Here at Mama’s Gotta Bake I’ve made sweet rolls with Larry, cooked clams with Carol and today, I baked French Baguette‘s with Michele and Marci (a mother and daughter team). This is precisely why I love cooking and baking so much. For me it’s not a solitary endeavor. The cooking and baking process is not solely about nourishing the body, but also about nourishing the soul. I enjoy sharing this process with family and friends and I think this is where my love of food stems from.
I met Marci at pastry school. Like myself, she has a love of all things baked. It’s not often in my travels that I meet someone willing to discuss the pro’s and con’s of fresh yeast versus rapid rise. But Marci will have that discussion with me. Her daughter Michele, a college student, has been sparked by her mother’s affinity for baking and wanted to learn how to make a French baguette. Knowing of my obsession for baking, they asked me if I would come over to their house and give Michele a few tips on the art of bread making. Of course I would!
It turned into a real “dough fest”. Along with making baguettes, we also made brioche and biscotti. I have to say, Michele was an enthusiastic student and did a great job turning out some delicious baked goods. The baguettes were perfect. They came out of the oven with the crispiest crust and a soft interior. We had intended to give them 15 minutes to cool down, but as soon as we took them out of the oven we sliced them up and brought out the butter.
From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes four 1-pound loaves
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, un-bleached, all-purpose flour
Whole Wheat Flour for pizza peel
In a 5-quart bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine yeast and salt with 3 cups lukewarm water. The water should be 100 degrees F. (A digital thermometer is a great tool to have for this purpose.)
Mixing on slow speed, add all the flour at once, until the flour is incorporated. You want the mixture to be uniformly moist with no dry patches. With a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl and into a 5-quart, lidded container (not airtight) and let it sit, covered for at least 2 hours in a warm spot. No kneading is necessary.
After the dough has risen you can use a portion of it immediately however, if you fully refrigerate the wet dough it’s much easier to work with.
Next, prepare a pizza peel by liberally sprinkling it with whole wheat flour so that the dough does not stick to the peel. Sprinkle the surface of the dough lightly with flour. Pull dough up and cut off a 1 pound piece of dough with a serrated knife. I use a digital scale to weigh the dough. Hold the ball of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so the dough won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Once it’s cohesive, begin to stretch and elongate the dough, dusting with additional flour as necessary. You may want to roll it back and forth with your hands on a floured surface. Form a cylinder 2 inches in diameter. Place the loaf on the prepared pizza peel and let it rest, covered for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Put an empty broiler tray on the bottom of the oven. After the dough has rested, paint water over the surface of the loaf using a pastry brush. The water will prevent the knife from sticking in the wet dough. Slash the loaf with long diagonal cuts using a serrated knife.
Gently, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the hot baking stone. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes, until deeply browned and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool on a rack before cutting or eating. And then bring out the butter.