I have heard about people who bake all of the time, but have to find a way to fit in their lives too, and so they carry their bread with them wherever they go. I have not been that person, instead baking predominantly on the weekends and scheduling our day around my bread schedule when necessary.
Today, all of that changed.
I wanted to bake my next bread (I find that I dream about baking bread if it's been too long since my last loaf . . . is that weird?!) and I wanted to do it in time to bring a couple of baguettes to my book club at 2:30. However, our Saturday mornings are very booked: swimming lessons, playing on the indoor park at the elementary school where we take lessons, going out for a bagel lunch (does that seem silly when I could just make my own delicious bagels? but hubby and the kids look forward to Saturday bagel lunch all week!), and coming home for bathtime and naps. That left me about an hour and a half to make the baguette, which, if you've ever baked a loaf of BBA bread, you know is a total impossibility.
Last night, I made my poolish. I actually forgot that the poolish needs three or four hours to become bubbly before being refrigerated overnight, and I didn't start until 7:30, so I mixed up the flour, yeast, and water, and then went to bed at my normal time, setting a timer to wake me up when it was time to stick it in the fridge. Not the best method, but it worked. I also noticed ahead of time that the poolish baguettes only require seven ounces of poolish, so I cut the recipe and only made a third.
This morning when the kids woke us up unreasonably early, I pulled the poolish out of the fridge. An hour later, I came down to make our breakfast of steel cut oatmeal, and threw everything into the standmixer: a little whole wheat flour (I tried to sift it, but couldn't get anything to stay in the strainer), bread flour, the poolish, yeast, salt, and water. It kneaded beautifully and achieved a perfect temperature. I stuck it into my giant measuring cup, covered it with plastic wrap, and got ready for swimming lessons.
While we swam, it sat in my gym bag in the locker room, and when lessons were over and we went to the indoor park, it had doubled. So sitting with the other parents and watching the kids run around, I pulled it out, kneaded it in my hands for a minute, and stuffed it back into the bowl. By the time we got home after eating bagels, it had doubled again, so I shaped it just before nap time.
Hubby couldn't find the razor blade I usually use for slashing, so I made do with a scissors. And instead of doing the hearth baking routine with the steam pan, boiling water, and spritzing the oven walls, I decided to try this technique which I read about on Peter Reinhart's blog. I purchased a cheap roasting pan, spritzed the loaves with water before slashing them, and covered them with the pan for the first ten minutes of baking.
I could not believe the oven spring when I removed the pan after the first 10 minutes; incredible! My slashes (gashes?), however, left a lot to be desired!
I brought two loaves to book club, where we ate them with brie and cupcakes. Between the four of us, we demolished one and a half of the loaves. There were a few big holes, but in general, this bread had a pretty tight crumb. The taste and texture were great, very reminiscent of the French bread. Although this was not as good as the pain à l'ancienne, I can definitely see making it again.
Some day, it might be nice to bake in a nice, relaxed setting, where I have time to actually devote a full day to bread: make a mise en place, take step-by-step photographs, knead by hand. I'm guessing it may even be possible by this summer when at least I don't need to worry about work. But for now, I'm happy that I still got to bake the next bread in the Challenge, even in the midst of this busy life!