30 March 2012

Day 89: That New French Bread Smell

French baguettes and an epi ("wheat stalk").
One of the ways I've tried to improve my palate has been to smell everything, and connect ingredients and aromas. A few Christmases back, I made spiced cider for the first time, and it was then I realized that the smell I associated with a freshly baked apple pie was actually nutmeg and cinnamon. Which, of course, are standards on most apple pie recipes.

Our French bread recipe is simple. Five ingredients total: bread flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast. Specifically, compressed yeast, also known as baker's, cake, or fresh yeast.

The stuff has that vaguely sour smell of feet. The stink wafted throughout our baking lab as we were measuring out ingredients, and went into overdrive when mixed with warm water and sugar to bloom. We'd already used other yeasts in class and, while they have a similar smell, you'd have to shove your nose into the mixing bowl to really get it. (This may be because you need less of the other stuff. The basic substitution is 1 part compressed = 1/2 active dry = 1/3 instant dry.)

And then the stank feet dough gets baked, and that smell transforms into that wonderful, warm, distinctive French bread smell. I turned down two offers on the train/bus ride home to buy my bread.

1 comment:

  1. That scent just whacks me right in the primal. It brings my scattered urban mind to a crackling ancient hearth. It gets my lonely soul to understand & experience at least one thing about love.

    I might have just mugged you.