Saturday, March 24, 2012

Baguette beggar ...

I would not be exaggerating to say that I visit Paris frequently just for the baguettes. Okay, there are other things I love there, too. But, baguettes are certainly among the many reasons I love to eat my way through each arrondissement. The French are absolute masters at creating the delectable bread - it's a national treasure!

One of my neighborhood favorites in Paris is Paul,
a boulangerie (bakery) and patisserie (pastry shop) founded in 1889. 

I may not make it to France until late this year, if at all, (loud, sad sigh) so I'm determined to learn the art of le boulanger!

Image via Zsa Zsa Bellagio.

I've hunted far and wide for just the right bread recipe and think I may have finally found it.

There's also a good visual tutorial at Eatwell 101, if you want a pictorial step-by-step guide. But, their recipe is not as specific as the one I'm posting here.



5 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 tsp salt, or 1 tbsp coarse kosher salt 
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast 
2 cups lukewarm water (about 95 degrees)


Prep Day: Combine all ingredients in bowl of mixer, set with paddle attachment, and mix on lowest speed for 1 minute until well blended and smooth. Dough should form a coarse, shaggy ball. Let rest, uncovered for 5 minutes. Switch to dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. Dough should be smooth, supple, and tacky but not sticky.

Knead dough by hand on lightly floured work surface for 1 minute, then transfer to a large clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and immediately refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.

Baking Day: Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours prior to baking. Gently transfer to lightly floured work surface, taking care to degas it as little as possible. Divide dough into 10-ounce pieces for baguettes.

Form Baguettes: Pat each piece of divided dough into a thick rectangle. Fold the bottom half to the center and seal the seam. Fold the top half to the center and once again seal the seam. Roll the top half of the dough over the seam to create a new seam on the bottom of the loaf. Rock loaf back and forth to extend it to desire length, 6-12 inches. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Repeat the same folding process: bottom to center, top to center, and pinch to create a seam. With seam side underneath, gently rock loaf back and forth, with hands moving out toward and increasing pressure at the ends, to slightly taper the loaf until baguette is the length of baguette pan (or baking sheet).

Mist top of dough with spray oil, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and proof at room temperature (preferably in a couche, or improvise on a clean linen towel, dusted with flour – leaving 3 inches between loaves so fabric can be bunched up to create “walls” for support while proofing – I placed my prepared towel and loaves on my baguette pan to further aid in keeping its shape, as shown above) for about 1 1/2 hours, or until increased to 1 1/2 times its original size. 

Prepare for Hearth Baking: About 45 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a sheet pan, which will serve as the steam pan, with a 1-inch rim on shelf under which baguettes will be baked. Remove plastic wrap from the dough 15 minutes prior to baking. Gently roll dough onto baguette pan. Just prior to baking, score the dough 1/2 inch deep with a serrated knife or razor. Transfer loaves to the oven, pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan. Always use an oven mitt and wear long sleeves when adding water to the hot steam pan to prevent steam burns. It’s also advisable to cover the oven window with a dry dish towel to prevent backsplash from hitting the window and cracking it – but remember to remove the towel before closing oven door! Using a watering can with a long spout when pouring the water into the steam pan provides control and distance from the hot steam.

Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate pan and bake for another 15-25 minutes, until the crust is rich golden brown, the loaves sound hollow when thumped, and the internal temperature is about 200 degrees in the center. Cool on wire rack for at least 35 minutes before slicing or serving. 

Image via Eatwell 101.

Best eaten the same day, or heated briefly in the oven the next day if crust loses its crispness. Yields four 16-inch baguettes.

Bon appetit!


Notre Vie Juteuse said...

I just can't bake bread here...especially when I can walk to the boulangerie and pick-up a fresh warm baquette. I could also never make one as good!

Alamodeus said...

Alisa, you know I would love to be in your shoes -just a short walk from a boulangerie in the heart of a French village.

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