I was thinking that doing more recipe-ish or otherwise fun homey posts would be a good idea. I'd be more relatable and seem less "OMG ALL I DO IS ANGST ABOUT CIVIL DISCOURSE AND TYPE IN CAPS."
And then we all got sick for three days so clearly anything involving food or fun - or posting at all as it turned out - was off the table.
But now we're all better so today I attempted one of my favorite "cooking with kid" activities: making baguettes... and was abruptly confronted with the reality that food photography is hard. I'm currently operating with a cell phone camera, an overcast day, and an active almost 4 year old but still. Eeesh. I take pictures of stuff that looks delicious and it ends up looking like something that got three stars on allrecipes and had ingredients like "Velveeta, Chef Boyardee, Reddiwhip, and Lipitor."
So this whole "making food look good" thing might have a bit of 'learning curve'. As well as a 'getting a camera and better lighting' curve. Bear with me.
At any rate, here is a recipe post for... French(ish) Baguettes Made with Child Labor. It's like working with Play Doh but there's a pay off at the end that does not involve cleaning the floor and it's great for weekend-type days when you're home for an extended period of time because you've got a bunch of domestic stuff to do or want to watch a football game.
20 minutes active time applied in 5-10 minutes bursts
2.5 - 3 hours total vaguely around the house time but focusing on other stuff time.
1 automatic bread maker with a dough cycle
1 rolling pin
1 child-safe knife
An oven, a cookie sheet, and other basic kitchen-y things.
1 cup warm water
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 and 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1.5 tsps. active dry yeast
1 egg and 1 Tbsp water (for an 'eggwash' in the last step')
*Notes following post.*
All right. Here is the play by play.
1. The first five minutes of actual stuff: Measure out ingredients carefully yourself. There's only five. Buck up. Baking is one of those things that's picky about stuff like that. So 8/9 of a cup is so not the same thing as 1 cup. Also if Child Labor is going to participate then you need to make the "dumping stuff into other stuff" process pretty fool proof. So take two minutes, measure out the water, sugar, salt, and flour. Haul out your bread machine or equivalent and plug it in on a stable surface at child friendly height. Then measure out the yeast separately.
You need to make sure to add that on top of the dry ingredients as a last step.
Have Child Labor carefully dump the ingredients into the bread pan starting with the water. As always, supervise Child Labor closely whenever exploiting it.
Yeast goes last.
Set the bread maker to the dough cycle and press start. Utilize Child Labor's love of pushing buttons. "Push that button that makes the irritating beeping sound nine times and then press the big red button" goes over really well.
2. OMG! 90 minutes laboring away in the kitchen! Or if you set the delay timer it can take even longer. Stuck in the kitchen! The agony! The sacrifice! It takes FOREVER. And naturally you're tethered to your house the whole time the automatic machine is doing its thing. See?
3. Next two minutes of actual stuff: grease/butter a bowl. Punch down dough. Utilize Child Labor's love of punching stuff. "Hey, M? Do you want to wash your hands and then punch this dough?" usually results in an affirmative response.
Put dough in bowl.
Cover. Place in warm, draft free spot like a turned off oven.
4. Do something else for 30 minutes. Check to see if dough has roughly doubled in size. It has? Or ish? Fantastic!
5. Next 8 minutes of actively doing stuff: Punch down dough again. Judge the stickiness. Lightly (or more generously if the dough is super-sticky) flour your countertop. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray it lightly with cooking spray. Roll the dough out so it's roughly 16" x 12" rectangle. Really it'll be more ovalish than rectangular and that's okay.
If Child Labor rolls it out be cool with even less precise dimensions.
Divide dough in half so you two 8" x 12" (ish) rectangles.
Roll up each rectangle so you have two 12" long tubes of dough and pinch in the ends.
The baguettes are going to have fit side by side length wise on your cookie sheet so if your rectangles were a little bigger pre-rolling just do more pinching so that everything fits on your cookie sheet.
Cut a long, vertical slit in the top of each baguette.
Cover baguettes and place in warm, draft free place to rise.
6. Do something else for 30-40 minutes until baguettes roughly double in size.
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Next 4 minutes of actively doing stuff. Make eggwash by beating one egg with one Tbsp of water. Lightly brush tops of baguettes with egg wash. You're doing this so the bread gets that nice shiny, golden brown look so this is an almost entirely aesthetic step. (If you're looking for a better effect just use the egg yolk and a tablespoon of water.) Because, seriously at this point the baguettes look big and pale and weird.
Base your use of Child Labor here on how much you care about presentation, how well you think Child Labor will handle a paintbrush full of egg, and if you want to wake Child Labor up from nap.
You'll probably have a lot of eggwash leftover. It'll keep in the fridge for a week. You can throw it in with pretty much any egg dish (scrambled eggs, fritatta, mac and cheese) if you don't think you'll use it again within that time frame.
8. Bake baguettes at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Let cool for at least 5-10 minutes before serving.
These are not about to pass for bakery bread especially with my photography skillz. But they taste good, your house smells like fresh baked bread, and Child Labor was really involved so chalk it up to a win.
A Nutrition Note:
Obviously eating refined white bread all the time isn't good for you. Though, somewhat counterintuitively, that's an argument for making your own bread when you can. Kind of like with cookies. If you make a batch of homemade cookies not only do you know about and can control what goes into them but all that work kind of makes eating them a "thing." Like "Geez we spent an hour working on these cookies. We are going to savor them Godammit." But if it's a pack of Chips Ahoy! it's easier to wolf it all down in 5 minutes without thinking about it because they were a much easier 'get'.
You can switch up the types of flour used if you'd like. It's a slightly trickier business that might require some trial and error but it's relatively easy to make spelt, gluten free, or whole wheat baguettes too.
This is a basic recipe that's easy to fancy up. Add a half teaspoon of garlic powder or chop up a few cloves of garlic for garlic bread. Add a teaspoon or two of thyme or Italian seasoning for herb bread. Substitute honey for sugar. Go nuts (figuratively or literally - though if literally wait until after the first kneading cycle to add the nuts)! Expect more potential for varied results if you go way off the beaten track but also expect more potential for deliciousness.
This recipe freezes and reheats well and makes two baguettes so make one baguette for now, freeze the other tightly wrapped in foil for up to three months. Look at you, saving time and being all efficient!
Also, if you, instead of Child Labor, do the actual work then you can make the baguettes look quite attractive. Like, "Oh, who me? I just whipped up this crusty rosemary and salt rubbed rustic baguette." But then you actually have to do it yourself so...
Though, let's be real, Child Labor does revolt at times and that's absolutely fine. No point in making this yet another battle of wills. But this isn't one of those "have fun with my kid" projects where it ends up being like, "Oh, great. Now I have to make a bunch of Valentines for pre-schoolers. At least I can drink while applying elbow macaroni and glue to cardboard at 11p" type of things. It's not annoying or super-time consuming if you end up doing it yourself.