I don't mean to brag, but...those, there? Right above? I made those.
Obviously, social niceties (ie...no bragging) must play a lesser role to my immense pride in having successfully made baguettes. Baguettes that rival many you'd by in a grocery store here, stateside. A super crisp, crunchy crust, with a lovely soft interior. I will of course, not dare to compare these to the real deal, a la française. I do know better than that. Je ne suis pas un idiot.
And the best part? They are so easy to make. Only four ingredients are required; yeast, water, flour, and salt and - get this - the bread machine does the kneading for you. The only tricky bit is that you must be nearby for most of the day. They do take a solid six or so hours from start to finish. Fortunately though, most of that time is rising time. And waiting impatiently for your first taste time. Delicious.
I came across this recipe in a book I found at the library, Rustic European Breads From Your Bread Machine. Rustic? European? Bread? Oh, darling, you had me with rustic. And bread machine? Meaning I don't have to do all the hard work? Oh my, yes. Needless to say, I sort of fell in love then and there.
This recipe makes three, 17 inch long baguettes, although I had to make mine a bit shorter to fit in my poor excuse for an oven. (Note to self: Get over said poor excuse for oven.) Nonetheless, they tasted divine, if slightly stubbier than the long, sleek bad boys you'd find in a boulangerie.
Also, the dough does not do its rising in the machine, as it would overflow, and make a giant mess. Listen for the beep that signals the end of the knead cycle (mine's about half an hour in), then remove to a large, oiled bowl for the rise.
Here's the recipe. Don't be intimidated, they're truly simple to make. If I can bang these out, with my itsy- bitsy spitfire of an oven (Note to self: You're still not over it.), anyone can do it.
French Baguettes For A Crowd - adapted from Rustic European Breads
- makes three 17-inch baguettes
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast, or bread machine yeast
1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
3 1/3 cups bread flour
2 tsp fine sea salt
Place water and yeast in your bread machine pan, and give the yeast a few minutes to bloom (so it looks nice and fluffy), then add the flour and salt. Set your bread machine to the dough cycle, and when the kneading portion of the program completes, remove the dough. Place it in a lightly oiled, large bowl, turning once to coat the top with oil as well, and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise until roughly tripled in size, about 3 hours.
Remove the plastic wrap, and with wet hands, lightly punch down the dough. If you're new to bread-making, let me clarify that punching down dough doesn't so much resemble taking a swing at the defenseless dough, as gently prodding it with your fingers, to deflate the carbon dioxide that the yeast has created. This allows the yeast to get back to work, and with adequate rising, your bread will be that much airier and lovely. So, punch, or rather tap, down the dough, and let it rise again until doubled, about an hour.
Lightly flour your work surface and hands, and turn the dough out onto it. Divide into three equal pieces, and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly oil a large baking sheet.
*Note* My oven will only hold two loaves at a time. If you have a similarly unfortunate situation, simply place one third of the dough back in the bowl, cover, and leave it in the fridge while your loaves rise. Remove and continue on, once you put the first two loaves into the oven to bake.
With floured hands, roll each piece of dough into a 17 inch long cylinder (or however long you like). With the side of your palm, gently hit the top of the cylinder all down its length to form a lengthwise crease across the top. Pinch the crease closed with your fingers, and taper the ends of the loaf. Lay the baguettes on the prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 3 inches between them, and lightly mist with water. Cover loosely with a plastic garbage bag, tucking the ends under the baking sheet, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Twenty to thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450 deg F.
About 5 minutes before baking, set a kettle to boil, and place a rimmed baking sheet, or pan, on the bottom shelf of your oven.
Press the dough of one baguette lightly with your finger; if it feels springy and has not dried out and formed a crust, leave it be. If it has formed a crust, gently roll it over so that the bottom is now on top. (If you've adequately spritzed with water, and kept it covered, it shouldn't need this step.)
Slash the baguettes diagonally with a razor or very sharp serrated knife 3 times along the length, about 1/2 an inch deep.
Lightly mist with water, and place the baking sheet in the middle of your oven. Fill the rimmed sheet at least an inch deep with the boiled water, and quickly close the oven door. The resulting steam will give the baguettes their delectable crunchy exterior.
Bake for 25 minutes, turning loaves front to back midway through baking. The finished loaves should be lightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before devouring...if you can wait that long.