This morning I attempted to make baguettes for the first time (having let some starter proof overnight). I was disappointed with the rather arduous process and partly blame the recipe, hulled from my newly acquired 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood. Specifically, I fault the recipe for its opaque reference to the amount of water needed for the dough. The list of ingredients merely notes “warm water to mix,” without so much as a ballpark estimate. The directions do not help much, stating to add “enough water to make a thick batter” and later, “enough water to make a soft, pliable dough.” True, the amount of liquid needed varies in accordance with the characteristics of different flours, and it is imperative the recipe user have some wiggle room for improvisation, but reading only “enough,” without the slightest whiff of a number to work with, I felt more neglected than liberated. Clearly, my baking neophytism also figured into the equation, as the recipe assumed a working knowledge that I did not confidently possess. The incorporation of butter into the dough additionally caught me off guard. It imparted a richness and creaminess to the dough that, while not undesirable, made for a bread that did not go hand in hand with my notion of a baguette.
That said, I am thoroughly enjoying the fruits of my labor. It really is difficult to find much fault with freshly baked bread, especially when it is promptly rubbed with garlic and topped with tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, a combination lauded by personal acquaintances and culinary connoisseurs alike. Even more difficult when some more of that lovely is cubed, crisped up with olive oil, garlic, and parsley, and transformed into croutons that will have you kicking and screaming the next time someone offers you those artificially flavored, concrete sodium bombs from the supermarket. I normally refrain from croutons on my salad, preferring carb intake in heartier forms, but tonight I uncovered (perhaps rediscovered) a fondness for crunchy, garlicky, explosively flavorful bread nuggets. Seriously, they were as easy to inhale as my favorite bag of potato chips, which is what I selfishly proceeded to do, sparing only the runts to perch on the dinner salad. But that is what tomorrows are for. Making more croutons in between mind-numbing rounds of standardized test prep.