Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When you make a mistake, pretend you wanted it that way . . .

Soon I will write a blog post on frugal solutions for bread baking. One of my frugal baking strategies is to use Freecycle ( or freebies on Craigslist when I can.

Recently I decided I really wanted some baguette pans to try my hand at making baguettes and other skinny breads. The budget is very tight right now, and discretionary spending is not an option. I did my rounds of my favorite thrift stores. Sometimes I really score—it’s almost as if I make a wish and there it is. But maybe I used up my three wishes already (my first clay baker, my enamel roasting pan, my bread slicing guide—nothing over $4)--no baguette pans to be found. Or perhaps not--I DID find the perfect baker’s apron for just $2.99. I have been looking for one, but it wasn’t on my mind that day.

Anyway, I decided to try the local Freecycle, and I got a response. A woman who lives very close to me responded that she had a baguette pan and that the pan must have “good karma” because her mom baked in it all the time. Whoo Hoo! She left it outside on her porch for me and I picked it up the next day.

It feels a little odd going to some stranger’s house in the early morning and taking something from their porch. She lived on a cul de sac and a neighbor was outside. When I approached her porch her dogs barked like crazy. I wonder what the neighbor thought.

The baguette pan is definitely used. The channels are clean, but a bit “caramelized” from the oven where the baguettes ended. And it’s a patterned aluminum, not the perforated powder coated steel that the newer ones in the store tout as being the best for a crisp crust.

Nevertheless, my first attempt at the baguettes was a qualified success and the pan performed beautifully. I used the Parisian 4-hour baguette from Farmgirl Fare’s site. She raves about these baguettes which are a recipe from Daniel Leader’s Local Breads, but I found them a bit flat and flavorless with the very brief fermentation period (of course, my contrary teenager loved them—despite what I thought was a lot of yeast). The shaping had to be very light-handed and quick, but I was impressed that I managed to get a pretty good baguette shape for my first try. I’m going to try Rose Levy Beranbaum’s poolish baguettes next to see if I can get a better flavor and a more open crumb.

I decided I wanted to make a bread to thank my benefactress for the baguette pans (Note: Freecycle is exactly that—FREE—so thank you gifts are neither expected nor encouraged). I asked her what she might like, but she never responded. I don’t feel confident with my baguettes yet, so I decided to make her one of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Levy’s Deli Ryes— a little risky because not everybody likes rye, thought it is an impressive bread.

I made the sponge on Saturday night and worked diligently on Sunday to bake this bread. Now, I really hate caraway, and I found making this bread a bit unpleasant the first time I made it because the smell of caraway is quite strong. This time, I skimped on the caraway and I was surprised that I could not smell it, in the dough or the baking. It was the same batch of caraway seeds I’d used before, only about 2 months ago. Does it lose potency that fast? Was my sense of smell off because of the recent upper respiratory stuff?

The finished rye bread was spectacular to look at. This is almost a 2 lb loaf. I baked it in my clay baker, and the oven spring is unbelievable. Here is the finished bread:

I didn’t score deeply enough, and the bread was just slightly off kilter in the bottom of my clay baker (no excuse, I put it in the unheated bottom before rising and baking), but it’s still an impressive loaf. And it smelled—good—not bad like caraway. Hmmmm. Maybe I’m getting used to caraway.

Around 1 a.m. it dawned on me--I hadn’t used caraway. The caraway was so stinky I put it in it’s own glass jar in the tea cupboard, where it has to compete with all those smells. The little baggie of seed in my spice drawer was ANISE. Oh . . .

How can I give a gift of deli-style rye with a weird spice in it???

And so, like all good (baking) mistakes, the bread went to the office with a funny disclaimer about mistakes. And a name—“Janknitz’s Anise Rye”

The rye was GOOD! Everyone at the office (including me) loved it, and my office mates were highly amused by my tale of woe. My DH was miffed that I took it to the office because he “would have eaten” anise and rye, but he still has half of the first caraway rye I made in the freezer. (This is a big bread!).

Not only did it taste good, the texture and crust on this bread are awesome even two days after baking. I think RLB scores 100+ with this recipe. And I get to take credit for baking it!

So now I still have to make another rye—with caraway this time—for my baguette benefactress. I won’t have time again for two weeks—a busy weekend ahead.

I sure hope she likes caraway rye . . .