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Unleashing My Inner Peasant Girl, with the Help of Heavy Machinery

Unleashing My Inner Peasant Girl, with the Help of Heavy Machinery



My mom hates her KitchenAid Mixer. She’s been trying to pawn it off on me for the last decade. She’s more of a get-out-the-whisk kind of woman. A stop-complaining-and-knead-it-by-hand mom whose daughter won’t toughen up to dominate a simple bread dough. I’ve tried. Really. There’s something about throwing all your weight into the dough that I can’t get right. Maybe it’s my hands. She has hearty, peasant hands (a size 7 ring, if that means anything to you) that can tell a ball of dough where to go. It concedes under her sausage fingers, morphing into whatever she wants in fear and reverence.

My puny kid hands are far less helpful. It’s laughable, really, watching me try to knead dough. Or at least, it makes her laugh. When visiting family in Sicily a few years ago, we spent a day making pizzas and bread. I tried to join the master dough ladies, rolled up my sweater sleeves and threw my whole body into it. Turns out, I looked like I was having a seizure, aimlessly thrashing and bumping around. They promptly shooed me out of the way. I understand. You can’t let the dough get too cold or it will lose its elasticity (or something…). You need to get in there and pull, flip, push, and turn with nonstop, purposeful gusto. But dough won’t cooperate under my watch—it laughs at me, unyielding, sticky, and limp. I heard later that they called my mom in New Jersey and recounted my sad attempt, cackling and hooting and asking why she’d never taught me how to knead. She’s tried. Really. 

I’ve developed different goals for my kitchen. I do want to master every one of my mom’s techniques, but I can do it my way, right? Well, my way involves the Cadillac of all kitchen appliances. The KitchenAid Pro 600 (insert choir of angels). This shiny red beauty is the reason I’ve refused my mom’s 1990, lower-end model. It just didn’t have the oomph and gleam I’d dreamed of during my years of wimpy kneading. It makes up for so many of my kitchen inadequacies, puny hands be damned. She is my strength, the steroids my inner peasant girl always needed. Together, we kick ass.*


Bread was my first order of business when this lady joined my kitchen in March. Even with my kneading issues resolved, I’d been fumbling for the perfect recipe. My mistake has been aiming too high and too complicated, when I really should have started by mastering the basics. How could I forget? The most brilliant things are the simplest. Wine and peaches. Tomato sauce and eggs. Bert and Ernie.

So I finally dropped the fancy recipes and made the best baguettes in my short bread-baking life. If you knew how many failures I’ve had, you’d recognize this as a major accomplishment. This is a combination of a few staple recipes I’ve tried. You’ve made a version of this if you’ve baked bread before. Use it as a loose guide then follow your instincts. That’s the pleasure that comes with mixing recipes until they’re your own: you’re liberated to do whatever the hell you want.



Simple, Simple Whole Wheat Baguettes
.5 ounce active dry, dissolved in 2 cups of warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg white1 tablespoon water 

1. Combine the yeast, all-purpose flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix until well combined, regularly scraping the bowl to catch any flour hiding at the bottom.

2. When the dough is sticky, add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time. You’ll know it’s doing well when the dough looks like it’s getting the crap beaten out of it. The scene reminds me of a playground brawl, the dough boy not standing a chance as the mean hook throws it around. Keep beating until the dough is smooth and elastic, but still slightly sticky.

3. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn it once so the surface is coated. Cover and let rise until at least doubled. All my big bowls were in use, so I plopped it in a Dutch Oven and put it in the oven (off, of course).



4. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves. Place onto a floured baking sheet (or cover the baking sheet with parchment). Let rise for another hour or so.



5. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly beat the egg white with the water and brush onto each loaf. Cut a few diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the loaves make a hollow sound when you tap them. If, like me, you’re never sure when your bread is done, check out these great tips at the Kitchn.

*I swear KitchenAid did not pay me to write this. But they should have.

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