I'm an aspiring bread baker. That is, I've never taken any kind of formal classes. Instead, I rely on websites like King Arthur Flour for many of my recipes, tips an ingredients. There is nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread-- and when you can teach yourself to bake an Artisan baguettes in your own home, it's so gratifying. If you follow the link source, to my food blog, I will show you how I baked these without the professional tools that most bread bakers use. This recipe is really simple to make, and very cost-effective. The only thing that might seem time-consuming, is remembering to make the easy starter the night before-- and the total of 5 hours of time to wait for the dough to rise. It's so worth the effort, and it's fun!
- 1/2 cup cool water
- 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast (I used SAF Instant Yeast)
- 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I never use bleached flour)
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
- 1 cup to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
- All of the starter
- 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
- 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
- Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.
Preparation time 15mins
Cooking time 355mins
Adapted from foodiewife-kitchen.blogspot.com
Make the starter by mixing the yeast with the water (no need to do this if you're using instant yeast), then mixing in the flour to make a soft dough. NOTE: I had to use about 3/4 cup water to get a soft dough, and it worked.
Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight works well.
The starter should have risen and become bubbly. If it hasn't, your yeast may not be working. Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of yeast in 1 tablespoon lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar, and wait 15 minutes. If nothing happens, replace your yeast, and begin the starter process again.
Note: I keep my SAF Instant yeast in the freezer, and it lasts for a long time.
If you're using active dry yeast, mix it with the water, then combine with the starter, flour, and salt.
If you're using instant yeast, there's no need to combine it with the water first.
Mix and knead everything together by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle till you've made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. Knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2 of a stand mixer.
Note: I used my Kitchen Aid Stand mixer, which is the easiest way (in my opinion),
Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise 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 work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces.
Note: I wet my hands, which makes handling the soft dough very easy to do.
Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.
To shape the dough:
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.
Note: I use a large plastic mat, very lightly dusted with flour, and my hands are lightly dusted with flour.
With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15-inch log. Place the logs seam-side down into the wells of a baguette pan; or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans.*
Note: I made my own baking couche, by placing a clean pure cotton towel across the length of a baking sheet. I then rubbed a LOT of flour into the towel. I placed one piece of shaped dough on top, and cradled it with the fold of the towel, and did this with the remaining shaped dough. I had three rolls of dough "cradled" with the towel.
Cover them with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they've become very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours.
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F; if you're using a baking stone, place it on the lowest rack (I placed it on the second to lowest rack, to leave room for a pan of water).
Note: I don't own a convection oven, so I filled my cast iron skillet with water and placed that on the very bottom rack of my oven.
Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8-inch vertical slashes in each baguette-- think "1-2-3" very quickly and slash as fast as you can.
Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.
How I transferred the dough onto my baking stone: Place a baking sheet, upside down, right next to the pan of proofed and shaped dough. I don't own a "transfer board" so I used a flexible cutting mat. I gently rolled one piece of dough onto the flexible mat and then guided it onto the inverted baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. This technique worked, and prevented my dropping the dough and causing it to deflate too much.
Bake the baguettes until they're a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2inches, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.
Yield: Three 16-inch baguettes.
*Advanced baker version: Place the shaped baguettes, seam-side down, in the folds of a heavily floured cotton dish towel. Allow them to rise as directed. When fully risen, gently roll them onto a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet, floured side down. Bake as directed. Or roll them onto a baker's peel, and then onto a heated pizza stone in the oven. Bake as directed above.
Variation: Make six stuffed sandwiches, perfect for picnics or lunchboxes.
Divide the baguette dough into six pieces instead of three, and shape each into a 5"-long rectangle.
Layer with your favorite filling; we like mustard, ham, and Swiss cheese. Don't use too much filling, as it'll make the baguettes soggy. Also, use a dry filling (e.g., sliced deli meat, cheese) rather than something wet like meatballs in sauce.
Roll up like a jelly roll, sealing the long seam and pinching the ends closed.
Place on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Slash each baguette twice lengthwise, if desired. The cheese will ooze out. Some people like this look; some don't. Your choice.
Bake until golden brown, as directed above. You may need shorten the baking time a bit from the original recipe.