There’s something so special about baking your own bread, and even though I have only done it a couple times, I decided to venture into the world of artisan breads by baking my own baguettes this weekend. I was looking forward to that freshly-baked-bread aroma filling the house, and my guests looking at me in disbelief when my husband told them that no, I did not pick up the baguette at the store! I turned to a trust source, the King Arthur Flour company, to find a recipe.
I picked out what I could find to be the simplest recipe for a beginner, and which gave me the option of just using a baking sheet rather than proper baguette pans. While I’d love to own some and they aren’t too expensive, I decided I should try out the general technique first and decide if it needed improvement or not. I found this recipe quite easy to follow and was pleased that my dough rose accordingly. (I don’t know about you, but whenever I make bread and leave the dough to rise, I always have doubts and think that for some reason it’s not going to work. And when it does, the look on my face as I’m telling my husband how much the dough had risen is priceless!)
Anyhow, like I said, I just used plain old baking sheets for this recipe. I wanted to use the King Arthur artisan bread flour, but couldn’t locate it, so I just got regular bread flour. My bread turned a little softer than I would have liked on the inside, but for a first try, I was very pleased. It did have a nice crust, however. I’d be very interested to see how this recipe would turn out with the artisan style flour and true baguette pans. I will let you know if I get around to it!
Baguettes, courtesty of King Arthur Flour
1/2 cup water
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
All of the starter
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
The Starter: Mix the starter ingredients together till smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.
Preparing the Dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them together — by hand, mixer or bread machine — till you’ve made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface should still be a bit rough. Allow the dough to rise, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces (if you’re using our Steam Baking Master, or three pieces, for longer, thinner baguettes. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes. Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a log that would fit whatever pan or baking stone you’ll be using to bake in. Place the logs in the folds of a floured couche, which you’ve set onto a sheet pan or pans, or directly onto the pan (lightly greased or parchment-lined). Cover them with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they have just about doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 425°F; if you’re using a baking stone, place it on the lowest shelf. Roll the risen baguettes from the couche onto the lightly greased or parchment-lined pan of your choice — or onto a peel, if you’re baking directly on the stone. (If you’re using the Steam Baking Master, follow the manufacturer’s baking directions.) Place the baguettes in the oven.Bake the baguettes for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown. Turn off the oven, crack it open about 2 inches, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven. Yield: 2 shorter, fatter baguettes or 3 longer, skinnier baguettes.