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  • Writer's pictureAnnemarie Rawson

LEARNING TO BE FRENCH (and failing)

Updated: Mar 22, 2023


If you're a Francophile like me, you'll love Anna Bibby's entertaining story in this glossy-paged and beautifully photographed book. I could relate to so many of the French idiosyncrasies Anna encounters and describes.


"What happens when an art gallery owner from New Zealand buys a dilapidated French house on a whim?


Anna Bibby owned a successful art gallery in New Zealand until one day, on holiday in France, she bought a falling-down house in a picturesque medieval village.


So began the process of renovating her beautiful old house which, of course, wasn't without its issues and roadblocks. Anna didn't speak the language, she didn't know anyone and her understanding of French culture was limited.


Despite all this she managed to find artisans to help, she survived the brutal winter in the unrenovated house and the locals took her under their wing.


Anna tells her story in a humorous, warm and generous way. She takes a real delight in the place she has found herself in. She has an ongoing relationship with a handsome Portuguese stonemason, doomed attempts at cooking French food and she blithely blunders into local French culture, with amusing results."


Anna has since moved and renovated another property and I'm looking forward to reading more of my fellow New Zealander's experiences in France.


NO KNEAD BAGUETTES (2 small)


You have to give these a go! These are the ones I made. A bit wonky-looking but tasted so good. They are so easy to do. Here's the recipe.


INGREDIENTS:

1.5 cups of lukewarm water

2.5 tsp Surebake yeast (or a combination of Active Yeast & Surebake yeast)

2 tsp salt 3 & 1/3 cups high-grade flour (approx. 450 grammes)


1. Put lukewarm water in a bowl (neither hot nor cold – it should be warm on the inside of your wrist)


2. Sprinkle the yeast and salt over the warm water and stir until dissolved


3. Fluff up the flour and spoon it into your cup and tip a cupful at a time over the liquid. DON’T stir the flour into the liquid until ALL flour has been added.


4. Cover the bowl with gladwrap and leave to rise until the top of the dough levels off. This could take 4-6 hours at room temperature (ideally >20 degrees). You can use the dough now or store overnight in the fridge to use the following day.


  • Sprinkle quite a lot of flour on the work surface and scrape out the dough.

  • Sprinkle a bit of flour on the dough and cut it in half.

  • Pull each half into a rectangle, bashing out any big air bubbles, roll it up from the longer side and seal the edge by bashing it with the side of your hand.

  • Preheat oven to 230 degrees.

  • Roll into a baguette shape.

  • Put the baguettes into the baguette container (or on a floured tray) and leave for about 20 minutes.

  • Put a tray of boiling water in the bottom of the oven.

  • Lightly sprinkle the baguettes with water and make diagonal cuts along the length (overlapping each cut).

  • Spray a bit more water in the top of the oven and bake at 220-230C (fan oven) for 30-33 minutes.

  • Leave to cool for at least 20 mins before slicing.

Bon Appetit!




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