I can manage bread that comes from a batter like pumpkin, banana, or beer bread because you can just as easily make them into muffins. For some reason though, I can’t pull off a simple and classic homemade loaf of bread.
I scoured the web for different tips and techniques and I’d give myself a B+ on my first attempt at French baguettes. The outside was crisp and the inside soft and fluffy like they should be, but their appearance could use some help. This is possibly what a baguette made by a 4 year old French child might look like, but hey.. not too shabby for an American’s first try!
I think the best part was the smell of fresh baked bread permeating the entire house! Why doesn’t Yankee Candle make that into a scent?! Never mind.. they probably already have. My only disappointment with this venture was that I wanted to bake two more, but ran out of flour! As always I created an easy step-by-step tutorial and included a few tips of my own to help you in your own bread baking experiences!
(makes 2 baguettes)
2 Tbs honey
½ cup warm water
1 ½ Tbs (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
Olive oil for bowl
Cornmeal for pan
4-5 ice cubes
(1.) In a small bowl, stir together honey and warm water until honey is dissolved. Stir in yeast packets and let mixture sit for 5-10 minutes or until foamy. (2.) In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. (3.) Slowly pour in yeast mixture and use dough hooks to mix. (4.) Slowly pour in the other cup of water about ¼ cup at a time until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to use the full cup.
(5.) Knead dough on a floured surface for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. (6.) When the dough is ready you should be able to press your thumb into it and watch it bounce back. Pardon my freakishly scary double jointed thumb! Remove any extra flour or dough crumbs from the bowl you were using and lightly coat with olive oil. (7.) Form the dough into a ball, place in the bowl, and cover with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap. (8.) Place in a warm place to rise for 25-30 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.
(9.) Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle with cornmeal, and set aside.
(10.) After dough is finished, punch it down on a floured surface to get out any bubbles. (11.) Divide it in half. My Wu-Tang logo dough was unintentional by the way. (12.) Roll and stretch the two halves to make two long cylinders of dough about 14 inches long and 2 inches wide. (13) Place onto the prepared baking sheet (any seams in the dough facing downward) and wrap with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place to rise for another 25 minutes.
*TIP: Throughout a dozen recipes, some people chose to score (make diagonal cuts across the top) the dough BEFORE wrapping it and letting it rise again and others chose to score it AFTER the rising period. I don’t think it makes all that much difference in how it bakes, but it does affect the appearance. I think next time I’ll score, then wrap, and let them rise.
(14.) Anyway.. tap your foot impatiently to make dough rise faster.
(15.) During the last 5-8 minutes that your dough is rising, move one oven rack to the middle and the other to the very bottom. Place a ceramic (NOT GLASS) baking dish on the bottom rack. I used a 9 inch metal cake pan. We’re going to be throwing ice in this, so that’s why you want to avoid using a glass dish. When ice hits hot glass it can potentially shatter! Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (232 degrees C). (16.) Dough should be double in size when finished. (17.) If you chose to score the bread after the rising period, grab a sharp knife or a pair of clean kitchen scissors. Cut or make diagonal snips across the tops of each dough roll. Using scissors will create a little peak in the middle. (18.) Just tuck or smooth out the peaks before baking.
(19.) Add ice cubes to your baking dish on the bottom and place your baguettes on the middle rack to bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp on the outside.
Rotate the pan about halfway through and add one or two more ice cubes if you need to. The ice will give off steam that gives you a nice crispy crust. I’ve also seen a few recipes where they spritz the loaves with water every 5 minutes.
When bread is finished baking, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before cutting into them. I think that was the hardest part of the entire recipe.. not tearing into the warm freshly baked baguettes!
I hope that my experience and tips will help you in your future bread baking adventures and if you’re already a pro.. comment below and share your tips! Stay tuned for tomorrow when I share with you a recipe involving these delicious baguettes!