer with hook attachment in your kitchen.

This is the finished product:

A cheesy first attempt

Here goes my assessment…

My ingredients are okay. I’ve been using active dry yeast that has been preserved in the freezer, but I’d like to try fresh yeast. The biggest downside, however, is the perishability of it.

The technique requires a fair bit of kneading. Admittedly, having a Kitchenaid is a game-changer. It cuts the effort in half, but the machine evidently labors even if it’s a small batch of bread. Hand-kneading the dough, even for a short time, still helps to get a sense of how elastic it has become.

My shaping and dividing was a little off. I simply divided the dough into 4 at the time, but 50g each would’ve done the trick better. It looked so small at first, but the final proofing doubled the size. What came out was something too thick for my liking.

As for the final proofing, my batch could’ve used much more time. My makeshift proofing cabinet was my oven with the heat turned off. I left it for about 30 minutes, but I think my makeshift cabinet isn’t warm and moist enough of an environment and I would probably leave it for an hour next time. The short proofing time resulted in a dense bread. The air pockets were small, much like the pseudo-french bread that can be found in some shops.

Here’s to attempt number 2.


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