We’re delighted to have Muriel Jacques guesting on the blog today. Muriel writes the hugely successful blog 40blogSpot – A French Yummy Mummy In London and today she’s wondering why we British simply can’t spot a good baguette when we see one. She’s also sharing her recipe.
Today, I had another reminder of how different the Brits can be. I was nicely queuing at my local coffee shop when the lady right before me made a big fuss about her French baguette being too brown and, according to her, over baked. The placid and polite shop assistant swapped it for a white, flat one. For some unknown reason, she was a lot happier with the flat bread. It dawned on me there and then: she didn’t know what a French baguette was. I should have tried to educate her but, frankly, I didn’t really feel up for it, especially before my morning’s coffee.
Me being me, I ended up talking to the baker, who explained to me that most British people like their bread whit-ish, flat, and under cooked. You see, he explained, they are so used to the soft, white industrial bread that they can’t cope with the crusty French bread.
This can’t be right! Real bread must be dark gold, with a hard crust that makes a lovely, squishy sound when you press it (needless to say, such a sound is music to my ears). As for the inside, it must be light and melt in the mouth. Nothing to do with the taste of plaster and plastic that you get with the carefully wrapped industrial bread. It is a completely different feeling.
Isn’t it sad that, because most British people don’t know good bread, they simply don’t recognise it? They even WANT bad bread instead of the real thing. I hadn’t realised that being French came with such a knowledge of good bread. It is probably part of the silent education there. I do realise that, in the grand scheme of things, this is probably a minor issue.
That said, you see, I am a great believer of quality as opposed to quantity. Having said this, good bread is easy to find in France. No need to be rich, you can find it at every local boulangerie. It is not always easy to find good, artisanal bread in London. I once became so frustrated not to have good bread that I started baking my own one. The thing is, it is quite difficult to find the right type of flour over here but here is a quick recipe that should satisfy whoever misses good, artisanal bread:
For One Baguette
- 500g Strong bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- half a tsp sugar
- 2 tsp olive oil
Mix into a bowl the flour, yeast, sugar, olive oil and add between 10 and 14fl oz of warm water. Don’t be afraid it is it a bit sticky and messy: that’s how it should be. After 10 mins or so, knead it by hand for another 10 mins, or until it feels elastic. Put everything back in the bowl, with a cloth on top of it and leave for an hour. Then knead it lightly and form little baguettes. Leave it for 30 mins with a cloth on. Heat the over (at least 230c/Gas Mark 7 ), bake for 10/15 mins, and then a further 20/30 mins at 150C/Gas Mark 2
Let it cool and…enjoy! Mine never last very long…