The Importance of Trying Something (Again)

A few months ago, I tried making pastry dough from scratch. I had tons of fresh Michigan apples that I wanted to cook down and make into apple turnovers. Being the adventurous cook that I am, I decided I needed to make them with fresh dough. My pastry chef friend warned me how hard and time consuming it was, but I figured I could do it.

I was wrong.

I ended up with a dry, lumpy mess that I wanted to just throw away. I spent hours trying to make this into pastry dough, but it just wasn’t going to happen. I finally added more butter and water to make a pie crust out of it instead. That didn’t go very well either, but at least I hadn’t thrown the expensive pastry flour in the trash. After that horrible day, I decided to NEVER try making pastry dough again. It was too hard and time consuming. I really should have listened to my pastry chef friend.

Roll forward in time to last week when I had a delicious croissant at a cafe about an hour and a half from my home. They make their croissants fresh daily, and you could definitely taste the difference between them and ones you find in the grocery store. It was the BEST croissant I had ever eaten. Hubs said they were pretty good compared to the ones he had in France. I could eat these buttery fluff-balls everyday, but my wallet and waistline wouldn’t care for that. I was thankful at the time that they were so far away.

Yesterday, I craved that buttery croissant, but there was no way in hell I was driving that far for bread. Despite my “thou shalt not make pastry dough” rule from a few weeks before, I started googling for croissant recipes. I came across French Tart’s Traditional Buttery French Croissants for Lazy Bistro Breakfast and decided that I could do this. The base was a basic yeast bread and I have basic dough-rolling skills.

I am so happy I tried it. They turned out amazing and beautiful (as shown in the above picture). I followed the recipe exactly and I am very pleased with the results. Yes, it was time consuming. The key is that–this time–it wasn’t hard.

The moral of this story is that second chances can turn out great. Obviously, there are some things that shouldn’t be repeated, but I think most things could use another shot. My first time making pastry dough, rock climbing, and driving were horrible. Yet, I gave each another shot and now I’m happy doing all three!

What’s a food (or activity) that you tried once and said “never again!”? What would make you reconsider?

Simplest French Bread

French bread is hands-down my favorite bread of all time. It’s simple and to the point deliciousness. It doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, I think it’s more interesting the odder it looks.

French bread is also a great beginner bread. You only need the basics: water, flour, and yeast. Now, to make more interesting french bread, you need to add some salt and sugar to that mix, but it’s not really necessary.

I’ve experimented with lots of french bread recipes. Some say that you HAVE to use an egg wash to get that delicious crust, while others throw ice cubes in the oven while the bread is baking. Some say no oil, others say just a teaspoon.

My version is very simple and is (of course) my favorite.

400g bread flour
240g warm water
16g yeast
20g sugar
12g salt

The only oil I use is on the pan to keep the bread from sticking.

Here are the instructions:

  1. First, mix the water and yeast together and let sit for five to ten minutes or until bubbly. While waiting, mix the flour, sugar, and salt together.
  2. Combine the all the ingredients and knead until your dough is smooth and elastic. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Separate the dough into three or four pieces, depending on how big you want each loaf to be. Flatten out the dough and roll into tight baguettes. I personally like to score my dough, but that’s a personal preference thing. Place the dough on a baking sheet or baguette pan. Let it rise again until doubled.
  4. Fill a baking pan with boiling water and place it in your oven (will add humidity).
  5. Bake your bread at 400 for 30 minutes or so. For a crispier crust, try spritzing the loaves with water mid-baking.
  6. Once finished, immediately remove baked bread from the pan and place on a cooling rack.