French Baguette

I’ve been on a bread-making kick recently.

After failing at my first milk loaf that sparked off the creation of this blog, I successfully made a second loaf (it really is very soft!), and modified the recipe to make a raisin milk loaf (edible, very nice when toasted, but not as soft — gotta work on that). I also attempted a French bread recipe, which, again, looked promising, but was a disappointment after I sliced into it.

Out of these four loaves, two went into bellies, and two went straight to the bin… I’d hardly say that a success rate of 50 per cent is anything to be proud of. But then again, who’s stopping me from improving that number?

C’s away for a couple of days so here I go again – the fifth loaf of my renewed bread-making adventure, my second attempt at French bread.

This recipe from My Singapore Kitchen caught my eye. I followed it as is, minus the optional wheat bran. But I found that I had to add a bit more water (despite not using the wheat bran), because my dough was so dry it was just getting pushed around the mixer bowl and not adhering to the dough hook at all.

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French Baguette (slightly adapted from My Singapore Kitchen)
Makes 2 loaves

300g all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
220ml water
10g salted butter

Mix all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer except butter.
Knead to form dough.
Add butter and knead to form smooth and elastic dough.
Let it rise for 45 minutes.
Divide the dough into two.
Flatten the dough and make them into stick shapes around 30 cm long, by rolling them up from the long end, swiss-roll style. Make sure to pinch all the seams tightly closed.
Leave them to proof for 30 minutes.
Brush or sprinkle them with water and slash the top with a sharp knife 3 or 4 times.
Bake at 220C for 25 minutes, until golden brown.

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Verdict?

It turned out pretty well! I doubt that my method is in anyway authentic, but it did taste good. I used the muffin tin trick from The Kitchn to get my oven all steamed up before baking, and also spritzed water over the loaves before sliding them into the oven.

I was too excited and couldn’t wait for the bread to cool fully before slicing, so I broke one end off after about half an hour. That end went into my mouth right after I took a picture. The crust was crisp and the inside soft and slightly chewy. It was so good warm!

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One of the loaves is now wrapped tight and sitting in the freezer, waiting for the weekend when I can share it with C. Half of the other loaf got slathered with salted butter and is headed to my belly.

The Beginning – A story about a loaf of bread

I love food blogs.

And yesterday, C mentioned that I should start one.

I was in a funk after my fifth attempt at bread-making failed miserably. Again. I thought I had done all my research – I picked a simple recipe, read the instructions over and over, carefully measured my ingredients, and got to work.

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I patiently put the recipe together, let the dough work in the KitchenAid, turned it out onto the counter, and got my hands dirty. I spent hours on that one milk loaf. Mixing, kneading, letting it proof, dividing it, letting it rest, shaping it using a special Japanese technique, and finally letting it proof a last time before putting it into the oven.

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It smelt wonderful.

Six hours after I first started putting ingredients together, I pulled the loaf out of the oven.

It was hard as a rock.

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I swear the recipe said it was going to be the softest loaf I would have ever eaten!

It was so incredibly frustrating. I planted my bum on the sofa, jammed my chin down to my chest and pouted for all it was worth. Then I cried for a good 10 minutes while C quietly held my hand.

My Monday was ruined by a loaf of bread. My special Monday (I had taken the day off from work), which had been brilliant until I took the bread out of the oven.

After grumpy-ing around for a bit more, I sat in front of my laptop and started searching for the reasons why my loaf turned out the way it did.

The internet tells me I probably over-kneaded my dough. The KitchenAid is a powerful machine (I did not realise just how powerful), and the gluten was likely overworked, tight, and fragile. In worrying that I did not develop the gluten enough, I went completely overboard.

I learnt that if the recipe I was using was written for a bread machine, the instructions had to be adapted for stand mixer use. It was a brand new fact for me. Or I should use a recipe written specifically for stand mixers.

I searched for bread-making videos on YouTube and now, I feel like I am ready to try again.

C watched me through all this – my excitement in the morning (my dough is rising!!), my frustration in the afternoon, and my determination to find out what went wrong afterwards.

He said I should start a blog and write these all down. Well, he is an insightful man, and he is very rarely wrong (although I never admit this to him).

So, I decided to take his advice, and here I am. Hopefully, this little food blog will eventually become a space that I will grow to love, too.