Yesterday, I baked up a trio of baguettes based on a recipe in my Williams-Sonoma Complete Entertaining Cookbook. (Hubby’s really been enjoying my quest to use up this last bit of yeast before it expires. 😉 )
Baguettes are supposed to be “slender batons” of bread — crispy on the outside, but softly and deliciously, yet also firmly, chewy on the inside.
Yesterday marked the troisième (third) time I’ve tried this recipe. While I still haven’t achieved the level of crispness usually associated with a baguette — and even when I’ve shortened the rising time before baking, they still get a bit plumper than a “slender baton” of a baguette “ought” to — this marks my tastiest attempt thus far. (And all my attempts have resulted in tasty, edible bread, despite their varying degree — or lack thereof — of “baguette-ness.”)
Maybe I should go back to Paris so I can study baguettes in a bit more detail — you think? 😉
I find this recipe to be even simpler and easier than the French Bread recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook, but planning ahead is even more important with this one, as the dough most definitely needs to hang out in the ‘fridge overnight. It has a single rise before you punch it down and stick it in the ‘fridge to hang out; then the next day, you let it lose some of the chill from the ‘fridge, then shape it, let it rise a bit, and then bake it.
What do you do with a slender baton of bread — other than lead a marching band? 😉 Well, it’s a rather versatile bread that is tasty alone, with butter or margarine, or with olive oil. It makes lovely French toast, crunchy garlic bread, tasty bread crumbs or homemade croutons, lovely panini, tasty sandwiches. Snack on it with a bit of cheese and pickle — or dunk it into some soup or stew.
In other words, eat and enjoy it however you would most any other tasty bread.
It smells so yummy, you’ll be tempted to change Mr. Porter’s words to “Begin the Baguette.” 😉 (Go on, give it a listen — you know you want to. It’ll set a nice tone for your day.)
Baguettes (Makes 3 loaves)
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (NOTE: A packet of yeast usually contains 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 2 1/2 cups warm water (warm from the tap, around 110F or so)
- Approximately 6 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in salt. Stir in flour, a cup or so at a time, until you have a soft dough (about 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups of flour).
- Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until no longer sticky.
- Place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover lightly with a clean, lint-free dish cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down in bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator overnight.
- The next day, remove dough from refrigerator, punch it down in the bowl, cover lightly with a lint-free towel, and let it rest for an hour. (Being in the cold and dark of the ‘fridge overnight is traumatizing; it’s earned the rest. 😉 )
- Divide dough into three portions and shape into three baguettes. Place on baking sheets (I used my nifty bread pan for two of the loaves), cover lightly with a lint-free cloth, and let rise for about 30 minutes. (NOTE: The recipe says to let them rise for an hour, but they get much fatter than I want when I do that.)
- Preheat oven to 425F. With a sharp knife or razor blade, cut diagonal slashes in the top of each baguette. Spritz with water and bake until golden brown, about 20 to 22 minutes, spritzing with a water mister/spray bottle about 3 more times during the first 10 – 15 minutes of baking. (Spritzing with water will help give it a crispy outer crust.)
- Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. (I like to place a clean dishtowel on my rack.)