Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cook the Books: Baguette a la Home Cooking

This month Deb, at Kahakai Kitchen, selected Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin for our Cook the Books project.

I tucked the collection of essays into my backpack on a family vacation in July and breezed through the book while I saw in a row of strangers and my husband sat with our two young sons. For anyone who has ever flown with children under the age of ten, you know what a luxury that was for me! I didn't have to field the constant chatter - "Mommy, when are they bringing the drinks?" "Mama, may I have ginger ale?" "Why does Dylan have more pretzels than peanuts in his snack bag and I have more peanuts?" "Is this the correct position for crash position?"

I finished the book in the time it took for our plane to travel from San Jose, California to Seattle, Washington. About ninety minutes. Needless to say, I loved the writing, loved her sentiments, and was truly saddened to read that she died, unexpectedly at the young age of 48 in 1992.

The challenge: deciding what to cook from this book. I found myself nodding while reading "The Low-Tech Person's Batterie de Cuisine" and chuckled aloud during "Kitchen Horrors." I am sure the passenger next to me thought I was a little bit crazy as I madly flipped pages, jotted notes in the margin, and muttered to myself.

I finally decided on the recipe she gives in "Bread Baking Without Agony." It was, as she said, dense and light at the same time; it has a toothy crust with a yeasty loft. Wow.

I baked the bread, with some adaptations, thinking that I could get breakfast and lunch out of the same loaf. But relentless requests for seconds - slices smeared with marscarpone and dotted with fresh raspberries - dashed those hopes. Thankfully it's easy enough that I will definitely be making it again soon.

1. Place 1-1/2 C of warm water in a large bowl. Float 1/2 teaspoon of active dry yeast on top. Let bloom for 5 minutes.

2. Add 3 C of white whole wheat flour, 3/4 C of dark rye flour, and a teaspoon of salt to the yeasty mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon to make a sticky dough.

3. Knead the dough well and place it in an oiled bowl, covered with a dish towel, overnight. (My first rise was 7 hours.)

4. Punch the dough down and give it one final rise. (My second rise was only 30 minutes.)

5. While the oven preheats to 425 degrees, form the dough into a baguette shape. Brush the top with cold water.

6. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 400 for another 20 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before slicing into it.

I am intrigued by her recipe for the traditional West Indian fruitcake: Black Cake. I might give that a try before the month is through.


  1. You always manage to get your posts in so early! ;-) I am glad you enjoyed the book. Her second volume is wonderful too. Your bread looks delicious--I wondered how it would turn out.

    Thanks for joining in this Cook the Books round!



  2. Oh boy, nothing like a good loaf of home-baked bread! It just never stays around long enough, does it?

  3. I can imagine that with mascarpone and fresh raspberries on hand, the bread had little chance to survive. I was also intrigued by the bread recipe, then went a different direction. Your loaf looks really nice.

  4. Simply yummmm....and to that you added mascarpone and raspberries? That's like massaging perfection with the nectar of the gods! Great job!


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