Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Pan and a Plan

Just a few housekeeping items before I hold forth about my new bread-baking pan. First of all, many thanks to all who have been reading this blog. I am so appreciative of your compliments and encouragement! And thank you also for telling your friends! As I wrote to one of my dear friends, strangers are just friends you haven’t blogged to yet.

Second, I’ve learned that some of you have had difficulty posting comments. I wish I knew what was up with that. Harry and I have been testing it and it seems that sometimes when one attempts to post anonymously, the comment gets rejected, other times it does not. I do monitor all comments, but have never rejected any myself. At the end of the post titled Sprung, Harry has left a comment including some basic instructions on what has worked for him when commenting. I can only ask you to keep trying! If you continue to have difficulty leaving comments, feel free to contact me via e-mail. My address is given near the bottom of my profile page.

Finally, I have added a new recipe index. You can access it at the right under THE MESSY APRON EXTRAS. It’s a bit crude at this point, but, since many of my post titles have nothing at all in common with the recipes in them, I hope it will help you (and me!) find what you need.

I am a little surprised that I have made as many posts to The Messy Apron as I have and managed to hold myself to only one post about bread. Truthfully, I haven’t been making much of it lately, and, with much warmer days coming, I probably will be giving the oven more time off (though I intend to work on some grilled flatbreads and such.)

For some time, I had been on a quest for mesh trough pans for baking baguettes. They seemed to have come and gone in the kitchen and home stores, and I was even having a hard time finding one online. Williams Sonoma carries one, and it is quite lovely. I’m on a budget, however, and it is a little more than I want to spend at this time, especially since I had no idea whether I was going to like using it.

Finally, on a recent shopping trip after liberating a couple more lonely cookbooks from the shelves of a used bookstore, I found a mesh pan more suited to my budget. It was at le gourmet chef at that crazy retail behemoth known as the Mall of America. This pan is smaller than the one at Williams Sonoma, that is, it is for baking a narrower loaf sometimes known as a flute.

I was invited to a Memorial Day weekend al fresco dining experience (at my favorite place to be invited to dinner…thanks Aunt Beth and Uncle Bob), so I thought I would pick up some wine and bring some bread. Really, I’ll admit, it was an excuse to test my new pan.

I have a baguette recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine, which has been good to me for a few years, so I used it to try out my new toy. I have to say, it worked very nicely and may have taken this recipe to an all new level. The bread had a consistent, crunchy crust through all 360 degrees of its surface. Oh ya, it tasted great, too!

I let the dough rise on the counter rather than in the pan, so the dough wouldn’t poke through the holes as it puffed up. (I didn’t want little porcupines that I couldn’t get out of the pan.) I then transferred the rising loaves to the mesh pan. You could certainly make this bread on a regular sheet pan, as I have for years with good results. Just let the loaf/loaves rise on the pan and skip the step of transferring it from the counter (not the easiest thing to do without ruining the bread…for me anyway.) You could also make a larger (fatter or longer) loaf, but you may need to adjust the baking time. The egg wash is optional, but I find that it really gives the bread a nice crunchy, golden crust.

BaguetteAdapted from Cooking Light Magazine

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1 ¼ cup warm water (100 to 110 F), divided
3 cups bread flour, divided (about 14 ¼ ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray
1 egg (optional)
2 tablespoons water (optional)

1. Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup warm water in a large bowl (such as the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer). Let the yeast mixture stand 5 minutes or until foamy.

2. Add the remaining water and 2 cups flour to the yeast mixture. Stir until a soft, batter-like dough forms. Use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer. Cover the dough and let stand 30 minutes.

3. Add the salt and ½ cup of remaining flour. Knead (using the dough hook or knead by hand) about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding enough remaining flour a little at a time to keep dough from sticking. The final result will be a slightly tacky dough.

4. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Spray the top of the dough and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Cover with a towel and let rise about 1 hour or until double in size.

5. Gently deflate the dough without completely squashing it. Reform into a ball. Cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Working with 1 portion a t a time, roll each portion on a floured surface into a long, narrow loaf. Place the loaves on a well-floured surface. Cover with a towel and let rise 20 minutes.

6. Carefully lift the loaves onto a mesh baguette baking pan. Avoid deflating them as much as possible. Cut 3 to 4 1/4-inch deep slits into the top of each loaf. Cover with a towel.

7. Preheat oven to 450 F. Uncover the dough. Beat the egg with the water to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of each loaf with the egg mixture. (Leftover egg wash can be kept for a few days in the fridge. It can be used on other baking days or cooked as scrambled eggs.) Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.


  1. So this bread thing must be a Haight trait, eh? Tad's mom makes THE BEST french bread and Tad typically makes at least one loaf on the weekends of some type of whole wheat, mucho grain bread. Thank goodness for the Haight trait! May it live long and prosper! Or at least may I prosper from it...
    Sara C

  2. Yes, there is bread in the Haight genes. ("I love my grandma's buns!"...I don't remember who said that). It's also a big-time "thing" in the Mankiewicz family...and it will prosper here!

  3. Hey, thanks for giving us credit for good dining! Your bread has such good flavor that adding more than just a little lemom-garlic butter to it would be over-kill. Speaking of which, non sequitor-wise, Uncle Jimmy has been dealing with death threats in the past year but as Bob says, nothing new. Keep on blogging!