Here’s another dose of Dave’s Bread Corner, courtesy of my awesome bread making hubby…
So there I was wondering about new and interesting breads to try to make when it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea how to make French Baguettes. Well, okay, absolutely no idea may be a little bit of a stretch. Obviously I have plenty of experience making bread, and I have some guesses about what goes in French bread, but I’ve never made it before and I was curious about how exactly one achieves the texture of a baguette. As it turns out it’s really quite easy, it just takes a very long time.
The outcome is well worth the patience needed to produce this bread, but please be aware that we are talking about a recipe that is more convenient to make over the span of two days instead of in one.
(Makes 2 Loaves)
(Warning: This process takes roughly 15 to 16 hours!)
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 and 1/2 cups of warm water
- 4 cups of bread flour
- 1 and 3/4 teaspoons salt
Directions – Day 1: (roughly 15 minutes)
- Wait until it’s late enough in the evening that 12 or so hours later is a time you expect to be awake again. (Optional but recommended.)
- Put the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the water.
- Turn your stand mixer on a low speed with the bread hook attached. (I used speed 2 on my Kitchen Aide.)
- Add 2 cups of bread flour.
- Add the salt.
- Add the other 2 cups of bread flour.
- Let the stand mixer continue to run at the same speed you already set it to for around 5 minutes.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray.
- Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and put it into the large bowl.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Place the bowl in your oven (with it OFF!) and leave it there to rise undisturbed for roughly 12 hours. (A couple hours more is usually okay but try not to go much past about 15 hours.)
Directions – Day 2, Part 1 (roughly 15 minutes)
- Prepare a work surface with a sprinkle of flour. I used a pie crust guide mat since it’s relatively slippery.
- Remove the rising bowl from the oven.
- Scoop the dough out of the bowl and onto your work surface.
- Knead the dough a little to press out the air bubbles. Flip it around to incorporate some of the flour off of your surface into your dough. This will help make it so it isn’t quite as sticky and that will make handling it much easier.
- Cut the dough in half. I like to use a scale for this so the two pieces weigh the same amount. Form each half into a long skinny log shape. Your goal is for each log to be just a little bit shorter than the pan you will be using to bake them.
- Move each half of the dough onto an Italian loaf pan. Other pans will also work, but I will leave the logistics of how many pieces to cut the dough into and how long to bake the resulting pieces to you since I only made it with an Italian loaf pan.
- Move the pan of loaves into the oven (again, with it OFF!) to rise. It will take roughly 1 and 1/2 hours to 2 hours for the loaves to double in size again.
Directions – Day 2, Part 2 (roughly 45 minutes)
- Once the loaves have doubled in size remove the pan with the dough from the oven.
- Using clean kitchen scissors cut several diagonal slices into the tops of the loaves and poke down the little bumps that form. (They look silly and can burn.)
- Move your oven racks so one of them is as low as it will go and the other one is in the middle.
- Prepare a 13 x 9 inch Pyrex casserole dish by filling it roughly 1″ deep with warm water.
- Put the pan of water onto the bottom rack in your oven. (If it doesn’t fit between the bottom and middle rack you should fix it at this point before preheating the oven. Try adjusting the racks in the oven or using a different pan for the water.)
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. From this point on, please be very careful. I realize this goes without saying, but 500 degrees is VERY hot and you will have heat and moisture in there thanks to the pan of water. Even opening the oven door should be done from off to the side to avoid getting hit by the escaping heat and steam.
- While you wait for your oven to get to 500 degrees, fill a kitchen safe squirt bottle with warm tap water and make sure it’s on a mist setting.
- Once the oven is preheated spray the loaves on the pan with water from your squirt bottle. Don’t be shy, a good dousing is the goal for each time you squirt the loaves.
- Put the pan with the loaves into the oven on the middle rack.
- Bake the loaves for 5 minutes.
- Open the door of the oven and spray the loaves with water a second time.
- Bake the loaves for 5 more minutes.
- Rotate the pan so the side that was toward the door of your oven is now toward the back instead.
- Spray the loaves a third time.
- Bake the loaves for another 5 minutes.
- Spray the loaves a fourth time.
- Bake the loaves for 3 to 5 more minutes or until they are golden brown.
- Remove the loaves from the oven and leave them in the pan to cool.
Adapted from: All Recipes
Right away you may have noticed that I split the flour into two halves when I added it to the bowl of my stand mixer. This comes from a deep psychological concern for the well being of my yeast. I’ve always held the belief that trying to wake up yeast in salty water is more likely to do harm to them than good. Honestly, I have no scientific basis for this concern and the bread would probably come out the same if you just added the salt first and then the flour, but hey, we all have our neuroticisms.
This is another one of those recipes that is simple in every possible way. The process isn’t complex, there are only four ingredients, and aside from a little bit of trickiness involving baking with water being sprayed all over the place, there is just about nothing for you to mess up. That’s my favorite kind of recipe.
I think you could easily argue that there are actually five ingredients in this recipe instead of four. The secret fifth ingredient after water, flour, yeast, and salt is just boatload of time. This is not a recipe for the impatient. The good thing is that while there is a LOT of time involved here, the actual amount of time you actually have to be doing anything is very small. Barely more than an hour in fact.
After a few minutes of mixing, your dough ball will be done gathering flour from the mixing bowl and will be a bit stretchy and rubbery.
The dough will sit in this bowl to rise for a long time. I hope it’s comfortable. Because there is so little yeast in this recipe the trade off is a lot of time to rise.
After just a bit over 12 hours the dough will look a little bit like a science experiment and will be ready to squish all that air out of and form into loaves.
After some careful division of the dough into the number of spots my pan has to put loaves in, I stretched them and squished them and beat them into submission. Viola!
After another couple hours of hanging out with yeast hiding inside the loaves are ready to bake.
For me it was a mere 19 minutes in the oven at temperatures that rival the core of the sun and out came amazing looking and super delicious bread. Okay fine, I know it doesn’t really rival the core of the sun, but tell that to my burnt knuckle hair. Seriously, be super careful when your oven is this hot.
Also as a tip to those that don’t have an Italian loaf pan and will instead be using a cookie sheet: Please do NOT use a silicon baking mat for this recipe. Most silicon bakeware is not rated to go to the temperatures needed for this recipe. If you manage to avoid starting a fire with a silicon baking mat, you may still end up destroying it. It’s just not needed and in this case, just don’t do it.
Bread and butter… is there anything better?
What kind of bread should I make next?
Here are some other brilliant creations from Dave’s Bread Corner.