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Friday, September 9, 2011

Boulangerie Bread Baked by Me!

Someone explain to me why, here in France, surrounded by myriad wonderful boulangeries, I've taken to baking my own bread?

It started when Anthony, one of my clients, asked me to write yet another set of cooking articles for him. One was on artisanal breadmaking. I mean, what better place to be to understand about the advantages of artisanal breadmaking than France, right?
And I'm very fortunate because we have two boulangeries in my little village, one whose bread tastes like it's been made from sawdust and the other angel dust. The first time I set foot inside to buy a pain au chocolat to go with the coffee I was to order moments later at the bar next door, I discovered that somehow I'd managed to land in a remote country village that produced croissant dough the likes of which I hadn't experienced since Paris. (And mind you, being in Paris doesn't necessarily guarantee you good croissants. But the natives will gladly tell you where are the best places to go.) Sadly, the bread van that visits my street on Tuesday and Friday mornings comes from the sawdust store. But that just means I need to walk the two-thirds of a mile with my little dog to get some and that's no hardship.

Still, when Anthony asked me to write about artisanal breadmaking, I did a little research and stumbled across a blog, http://Theitaliandishblog.com, which spoke of a book on no-knead artisanal bread. Hesitant to take it on faith, I followed the author's instructions which were adapted from the book, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" and found myself spending actually 10 minutes, once I hauled the KitchenAid out of storage, mixing the dough. The rest is just rising time. 

Thirty-five minutes in the oven and I was stunned to see a loaf of bread emerge that looked like I'd bought it in the boulangerie. Several friends were indulgent with my precious dabbling, that is, until they tasted a slice. "Would you give me the recipe?" they pleaded.

I've referred everyone to this blog now as it suits my lifestyle to cut off a hunk of dough from the lump in the refrigerator and bake it. Nothing but water, yeast, flour and salt, and it has the tang of sourdough bread, something I really miss, but dealing with managing the starter never suited my previous lifestyle. Now, it does. 

Here, the dough can sit in the fridge for up to two weeks and one recipe will make 4 boules (small, circular loaves) or two elongated loaves. Small is best as French-style bread is intended to be eaten the day it's baked, as many a disgruntled tourist will tell you when they bang their day-old baguette on the kitchen counter and it cracks. (The kitchen counter, that is. The bread, likened to concrete, doesn't even chip.)

I heartily recommend it. Not only do I give it five stars but my client gave my article five stars so there's definitely something to it. So now I'm off to make my third batch of dough.  No kidding, I really am ...

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