When my trusty bread machine died, I replaced it with another, the same kind, that I found at Goodwill for $9.99. Not bad, and it worked. For a while. When it also died, I shopped around, comparing prices, reluctant to try again at Goodwill, though there is always an assortment of bread machines at Goodwill. It’s a puzzle to me that there should always be several to choose from. Why do people give up their bread machines?
I finally settled on a Cuisinart machine that Costco was selling at a pretty good price. When I tried it out it made such a racket I was certain there must be something seriously wrong with it. Metal banging against metal with terrible noise! I repositioned the container—to no avail. In frustration, I cleaned it out and repackaged it. I returned it to Costco the next day, but didn’t replace it. I thought I’d try the Goodwill one again. I made a good pizza dough and was ready to attempt the French bread again. But the dough didn’t rise as expected. It was heavy and dense. I was using the same flour and the yeast was new. What’s the deal? When I tried again, the machine just stopped working altogether.
Not ready to give up, I went back to Costco and bought the Cuisinart again. Maybe the first one was just defective. After all, Cuisinart is a good name in small appliances. They wouldn’t be selling something defective, would they? I decided to make a baked loaf instead of just the dough. It was pretty good, but not my idea of French bread. It was more like an English muffin. Joe loved it and ate too much of it. Time to try the baguettes again.
This time, the dough seemed fine and I shaped it into the usual three loaves I make. It felt a little different as I was shaping it, not as elastic as I had been used to. It rose nicely but when I baked it, the dough fell as flat as a pancake. The resulting bread was only good for crostinis, not the nice full slices I had come to expect.
Remnant slices of deflated loaf next to latest success
Not one to give up easily, I thought through all the different steps I had taken in this journey to make the perfect baguette. I had tinkered with my recipe a couple of ways, thinking maybe that was why this was not working. I adjusted the rising time, the baking time. Nothing seemed to bring me back to those first incredible loaves I had come to expect when my trusty Breadman still worked.
Finally, I went back to my original recipe, not the one recommended by the Cuisinart machine people. The dough came out really well and was a sensuous pleasure to shape into my three loaves. So far, so good. I scored the tops with a serrated knife, covered them with my soft towel and put them to rise for ninety minutes. When I checked them at forty five minutes, they seemed ready to go to bake. Instead of using the convection oven, I chose the bake option. I put a clay pan of water on the top rack of the oven and my pizza stone on the bottom rack and gently put the perfectly risen loaves in the middle. I set the temperature to 425˚ and the timer to thirty minutes and waited.
It took a little longer than thirty minutes, but when those loaves came out of the oven, they were finally the perfect baguettes that had eluded me so long. Joe wanted to have a slice right away, but he would have to wait until they cooled. No way was I going to cut them before their time! But he could take in the wonderful fragrance of these simple baguettes.
Can he get any closer?
Late that night, when the house was dark and I was drifting off to sleep, I heard the familiar clatter in the kitchen that signaled that Joe wasn’t going to wait until morning to have his first slice of baguette, slathered with blackberry jam. Enjoy!