Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Lost Art of Home-made French Bread Part 1

Yesterday I baked my first ever loaf of French bread. Three loaves to be more precise. Due to my excessively distractable nature, all my baking efforts so far went up in flames. I decided it is to everyone's benefit and peace of mind if I simply stayed away from the oven. It doesn't seem terribly cost effective to have firefighters on call every time I want to feed my family something as exotic as French bread. Publix bakery comes in handy and it's far less dangerous.

But the non-quitter in me, after resting for a long, long time, decided to try it again. And, this time, it worked!!! At least, I think it worked, even though my kids, connoisseurs par excellence on all matters of breads and baked goods found fault -

No offense, Mom, but you put just a tad too much of seasoning and the bottom of the loaf is too dark... for my taste, he adds trying to soften the blow.

I dismiss their complaints for their inherited perfectionistic nature does not from me...

Here's what I find extremely weird in making French bread.

Four ingredients. Four. That's all.

You can make amazing French bread with four simple ingredients. Flour. Salt. Water. Yeast.

Now, even though it sounds simple, it really is a rocket science to turn those ingredients into something edible, for I tried it many times before without success. The key apparently is to follow non-sensical instructions, and I've never been good at following instructions. Especially when they don't make sense to me, like:

Wait for the dough to rise two hours.

Two hours?!!!?!!! I can't wait that long!

Then, punch it down and wait

...Another two hours?!!!

Now, why would I want to sabotage my own efforts of raising the dough, only to add another eternity to the process?

Place non-glazed ceramic tiles in the oven.

I don't know if this is voodoo or rocket science, for what does tiling your oven have anything to do with baking bread?!! But, this time I decided to actually follow instructions, so I tiled the oven before baking. Needless to say, every member of our family, including our guinea pig George gave me a look over this, and my husband couldn't keep himself from asking

What in the world are those tiles doing in the oven?!!

I just smiled back.

Preheat oven (with the tiles in) to 450 degrees.

450 degrees?!!! What do you mean 450 degrees??? It's the temperature of the surface of the Sun! It's waaay too hot! I prefer to keep my oven at comfortable 300 or 350 at the most...

But, as I said, this time I decided to actually follow the instructions to the 't' and do as I am told to do.

450 degrees.

Spray the walls of the preheated oven with water right before you put the loaves in.

By this time, I've already given up. So, I used the spray bottle and sprayed the walls of the oven, watch the water vaporize instantly.

Twenty (or so) minutes later - for again I forgot to turn the timer on! - what popped out of the oven were three amazing, gorgeous, dazzlingly tantalizing, lithe loaves of French bread! I know, I know, all newborns are slimy, wrinkled and ugly, but they are perfect in their mother's eyes.

I look at my perfect babies and consider the bizarre instructions I followed throughout the day, wondering whether I have just become a voodoo doctor or a rocket scientist... whether I could have skipped a step or two because they don't make sense to me... The waiting... the unbearable heat... the sprinkling of water??? But, decide, that in baking, just like in life, ingredients are simple, and some instructions God gives us in His Word, seem rather bizarre, but if I quit squabbling over every detail that doesn't make sense to me, at the end of the day, I and my family can actually enjoy the feast that only the Bread of Life, Himself can prepare.

No comments: