Monday, September 26, 2016

Your Own Boulangerie

One of the best aspects of living in France is the fresh bread.It's in all shapes and sizes, tastes and flavors. Imagine having a fresh loaf in your kitchen, whether slathered with jam for breakfast or accompanying a lunchtime soup. Imagine having a sandwich made with brioche or a chocolate  or almond roll for dessert. You can. Baking French bread is not impossible.It's doable, even for novice home bakers.

What is a baguette anyway?It's a long narrow loaf of just bread flour , sugar and water along with salt and yeast. There is no egg or butter which would weigh it down.The yeast and sugar are whisked into a cup and a half of warm water.Add two cups flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. Two and a half teaspoons of salt is stirred in as well as to to two in a half more cups of flour. The salt can be omitted for those on a low sodium diet or halve the amount. It shouldn't alter the taste that much. The dough should be kneaded for about eight minutes on a lightly floured board or table until smooth and elastic.It's left to proof for an hour and half before being shaped into loaves.Put them on a lightly greased sheet pan for another half hour of proofing. They can be given a shiny glaze with a wash of beaten egg yolk. Bake for thirty minutes or until golden , then let cook on a baking rack.The recipe can be varied for sourdough and whole wheat .Boulangerie's also sell boules, those round breads that are perfect sliced for a sandwich or gracing French onion soup. The recipe is relatively the same as the baguettes, the only difference is that the top is brushed with melted butter to give it a burnished brown crust after baking.

Croissants and brioches are also sold in boulangeries. Croissants can be a bit intimidating to any home baker. at first. Remember it does take time to perfect this buttery roll so don't be discouraged if the first batch comes out a bit wonky.The recipe calls for a lush one and a half cups of butter along with three tablespoons of sugar. It's also made richer by the addition of both milk and cream that has to be warmed.It's a lot of rolling and folding along with keeping the butter and dough cool. If the butter starts oozing out of the dough , then everything has to be placed in the fridge. After the croissants are formed have to be popped into the fridge for another fifteen minutes and then given an egg wash before baking.The dough can also be used for pain au chocolat, that heavenly marriage of crisp buttery layers and dark chocolate.Almond croissants are also big  and again this is an easy recipe, using already made croissants and filling them with a homemade almond "jam". Boulangeries also sell brioches, those eggy, buttery rolls .Again these are yeast driven and have a spongy texture,The recipe can be labor intensive because the butter used has to be room temperature, not too cool and not too warm. The recipe can be turned into a loaf bread, now popular here in the US.

Any home baker can turn their kitchen into a boulangerie.Try baguettes one week and croissants or brioche the next. There's nothing like fresh delicious French breads right from the oven!

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