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I love making bread but one type I haven't yet mastered is French style bread. I love the taste, especially when the bread is warm and fresh from the oven. Sometimes I have time to go to the supermarket or bakers and buy a fresh baguette, but more often than not I decide at the last minute that one would have been a nice part of the lunch I have just made. So I was interested to see that of the supermarkets sell partially baked bread such as baguettes which you can finish cooking at home when you want them. I have now tried several brands, but the one I am reviewing today is the one that I think gives the best value for money - Sainsbury's Basic twin pack of white baguettes.
The loaves are the same size as the ready cooked ones you can buy from the Sainsbury's fresh bakery section - they are 150g in weight each. They come in a simple plastic pouch with the usual Basics orange and white label. One disadvantage of this packaging compared to other brands, is that the loaves are sitting in the same packet. In others, each one is sealed in it's own pouch which makes it easier to keep one fresh if you chose to bake only one at a time. Once opened, the bread needs to be cooked within 48 hours. One way round this is to freeze any unwanted pieces, which allows you to store them for a month. The label gives cooking instructions from frozen as well as from ambient temperature, and baking this way just takes a few minutes more. I have not tried this myself, but if I do, I will update this review.
When they come out of the packet, the loaves look very pale, but as they are only partially cooked, this doesn't put me off. They obviously also feel soft to touch, but it isn't like handling dough. It isn't sticky or messy in your hands and you don't need to shape it in any way. The instructions are very simple, and just require you to put the baguettes on a baking tray in the middle of the oven for the required time. The cooking time is very fast - 8-10 minutes is suggested, but I find that 8 is ample. This means they are easy to get ready while I am re-heating soup or making some sandwich fillings. I usually turn them over when there is just a couple of minutes of cooking time remaining in order to help get an even golden colour, but you don't have to. If I forget, the top just looks a bit darker than the base. I would keep an eye on them the first time you bake them as they do colour up quite quickly towards the end of cooking and you could over cook them easily by leaving them a few minutes too long. I did this the first time I baked them, which is why I now cook them for 8 minutes only.
They smell lovely when cooking, and more so when you take them out of the oven. They have a good colour and a crispy crunchy crust that isn't too hard or chewy. The bread below the crust is fluffy and tastes absoloutely fresh. I didn't expect a long life product to taste so good. My sister thinks these taste a little salty but I can't taste the difference between these and the ones bought ready made from the bakery counter. [The salt content is 0.75g per half baguette.] They are also cheaper - 49p for the twin pack, whereas one baked baguette can cost that just for one. I like this bread best as a filling sandwich, but it is also easy to turn into garlic bread by adding a garlic and butter paste in to slits you make in the side near the end of the cooking time. Like most fresh bread, I think these baguettes taste best of all warm, and are definitely nicest on the day of baking. If there is any left over, I find it goes soft by the next day but it is easy to re-crisp it by heating it in an oven for a few minutes.
I would recommend these because they are cheaper, even if you always remember to buy fresh bread when you want it! I like the flexibility of being able to decide I want nice warm bread and having it on my plate 8 minutes later. The packet can be stored in the cupboard, and has a shelf life of about a month if unopened, so it is convenient too. Most importantly, they taste great!
You will find the twin pack with the packaged loaves of bread in my experience. Contains no artificial preservatives, and is made with" french flour." Labelled as suitable for vegans. Contains yeast, wheat gluten. May also contain traces of rye/barley/oat and spelt gluten.