Saturday, June 23, 2007
Somewhere in her blog, Rose recommended the Steam Maker , and I mentioned to Jim that I wanted to get one someday when we were rich. Instead of waiting for wealth, however, he wanted to get one for my birthday last month. I told him it was a frivolous purchase, but he bought it anyway. I just made amazing baguettes with this contraption, and I'm now so glad that I have it.
It's a little bit Rube Goldberg-ish, and I was kind of scared to do the big swish of steam myself because I thought I might burn myself. "Danger," the instructions say. "This unit is not a toy." "Never point nozzle at people or pets."
Here's what you do--you just make your baguettes (I followed Rose's recipe, which somehow seemed much easier than the first time I did it). You put them on a baking stone in a 450-degree oven. Then you cover them with the lid to the Steam Maker, and you get your spouse to spray steam in the hole in the cover for 30 seconds. This is really fun, especially if you're not doing it yourself. Then you bake it, covered, for six or seven minutes.
Then you take the lid off and bake it for another 23 minutes or so, turning the oven stone once during the process.
When the loaves come out of the oven, the look pretty good. But it's not until you tap them with your fingernail that you realize that they have an extraordinary crust--the kind that you get only in the very best artisan loaf. Honestly, I may have eaten baguettes that were this good, but I have never eaten one that was any better. And I have never eaten one that was so fresh out of the oven. I feel that all of my work last year, as I was making my way through The Bread Bible for the first time, led to this point, and I may never bake another bread that (to me, at least) is this satisfying.
You know that game where you have to pick three foods that you'd want if you were stranded on a desert island and you could have three things each day? This bread would be one of mine. The only problem with that is that it really couldn't be a humid island. Jim and I ate the first loaf in about 15 minutes. Then we couldn't eat any more. I thought about freezing the second one, but decided we could just eat it for breakfast. The lovely crispy, crackly crust did not make it through a humid Minnesota summer night unscathed, however. The bread was still good the second day, but the crust became chewy rather than crisp. I will therefore have to specify that my bread must be delivered to my desert island immediately after being baked. No day-old bread in my fantasy.