Most people think of baguettes are yuppy, hipster, eurotrash food. Hopefully after this blog post goes viral, that limited thinking will end and folks will understand just how down-to-earth the humble baguette can be. No pretentions here, folks, and no fussiness. Just simple deliciousness.
Step one: assemble your ingredients:
4 cups Flour
If you’re not going to buy a 25 lb sack of Artisan Bakers Craft Plus then I strongly suggest using King Arthur flour. You want this to taste good, right?
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
Keep yeast refrigerated. If you don’t think you’ll use a whole pound of yeast, 1 tablespoon at a time, you can buy package of yeast in the dairy section of the supermarket. 1 package = 1 Tbsp
1 Tablespoon Salt
In my salt mill this is 40 turns. You’ll have to figure out how many turns in your. I buy this Himalayan stuff because it’s pink and because I like how it tastes.
This stuff in a bowl will look like this:
Now you use the dough hook attachment on your kitchen aid (WHAT??????? You don’t have a kitchen aid? Sigh. Drop and give me 20, soldier. That will get you ready for your next task.)
Stir or hook your dry ingredients to combine them. Add about 500 ml hot tap water, but not all at once! I’m assuming you’re using the mixer. If not, you have to make adjustments yourself. Add about 250 ml with the mixer running. Stand over your work and watch.
That should make big lumps, but plenty of dry flour should be left in there. Add about half of your remaining water. Let the mixer work that in thoroughly. Now you have to tinker with the water amount. You want a slack dough, which is sticky and pulls like taffy. If you ever made regular bread in the past you should be confused by this instruction – with regular bread, you want a texture that feels like your earlobe and is fairly smooth, and “has great life.” Springs back when you poke it, and other silly things recipe books say. Forget all that. You want a taffy-like sticky, impossible-to-work dough. But, not too wet or sticky. How can you tell? The first few times, it is tricky. Too slack and you’ll get frustrated with the mess and slop everywhere and you won’t make bread again. Too firm and you’ll have dense and uninteresting baguettes. My suggestion is aim for a little bit sticky to start with. When you get some confidence and experience, you can play with an even slacker dough and see what happens.
THIS IS TOO STIFF:
This is pretty good:
Now, let it rise. About one hour is usually good. During this time, I often walk the dogs and start some project that makes me completely lose track of time and forget I was baking. The dough, thankfully, is very forgiving.
No punching it down or anything. Just get a rubber spatula and sploof it onto a well floured surface.
No kneading. None. Just get your dough cutter, flour your hands and the dough cutter and cut the blob in half.
Wiggle and pat the blobs into logs, and then flop them onto the baguette pan. Oh no. Tell me you didn’t buy a baguette pan. Go flush your head in the toilet. There’s no remedy. Actually in all seriousness, you cannot make baguettes without a baguette pan. You can make a flatbread that will be yummy on a pizza stone if you have one of those, but I don’t really know how to do it so don’t ask. Let’s just pretend you have a baguette pan.
Oh wait – you wanted fancy baguettes? Ok, I can do that. How about chocolate pecan cherry baguettes? I thought so.
Very simple: pat your dough a little flatter than it was and make a line of chocolate chips, crumbled pecans (toast them first – totally sublime), and dried cherries down the middle of your dough.
Fold the edges up and squish-pat them into each other to that they stick. The dough will be a pain in the rear to work with, sticky and floppy and ripping. Just pinch every thin spot shut and don’t worry. It will all come out in the wash.
UPDATE — Electric oven: Put in a cold oven and turn it on to 500 degrees. Yep. That hot. Gas oven: I like to get the over good an hot first, and then put the loves in. This helps them rise more quickly and I believe it improves your end result — loaves that have irregular crumb (air holes) and a more rustic or “artisanal” appearance.
NOW DON’T LEAVE THE KITCHEN. NO FACEBOOK. NO TEXTING. PAY ATTENTION. IT IS ONLY 20 MINUTES.
After a few minutes, once the oven is hot, introduce steam. How? Electric over: pour some water onto the floor of the over. Don’t pour it on the element, or onto the jets if your oven is gas. Gas oven: spray your bread with water from a plant mister.
I didn’t take any photos of the inside of my oven. You’d all be horrified. It’s pretty bad. I don’t believe in cleaning ovens.
Keep an eye on it. Maybe you won’t need 20 mins – might be more like 12 – 15 if your loaves are skinny or your oven is lying to you about its heat.
I make 3 batches when I bake. That way I fill the freezer, only wash the dishes once for 6 loaves of bread, and use the oven while it’s hot. 🙂
The end result: supreme not fussy deliciousness. Feast away.