Oh, baguettes. You should have been a chewy golden triumph of deliciousness. You should have been tender and soft, with a quite tasty and texturally pleasing crust holding all that softness in. You should have been perfect! I started with the "sponge"...and it fermented beautifully, and even fell like it was supposed to. It couldn't have been more ideal! When the fermentation process was finished, I added in more yeast, more flour and yes, a bit more water and mixed you all up until you were a scrappy ball of toughness that needed to be kneaded. And knead you I did, with nothing but love in my heart, and threw you into the counter forcefully enough to let you know I meant business this time, and I know you liked it. The recipe says you like it rough, and I don't expect a recipe to lie to me. I added the perfect amount of salt (I should know because I measured it exactly as the recipe said), used just enough water without keeping you too wet (Because we know you hate to be soggy from past experience) and by the time I was finally finished kneading you (a full 20 minutes later), you were supple and pliant, with a powdery smooth finish and were definitely not wet. You started out life as the perfect bread dough! And lo and behold, when I put you to rise, you rose beautifully! Perfectly! You were doubled in size at the exact moment you were supposed to be, which helped me keep you to your baking schedule. And then when it came to rounding? Piece of cake (er, bread actually). You continued to be compliant, and I appreciated it. I appreciated it even more when you shaped up nicely and doubled in size in loaf form over a period of 9-12 hours (as the recipe said you should). I suspected things would go wrong when I had to proof you, as when the knife slashed across you, you defensively deflated, but when I placed you in the oven...you puffed right back up again and once more you were showing only signs of perfection. So, why...why did you let yourself wind up looking like this on the bottom crust?
Why did you have to burn? I worked so hard to make you perfect, so you could be enjoyed by anyone who happened to want a slice, and here you are, betraying me once again by screwing yourself all up! Don't you know that you're meant to be eaten? I'm not some kind of bread cannibal, damn it. That's what bread's for. For dunking in soups, for munching on with layers of butter, and for cubing up for stuffings and panzanella salad. I thought you understood. In fact, you lead me to believe that you did understand, and now I realize that it was just part of your dastardly plot. You lured me in by tempting me with the prospect of still-warm bread right from the oven and then allowed your bottom half to turn to charcoal. You are EVIL. EVIL I say and I'm pretty sure I won't be attempting you again for a little while...but rest assured, oh baguette of hatred, I shall conquer you some day in the future. When you're least expecting it.
And the ironic part in all this, is that upon tasting a patch of the golden brown, perfect top part of the bread, the taste was perfect! No play-dough without the salt...just perfect. Oh the agony! Still, at least I can salvage those top parts for bread crumbs or something.
Ugh. What a disappointment! I'm pretty sure I missed something somewhere in the recipe...like maybe a part where it said I was supposed to turn the heat in the oven down from 500 degrees to 425...I don't know. I'll have to read it more thoroughly next time. Meaning, months from now when I forget about this little forray.