Carbohydrates have fallen from grace. Regardless of their nutritive value, affordability or ability to keep, admitting to eating, preparing or heavens forbid enjoying anything containing carbohydrates is almost social suicide in certain circles. A staple food in many countries however, carbohydrates are served in various forms all over the world, but most notably in a culinary sense, as rice, potatoes, pasta and bread.
As the Franschhoek Valley is celebrating its French heritage, we thought to have a look at that one French carbohydrate no one can ignore – bread. Despite carbs being out of fashion, the French still regularly buy their bread freshly baked from the boulangerie and serve it with almost any meal.
Although it is a contentious quote, the story of Queen Marie-Antoinette having said “Let them eat cake”, the traditional translation for “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” and the anger with which it was received by the French population, does give one an idea of how serious the French regard their bread. In fact, today, bread dough categories are protected by French law!
For breads with traditional French names, this law only allows the addition of ascorbic acid and rye flour to the four basic ingredients of water, flour, yeast and salt. French bakers therefore rely on various techniques of kneading, proofing and baking to create an assortment of breads. Of these various types of French breads, the Baguette is the best-known.
The history of the Baguette is more complex than one would think. While it seems that it has evolved directly from long French breads in the seventeenth century, another theory is that the longer, thinner baguette originally developed in Vienna in the middle of the 19th century. Viennese bakers were not allowed to bake before 4 am and this type of bread could be prepared and baked much quicker than other loaves.
Despite the complexity of its origin though, the Baguette’s crispy crust and chewy interior has made it popular globally while its classic “wand” shape after which it has been named, has become an unofficial symbol of the French lifestyle.
The La Motte farm kitchen will be baking some beautiful Baguettes this weekend to enjoy with Pierneef à La Motte’s French-inspired menu or to take home and serve with some delectable cheese and wine.
Why not try your hand at baking your own Baguette?
550 g Cake flour
13 g Salt
10.5 g Yeast
428 g Water
Total dough: 1001 g and yield 3 loafs
Preheat your oven to 230 degrees with your baking stone or steel inside.
In a mixing bowl weigh off your water and ensure that is roughly 26 degrees for a good fermentation. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the flour and then the salt. Mix for 4 to 6 min to develop a good elasticity.
After mixing rest your dough for 30 minutes, after the rest period perform a fold and put the dough in the fridge covered with a plastic bag for 2 hours. After two hours do another fold, cover the dough and leave over night to ferment. The next morning take the dough out and portion into 400 g loafs.
Dump the dough from the bulk container to an unfloured work surface. The dough will feel cold, slightly damp, and firm. Divide into 330 g pieces and preshape them into rounds. Because the dough is cold and firm, very little bench flour is needed to preshape. Let the preshaped dough rest for 30 minutes, uncovered.
Prepare a board with a kitchen towel or proofing linen (couche) to proof your shaped baguettes.
After the preshaped rounds have rested 30 minutes, shape each piece into a long baguette, approximately 35 cm long for a home oven. Remember to keep the seam facing up when proofing. After shaping each baguette place it seam side up on your kitchen towel and make a fold in the towel to be a buffer between the breads. (Click here for a how to shape Baguette video)
Proof the pieces until they pass the poke test, about 1 hour and 45 minutes at room temperature. Flour the dough and turn each bread out on a pizza peel or a card board now with seam at the bottom. Score 3 to 5 diagonal cuts into the top with a shard minora blade and slide onto the baking stone leaving enough space for the other two. Remember that the bread will put out so if necessary only bake one at a time keeping the others in the fridge.
Bake at 230 degrees for 20 minutes with your baking stone or steel inside.