5 Av Victor Hugo is written by Robert Burdett
Episode 2: Finding Nirvana
One of the problems with kids is that they try so hard to outdo their parents. The other problem is that they so often succeed. I’ll cover that subject some in this blog.
But sometimes even the old man’s way has some advantages.
In my case I like a great French-style loaf of bread. I like it often and I like it simple.
I was flying home from a Paris business trip when I came across the now-legendary no-knead bread technique and recipe in the November 8, 2008 European edition of the New York Times. “This looks interesting,” says I, veteran of years of frustrating attempts to achieve French bread glory.
I made my first batch a couple of days later. When I took that boule out of the Creuset dutch oven it was like finding Nirvana.
That discovery begged to be shared with friends and family, and before long all the American foodies I knew were stoking up their ovens and enjoying homemade crumb and crust like never before.
For me, once I found that I was at the top of the hill, the rest was easy sledding.
I wanted baguettes, or at least demi-baguettes.
First I moved to ceramic cloches, top and bottom heated to hot in the oven. Then I moved on to using a pizza stone, and just using the top of the cloche to cover the loaf.
I’d form my loaves and let them rise side by side on pleated and well-floured tea towels. Then I found that I could just form the loaves and leave them to rise on the floured countertop covered with a towel.
Along the way I bought a digital scale and started measuring by weight rather than volume. I adopted the routine of mixing at around 3 in the afternoon, and forming at 9 the next morning, ensuring an 18 hour rise.
I took a casual approach to the proofing temperature and conditions. But the golden crusts and creamy, big-eyed crumbs proved that Nirvana was not that hard to achieve.
And the kids were always taking note. But I’ll take a detour before discussing that subject.