A hot bowl of soup with piece of crusty bread on the dinner table , on a cold winter night , makes me a very happy girl indeed !! Now that is not entirely true, I for one could go for soup and bread any day of the year. Baguettes are our choice of bread to accompany the soups – they have these crispy crunchy exterior and the wonderful chewy interior. These textural quality and contrasts are not easily achieved at home but I do have something that comes fairly close and tastes way better than the usual store bought variety.
I love the crunchy crust of the baguettes , did I mention that already ??. I am happy with the crust of my store bought baguettes , but they seem to lack the complex flavors of the sourdough versions. It took me some time to get this recipe the way I wanted it – but the whether the experiments were a hit or miss in terms of texture , the taste was always spot on. Leftover pieces for brekfast next day slathered with marmalade and a hot cup of joe , perfect breakfast heaven !!!
This recipe , by no means, is the ultimate version, but comes pretty darn close and the best part is that you can make it using the standard home kitchen appliances.
Here are a few good things to have when making this recipe – pizza stone , baker’s peel , bench scraper, baguette pans, and of course baker’s couche. Do I use any of these in this recipe ? No. These are all good things to have, but the life does not end just because one is short on gadgets.
It is crazy that all this goodness comes out of essentially 4 ingredients – flour water salt and yeast. I use my 100% sourdough starter for this recipe – you can checkout the recipe here . Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix (mixer/spatula) till a shaggy mass is formed. This dough has high water content (70 to 75% hydration in bread speak). Once all the flour is absorbed into the dough cover the bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes (autolyze for bread geeks)
Uncover and knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes till it becomes smooth and elastic. If using an electric mixer – 5 minutes of kneading on low setting should do the trick. The dough should stretch easily without tearing at this point. Form into a ball and place in a bowl and keep covered in a warm area to rise until doubled – 2 to 4 hours at around 70°F. If the dough is rising too fast, transfer to the fridge to slow it down. You could oil the insides of the bowl to prevent the dough from sticking. I do not oil , and find that with careful scraping there is very little dough sticking to the sides.
Once the dough is doubled transfer it to a floured work surface and form into a rectangle. Fold it over itself into thirds starting from one short side , and place back in the bowl. cover and let rest for 30 minutes and repeat the process.
Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces. Place each piece on a floured surface and gently stretch out a little . Pinch the sides toward the middle to form a long log . Make sure to pinch all the ends tightly.
This is the setup I have for rising my baguettes. On a baking sheet place a long sheet of parchment paper. Place a rolled towel under one edge and place a shaped baguette next to it on the parchment sheet. Pull the long side of the parchment toward the loaf before placing the next one on it . This creates keeps the loaves from spreading out and helps it to rise vertically, just like a baker’s couche. Cover with a parchment or moist kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes, until almost doubled.
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F. Place a thick bottomed cookie sheet on the middle rack. Let the cookie sheet heat up as the oven gets preheated. Place another cookie sheet or ovenproof dish on the rack below it . When the baguettes have risen slashes the tops . A sharp paring knife dipped in water does the job very well. Spritz some water on the loaves and slowly slide the parchment paper with the baguettes on to the hot cookie sheet – this is where a rimless baking sheet or pizza peel comes handy.
Place a cup of ice cubes on the trey below and close the oven door . Reduce the temperature to 400°F. Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes , check and bake for a few more minutes to achieve the desired color. . Remove from the oven , cool on a rack and enjoy !!
Here are a few recipes that these baguettes are great with :