Pâté Fermentée (make the day before you wish to make the baguettes)
cups bread flour
cup warm water
teaspoon instant or fast-rising dry yeast
Mix flour, water, salt and yeast together until smooth. Cover tightly and let stand 12-16 hours (preferable at about 70F).
Final Baguette Dough:
cups bread flour
cups warm water
tsp instant or fast rising dry yeast
Previously mixed pâté fermentée (reserved until the end of mixing)
Yields about 4-6 baguettes, depending on amount of dough used for each. Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer except for the pate fermentee. Using the dough hook, mix on first (lowest) speed for 3 minutes just to incorporate all the ingredients. As the dough comes together, add the pâté fermentée in small portions (about 1/4 cup at a time). If necessary, add additional flour or water so that the dough remains moderately loose and not too stiff. Raise the mixer speed to next higher speed, and continue to knead for 3-5 minutes. The dough should be fairly loose and supple with an optimum temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the dough in a large glass (or nonreactive) bowl which has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise for 1 hour. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough in half, return to bowl, recover with the plastic and allow to rise for another hour. Return the dough to a floured surface and divide it dough into 12-16 ounce pieces (4-6 pieces). Shape lightly into rounds and allow to stand on a lightly floured work surface covered with plastic for 10-30 minutes. Then, shape the rounds into baguettes and place them onto the bottom, smooth, side of baking sheets which have been lined with parchment paper (2-3 baguettes per baking sheet). Cover with a large piece of plastic and allow to rest for another 1 to 1-1/2 hours at about 76F. Place a large, rectangular pizza stone in the middle rack of the oven and a shallow, metal pan on the shelf right beneath it and preheat the oven to 450F for about 30 minutes. Using a very sharp, serrated knife or razor blade, make 5-7 slashes on the top of each baguette. Open the oven and, holding the baking sheet just above the pizza stone, tilt it gently so that the parchment and baguettes slide off carefully onto the pizza stone. You may need to guide the parchment with your free hand (using an oven mitt, of course). Pour 1 cup of hot water into the shallow pan under the pizza stone and close the oven door quickly. Bake for about 24 to 26 minutes, until golden brown.* *If you wish to par-bake a few baguettes, cut the baking time down by about 10 minutes - or until they are a very pale, light brown. Cool, wrap in plastic wrap or foil and freeze. Unwrap and allow to come to room temperature before the finished baking in a preheated 450F degree oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.