Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pain à l'Ancienne

All kinds of news from out here.

We just had an offer accepted on a house! So if you thought I didn't post very often before, now it's going to be even less for a while!

Second, I may have some sort of allergy. Possibly to wheat. So who knows how long this blog will last.

But third, my wife bought me a copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice for my birthday. And in it is a recipe for Pain à l'Ancienne.

And it is goooood.

I feel that it would be doing the author a disservice to post the recipe for this one. Besides, you really have to get into the first few chapters to understand the theory behind it. But basically, it's completely different from every other bread I've made.

For one, there's no kneading. For another, you use ice cold water -- as in refrigerated for several hours, then with ice added to it. You use less than a teaspoon of instant (quick-rise) yeast. You mix the basic ingredients together (flour, water, yeast salt), then stick it into the fridge immediately to keep the yeast from being too active. The dough is so wet you couldn't possibly do any kneading. And the oven is preheated to 500 degrees, then turned down to 475 only after you've given the bread three steam baths, one every 30 seconds.

But it's eye-opening. The flavor and texture are fantastic -- a cut above anything I've ever baked. We went through almost an entire baguette last night at midnight, after it had cooled enough to eat. I think I'm going to break into another one in a minute.

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