Specifically, for baguette. I’ve been hooked on the King Arthur Flour baking blog for awhile now. Their recipes have oh so generously fed us yeasted belgian waffles, bagels, and sandwich bread, but I (carb fiend that I am), wanted to make our Valentine’s Day dinner of Shiner Bock French dips with homemade bread. A noble goal for sure, and one I’m glad to say I accomplished. There really is nothing quite like pulling together a hot, crusty, beautifully browned loaf of bread. Kneading it is a pleasurable activity, shaping it, watching it rise. It’s a great weekend activity, too, because this bread took two days to make and about 6 1/2 hours total of rising time. But don’t let that scare you away. This bread is all crusty perfection.
recipe from King Arthur Flour
1/2 cup cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 cup bread flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (the recipe states that the amount of water depends on your weather: I’m in cold, very dry Wyoming so I used a full 1 1/4 cups. You can use as little as 1 cup, it says)
all of the starter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour (again, this amount is negotiable. I added my flour a little at a time until I got the consistency I wanted and I think I only used slightly less than 3 cups. You can always add flour, can’t take it out.)
To make the starter, mix the yeast with the water and let it activate (unless you’re using instant yeast and in that case, just toss everything together in one bowl). Stir the flour in and make a soft dough. With the amounts given, mine was not a soft dough, but a firmer, craggy one. This turned out to be okay, though I feel that I took a risk leaving it the way it was. Depending on how brave you feel, I *might* suggest adding a bit more water to make the dough soft. I’m sure the weird texture on mine had to do with my high altitude. And if not, well I’m blaming my place of residence anyway because I can. (Dammit, Wyoming! Always trying to ruin my baked goods. Geeeeez.) Anyway, cover the starter up with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 14 hours. I started mine on a Saturday morning before we left town to go shopping and it was ready by Sunday morning. The starter will rise and get puffy and bubbly.
On baking day, Combine the 1 teaspoon of yeast with the 1 or 1 1/4 cups of water. Mix in all of the starter, the salt, and then add your flour, enough to make a soft,smooth-ish dough. Knead it for about 5 to 10 minutes until everything is cohesive and smoothed out. Toss the dough into a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for three hours. After the first rise, deflate the dough, turn it over, cover, and let it rise a couple more hours.
Post second rise, turn the dough out onto a greased counter. Divide it into 3 pieces. Pat the pieces into an oval shape, flatten them a bit, cover with greased plastic wrap or a towel and let them rest for 15 minutes.
To shape: fold the dough in half lengthwise and seal the edges. Flatten a little bit, fold, and seal again:
Turn the dough so the seam side is on the counter. Gently roll the dough into a 15 inch long baguette shape. I do this by starting in the middle and then moving my hands towards the ends, so that it rolls out evenly. There is a tutorial here with lots of pictures if you need a better explanation.
Place the logs seam side down on parchment lined baking sheets, cover with towels or plastic wrap, and let them rise 1 1/2 hours, until they’re very puffed. Use a very sharp knife and make three vertical slashes in each baguette.
Yes, I know, my slashes are uneven. Don’t judge me.
To get the crispy crust, you can spritz your baguettes with water. The only water spritzing apparatus I own makes these hard jets of water shoot out. I didn’t want to deflate my bread, so I created steam by placing a rimmed baking sheet in the bottom shelf of the oven and let it heat up while the oven was preheating. When it came time to put the baguette in, I’d shove the bread pan on the top shelf, pour water in the bottom sheet and shut the door real quick. Works fine for me. You do what you prefer. When you’re ready to bake heat your oven to 450. Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes until they’re very deep golden brown.
Gorgeous. They’ve got a wonderful, crispy texture on the outside and soft on the inside. Eat them warm with butter or use them however you like. Just eat ’em. Because of the texture, I was able to actually eat the French dip how it is supposed to be eaten, um, dipped. Generally I don’t because the store bought bread on which I’ve made these sandwiches gets super soggy super quick and I LOATHE soggy bread, but this bread didn’t do that. It was quite wonderful.
Baking music: Adele, 21 (test drove this on NPR’s site. They’ve got a nifty feature where you can listen to an album in its entirety or just one track at a time.)