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French Baguette


As a secondary part of the Daring Cooks Challenge for this last month, I was supposed to bake a baguette.  As pâté is an undertaking in and of itself…I just couldn’t bring myself to do them on the same day.  Now, you should also understand that I intended on eating the pâté with the baguette…so it all works out in the end.  With no further delay…I bring you…true, traditional, authentic baguette.

Having never made baguette before…I was skeptical about getting a true authentic Parisian taste…but on the other hand…the first step in the recipe was to make a starter.

A little yeast, flour and cool water + 18 hours = baguette starter.

French Baguette
yield: Three 16″ baguettes

Starter
1/2 cup / 120 ml cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup / 240 ml flour
Dough
1 tsp / 5 ml active dry yeast
1 cup to 1 1/4 cups / 240 ml to 300 ml lukewarm water*
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups / 840 ml flour
1 1/2 tsp / 7 ml salt

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.


Make the starter by mixing the yeast with the water, then mixing in the flour to make a soft dough.
Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14-18 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have risen and become bubbly.

Mix active dry yeast with the water and then combine with the starter, flour, and salt. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you’ve made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough.

Knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2 of a stand mixer.

Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again.

With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15″ log.

Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans.

Cover them with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they’ve become very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450ºF (240ºC).

Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8″ vertical slashes in each baguette.  Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.

Bake the baguettes until they’re a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2″, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.

The taste of the bread was spot on…which surprised me.  It was delicious, still warm from the oven spread with a little butter and sprinkled with sea salt.

The next day, it was also fantastic as a pâté sandwich with some cornichons, stout mustard, mayonnaise, and sea salt.

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