Last night I celebrated a much needed victory.  After my lackluster bread-bowls this past weekend I was feeling…well, less than successful in my baking quest.  I knew I had a good dough, I knew I had made some elementary mistakes, but I knew that my shaping needed work. 

When I arrived home last night I got to work doing two things. 

1.  Make a great looking Boule

2. Practice my focaccia-making skills

I failed miserably in the boule-making deparment.  I even watched a really great bread forming video on You Tube (thanks The Fresh Loaf!).  The fabulous baker, Ciril Hitz, author and instructor at Johnson & Wales, gives a quick tutorial on how to form some basic bread forms. 

Shaping Video

The video and tutorial were great and I even set up my laptop on the kitchen counter to follow along but found that the surface I was working on (large wood board) and the surface he was working on (countertop?) created totally different results.  I could not get my boule to look anything like his, so I tried for the next best thing and created a pretty darn handsome baguette.   Sure, it was still a little bulgy in places, but for my second attempt I was still pretty happy.

My real triumph was my very first focaccia!  It, also, wasn’t without it’s difficulties and imperfections. For example, I began reading the wrong recipe and didn’t realize that I had to shift the dough to a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper until I already had the spices and cheese on top of it.  So I stood there with 3 spatulas trying to move it with as little tearing and dripping as possible off my wood board and onto the parchment paper.  But, once there and into the oven it went our apartment was filled with amazing smells.

I took about a pound of my new olive oil dough, rolled it into a ball and then used my hands to push and pull it outwards, pound it down, into an almost square shape.  Once done I drizzled a little olive oil on the top and then sprinkled with garlic powder, rosemary, and grated parmesan cheese.  Into the oven it went after sitting out for 20 minutes and after baking for 25 minutes out it came. 

The final product tasted fabulous!  None of the flavors overpowered the others, the dough was chewy and soft, like a thick crusted pizza, and now I cannot wait to try other toppings.  And next time I’ll make more dough as this one focaccia seemed to use half of the dough I had made.  If I make these into gifts I’ll need a lot more dough.


The French Connection

So last night I baked these lovely baguettes and made two new batches of dough.  This time the dough rose almost to the brim of the container.  It was such a great feeling, like watching a child growing up before your eyes.  My babies, my sweet, floury, doughy babies!  I figured out what my problem was.  My luke warm water hadn’t been luke warm enough.  So this time I made the water for the yeast/salt combo even warmer and voila! Rising dough.  This picture doesn’t even show the final product, as they rose even more before I stuck them in the fridge.  If you are wondering how much dough that is, each container holds about 5.5 quarts.  Oh yeah,  I got lots of dough. 


 So, with the leftover dough that I had from the weekend’s semi-triumph I created 1 and a half baguettes.  This dough was a bit more elastic than I anticipated and even though I rolled and stretched and rolled some more the poor things wouldn’t thin out.  I also didn’t have those lovely baguette loaf pan things I’ve seen others use, so they also didn’t hold their shape. 

But regardless the little beauties turned out gorgeous.  Very French, in a “we don’t care what you think, we are brown and gorgeous!” kind of way.  The crumb also turned out amazing.  My first attempt was a bit dense, but the baguettes had a lot more air to it, a lot more fluff and softness. 

Once the loaves cooled down I wrapped one up to take to work and we took the smaller one and devoured it with pasta sauce.  My wife calls it “gravy” for some unknown reason.  I think it’s an Italian thing.  Being French-Canadian and Irish I just don’t get it.  I also had a slice warmed and covered in a light slathering of butter and jelly.  Mmmmmm.   Today I cut up the other loaf and have left it out for my coworkers with some lovely baba ghanoush.   Despite the fact that I made it last night and it sat overnight simply wrapped up in clean kitchen towels it is still lovely and moist this morning.  Here’s hoping that my coworkers love it as much as I do.  The day before a holiday and it is empty in here, save for a few of us die-hards and people with very little vacation time available.   I would hate to see the thing go stale….though what a lovely french toast casserole it would make.  Mmmmm.