Friday, January 14, 2011

The day I made 40 baguettes

(Almost). Grab some hot cocoa kids, and I will tell you the tale of my crappy baguettes.
I have no idea why I was cursed with left-handedness. Actually, I probably chose this fate myself in an effort to copy my older sister, which I tended to do a lot as a tot (No, really. Just ask my hair stylist, who spent years trying to convince me that all of my hair was blonde in the back because I asked repeatedly asked her to bleach it).
Anyway, origin of leftiness aside -- in the kitchen, sometimes being a southpaw is a serious disadvantage. In breads, with intricate shaping techniques, everything I do is backwards, which makes learning from the demos sort of difficult. I'm honing my skills of ambidexterity, but some things I'm not quite willing to risk going righty. Example 1: Wielding a razor blade.
So, the key to making beautiful slashes on top of your baguettes is scoring them with a razor. It's not particularly difficult, but you need to hold the razor at a specific angle to get the bread to burst open perfectly. I really thought I understood what I needed to do and practiced a few times successfully, but come practical, I had a mental block.
My hands were shaking, I was so confused. "Turn it like a car key," I thought to myself. But WAIT! I use my right hand to turn my car on. "Pretend like you are giving the bread a paper cut," I reminded myself. WHAT?! That just makes no sense at all.
This was bad... it was like Black Swan (bread style). I totally psyched myself out and ended up with baguettes that looked like gigantic hot dog buns. Fortunately, we had 3 potential chances to make the baguettes.
Second day, no success. Everyone is thrilled with their baguettes. Me... not so much. I have to come in 30 minutes early to mix baguette dough since THE ENTIRE CLASS has gotten a good grade on their practical except for me.
The chef had me make enough dough for 40 baguettes. When I asked how many I was actually supposed to make, he said it was up to me. I went with 12, because I figured if I couldn't get 4 good baguettes out of that, I should probably drop out of culinary school and work at McDonald's.
But I did hide some extra dough under my table, just in case.
I may or may not have done some lunges and deep breathing before cutting the baguettes. Finally, finally, I did it. They puffed up gorgeously. There were a few ugly ones, which I promptly hid under a pile of old bread.

Not too shabby.

Chef said the third baguettes were great, but that he couldn't possibly justify giving me an A because I had screwed them up so badly (um, twice). He ended up giving me an 8.99, which I thought was quite generous. Luckily, there were a bunch of other breads on the practical and I did great on everything else (um, hello, have you seen my dinner rolls?).

Dinner rolls... because you haven't seen them.

I guess the third time's a charm, eh? Once again, my greatest saboteur is myself...

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