So then, would my baguettes ever stand up to a grueling inspection of the kind Professor Kaplan would dish out? Certainly not. They aren’t French baguettes. They’re Kentucky baguettes. They were baked in a brick oven, but that’s a far cry from a steam-injected deck oven, the device that is primarily responsible for creating the baguette’s signature crackling crust. More than that they were baked in a pan, which is what gave them the prominent white stripe that runs down their sides (an under-done condition known among French bakers as baisé, which, lest you think that’s some piece of sophisticated continental lingo, actually means something along the lines of “f*cked” in our language. Bakers, let’s be honest, are a coarse-talking crowd, no matter what country they’re in).
Could I do something about that? Depends. I don’t have a deck oven, and I doubt the wife would be inclined to let me tear up another big section of the back yard to build one. I can and do introduce steam into the baking chamber of my brick oven (more on that later), but it’s really not the same thing. Concerning the pans, I can do something about that, and that might well be the next step of Joe’s Continuous Baguette Improvement Process…as soon as I figure out how to transfer a limp unbaked baguette onto a peel and into my oven without destroying it (modern baguettes are transferred into deck ovens by way of mechanized “loaders”… essentially conveyor belts).
But I’m not going to obsess about any of this. Trying to devise a flawlessly French baguette that someone like Professor Kaplan would be willing to insert his esteemed proboscis into is a sure way to shop-vac every bit of pleasure I get from making baguettes out of the process. New World home bakers have this problem. We’re constantly setting ourselves up — pitting our homemade goods against those of professional Continental bakeries, some of which have literally hundreds of years invested in their techniques. What are the odds I can make a bread at home that’s competitive? Zero. But using the form of a baguette as a template, I can make some truly wicked Kentucky bread.