J’Adore les Baguettes
J’Adore les Baguettes
Inspired by: La Boulangerie
Ever wanted to make baguettes at home? These may not be exactly the same as you’d get at la boulangerie…but they’re the best I can do in my home oven.
I’ve been using this method for several years now to make delicious bread with a crackly-crunchy crust without a wood fire oven.
The method comes from the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. The book is highly reommended; they also have an amazing recipe for brioche dough.
When I was at CDG airport I saw a teenager dressed in a black and white shirt, a beret, and chomping on an entire baguette. I thought, “here is an American exchange student trying to look stereoptypically French.” Mais, non! It turns out it was a French exchange student trying to look stereotypically French.
If you want, you can be like him and chomp on the entire baguette from the end…but I prefer to cut it in slices and either serve it with cheese or eat it like an American and slather butter on it. Or — and I might add this recipe later — serve it on the side of some clams bordelaise with some white wine.
For those of you who are impatient, you can just skip ahead to the recipe. Otherwise, read on because there are some things you’re going to need!
1. A Baking Stone
I’m embarrassed to let you see my baking stone! But it’s a sign of how much it’s been loved.
This is an ESSENTIAL for baking your bread! It helps to get that crunchy crust. If you take good care of it, it should serve you for a long time.
2. A Pizza Peel
You don’t have to have a pizza peel, but it’s highly recommended and not too expensive. It’s a place for your bread to rest before baking and makes it easy for you to gently transfer it to the oven.
3. A Big Plastic Bowl with a Lid
Just a huge plastic bowl with a lid. Make sure the lid isn’t air-tight. This will be for both mixing, rising, and storing your dough, so make sure there’s plenty of room for the dough to expand as it rises.
4. An Oven Thermometer
Not every oven is created equal. For best results, check your oven with a basic thermometer before the first time you bake and see what setting on your oven actually results in a temperature of 450 degrees F. You don’t have to check it every time you bake. If you switch ovens, it’s good to do it again.
5&6. A Wooden Spoon & Metal Pan
You don’t need to knead, or to use a mixer with a dough hook here. The wooden spoon will do to mix your dough. Your hands will serve as good tools to incorporate the last of the ingredients.
The metal pan is to put in the bottom of your oven and pour water into to generate steam. I just use a round or square metal cake pan.
I’ll say it again later, but I’m going to be redundant here to save you potential headaches: I got a new oven with a steam-bake setting. What worked best with this bread was to disregard the instructions with my oven, put my own metal pan in the bottom of the oven, use the steam-bake setting on the oven, but throw the water in the pan just after transferring the bread to the heated oven.
Artisan Bread Baguettes
Making the Dough
- Measure the water into the large bowl. The water should be 100 degrees or so (lukewarm -- be careful not to get it too hot as there is a danger of killing the yeast. If it's cooler than that, it's OK -- it just means you'll probably have to let the dough raise longer).Add the yeast and dissolve. Add the salt.
- Measure your flour and then dump the whole thing into your plastic bowl with the yeast mixture. Mix it up with a wooden spoon and/or you can dig in and use your hands to incorporate everything -- but no kneading!
- You'll end up with a sticky, messy wet dough. Time to let it rise. Put the lid on (loosely, never air tight), let it sit out at room temperature (unless your room temperature is very cold; then put it in a warm room), and let it sit there until it doubles, which should be about 2 hours -- but it may take more than this.Really -- let it grow. If you truly want to irritate your children you can sing a few refrains to the tune of "Let it go" while you wait. Letting it sit for up to 5 hours or so wont hurt it but you want to make sure it at least doubles in size here.
Refrigerate the Dough
- Put it in the refrigerator. You can bake it now if you want but it's easier to handle and shape after two hours in the refrigerator.You'll be keeping the extra dough in the fridge, anyway, and pulling off a pound or so at a time when you want a loaf (or pizza crust).The dough will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so.
Prepping the Oven
- OK, it's baking time! But first we're going to get the oven ready. Put your baking stone in the oven and put your pan at the bottom of the oven. The photo here is not quite right -- I had better luck when I put the pan for water actually at the bottom of the oven and not on a rack. You want it in a place where you can put the water in in a hurry and then shut the oven.The thermometer is pictured here because oven temperature is important. I learned the hard way when I switched ovens that not all are the same. The first time you make this bread, or before, find out how you need to set your oven for an ACTUAL temperature of 450 degrees F.A word about "special" ovens like mine with a steam bake setting: I was excited about this feature. However, I found, after experimenting, I got the best results if I set my oven to steam bake, but did not use the provided steam bake tray and threw the water in the pan at the bottom of the oven at the same time I put the bread in.We'll preheat the oven about 20 minutes after we've let the bread start resting, setting it to a temperature of 450 degrees F.
Shaping the Loaf
- Sprinkle cornmeal liberally on your pizza peel. Drawing a heart shape is purely optional and will have no effect whatsoever on your bread.
- Pull a chunk of dough off your large blob of dough. For a round loaf it would be approximately one pound of dough, but you can adjust for the size of loaf you want. For my baguettes (rather, I end up making demi-baguettes due to the size of my pizza peel and baking stone) I take around one pound of dough and divide it in two.Then I roll the dough out between my hands to long, thin (remember they are going to rise) loaves and taper them at the ends.Set the loave(s) on the pizza peel and let rest for about 40 minutes.20 minutes into that resting time, you can start your oven, set to 450 degrees.
- After letting the dough rest for 40 minutes it might not look like it's raised as much as you might expect if you are used to making bread the usual way. That's OK, if you've let it rest 40 minutes and have let it raise enough earlier it will spring up more in the oven.Before baking, take a sharp knife and score the top.
- After it's rested for 40 minutes, if you started your oven 20 minutes into the resting time, you can now put your bread in even if the oven isn't yet fully heated to 450.Have one cup of hot water at the ready.Gently, shake the bread off the peel and onto the heated baking stone.Quickly pour the hot water into the pan at the bottom of the oven and shut the door.
- Bake for about 20 minutes for baguettes, you can bake a little longer if you like a darker crust. If you are using the recipe to make a round or oval loaf, you'll need to adjust the time up to about 30 minutes.Avoid the temptation to open the oven during this time. You want to keep that steam in there.
- Once the bread is done baking, I use potholders to remove the loaf to a baking rack to cool down a bit.If you're very quiet, you may hear your crust quietly crackling.Enjoy. Enjoy even more with some wine and cheese. Imagine you're sitting on top of Montparnasse tower, overlooking Paris with this wine and bread. Unless you actually are, in which case why are you reading this recipe?