I was forced to take a bit of downtime the past few days as I was struck with a dastardly flu bug Christmas morning and am just now recovering. Unfortunately that made it a little difficult to get too excited about food, so I thought I'd save my thoughts on Christmas Eve dinner til I was feeling better.
So to kick things off, I conquered one of my biggest goals on Christmas Eve- I made French Baguettes! I love, I mean LOVE, a good loaf of fresh, crackly on the outside soft on the inside French bread. Is there anything better? I love the very idea of the baguette, the image it's shape conjure of riding through the streets of Paris on a bicycle with a loaf artfully displayed carried in it's basket. Ok maybe a bit cheesy, but honestly it's basically the perfect loaf. It's light flavor perfect on it's own, or paired with simple sweet butter, spread with salty and creamy Brie, or as a vehicle for soups and stews...it is just a perfect accompaniment. So, given my love, it was a big accomplishment for me to set out and make my own.
I decided to follow the recipe on the King Arthur Flour website (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-baguettes-recipe). I won't completely recap the recipe here, but I will say that it was a lot easier than I had anticipated it would be. I chose to follow the directions for using an electric mixer (the hook attachment on my kitchen aid), which made the initial kneading simple, though I feel that I might have let it go a bit too long and over kneaded the dough. The next several steps were simple, a matter of allowing the dough to rest and rise, punching it down and then again allowing it to rest and rise several times over. Once those steps were complete then it was a matter of forming the baguettes, and again allowing them to rise. From there it was just a matter of "misting" the loaves with water and popping them in the oven. 20 minutes later the bread was a beautiful beautiful golden brown. Having watched far too many hours of The Food Network, I knew that if a baguette sounds hollow on the inside when you tap on it, a good loaf has been made- mine sounded hollow!
My only concern with my bread was that it was a bit dense inside, which I blame on my initial kneading as a bit too much. Otherwise though...it was a success!
I find it both awesome, and slightly dangerous, that beautiful fresh French Baguettes are so easy to make, and so undeniably delicious. If someone needs to roll me out of my front door-you'll know it's because I fell victim to they yeasty goodness of French bread...probably with Brie.