Sunday, June 24, 2007

Baguettes--the Steamfast way

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.

12 comments:

Melinda said...

Aren't you flash with your steam maker!
Good to know it actually works.
The baguettes look gorgeous.

Kneadtobake said...

Marie,

they have to be the best looking baguettes I have ever seen. I actually considered buying the steam maker but I also thought it was a bit frivolous, now I may have to purchase one. What size did you buy? Your desert island will need to have a wolfe oven.

breadbasketcase said...

Melinda,
Although I'm a fairly skeptical person, I actually didn't even entertain the possibility that it might not work--probably because Rose recommended it.

Kneadtobake,
I bought the two-thirds size because that matched the oven stone that I have, but the taller-sized top so I could bake boule-shaped bread instead of just the baguette shapes. Was it worth it? Probably not from a strictly cost-benefit analysis. I could buy a lot of good baguettes for what I spent for the steam maker, but for satisfaction--priceless!

pinknest said...

*gasp!* they're so adorable!!!

Srivalli said...

wow...you have a great blog here...full of information on baking...thanks for sharing all the info..

srivalli
www.cooking4allseasons.blogspot.com

Mark said...

My name is Mark Schimpf and I'm the President/Owner of the Steam Maker Bread Baker Company. I'm going to have a little fun here with the question of cost vs. benefit. Please don't take me too serious here; I realize it is an expensive item.

I have spent my working career in manufacturing. When manufacturing people are deciding on whether or not to make an equipment purchase, one of the things they look at is pay back time period. If a capital equipment purchase pays for itself in terms of labor or material savings in less then two years, it is generally done. If pay back period is longer then two years, there needs to be another compelling reason to make the purchase.

The steam maker price ranges from $160 - 244 (including shipping), so lets pick the middle of the range for our analysis, say $200.

If the average cost of a good quality baguette is $2.00, then the steam maker breaks even after 100 loaves. If you buy this quality bread twice a week on average, then after 50 weeks the unit has paid for itself.

I realize this is a simplistic analysis because it does not take into account the cost of material and your labor when you bake your own bread. As I said in the beginning, don't take me too seriously here.

Our product works, as breadbasketcase found and was kind enough to share. My marketing challenge is convincing people it is a worthwhile investment.

Mark

breadbasketcase said...

Pink Nest,
I (ahem) have to agree with you there. They are quite adorable!

Srivalli,
Thanks for visiting! I love Indian food, and really want to try some of your recipes. I'm especially intrigued by the one "American" dish--vegetarian hot dogs.

Mark,
I love your product, but I honestly don't think that a traditional cost/benefit analysis works, unless you live somewhere with no access to good bread at all. It's much, much easier for me to go to my favorite bakery and buy very good bread than to make my own. It's only when you factor in the intangibles--like the enormous satisfaction in taking this beautiful, delicious bread out of your own oven--that the benefits outweigh the cost. I do highly recommend your product, however. I've tried ice cubes in the oven, boiling water in the oven, La Cloche--you name it. These methods all make fine bread, but yours makes the finest.

Melinda said...

Hey Marie, I know I blog slow but haven't you got anything cooking in that new oven that we should know about. Miss your blogging!

kneadtobake said...

Marie,

I agree with Melinda, we miss your blogs, I know it is hard to follow those incredible baguettes.

Melinda said...

Marie? Are you there? I got tagged to list 7 things you may not know about me. I have to tag 7 others but (I am such a loser!) I only have 5 people who might respond to the tag...you were one of them. I would be interested to learn some secrets about you. Perhaps you were a part- time belly dancer to pay for law school? Do tell!

breadbasketcase said...

Melinda and KneadtoBake,
I have finally arisen from my summer-induced torpor and am back to baking again!
I've been trying to think of seven things that people might not know about me. Most of the things I can think of are also in the category of things that people wouldn't give a fig about, but I'll give it more thought. Unfortunately, there's no belly dancing in my past. We might do better if we were allowed to invent.

Chubbypanda said...

Wow. Much more effective than the ice cube method.