In France, every day includes a trip to a Boulangerie, the local bakery, for a baguette or two. If you love bread like I do, then there are few versions more likely to float your boat than this fabulous French staple. Now for a disclaimer; I took some baldy poetic license calling this post Baguettes, ’cause this ain’t Julia’s Pain Français. This is a quick and dirty, want some fresh bread now, rough loaf, but it’ll beat the shit outta anything from the store. That said, I’ve revised the process a bit to make this version a bit more flavorful and true to its name.
If you love bread like I do, then there are few version more likely to float your boat than this fabulous French staple.
This recipe came with my Kitchen Aid mixer; I know a bunch of y’all have one too, but it seems many have lost the little recipe book, which is really a wealth of good stuff. This one will make two beautiful baguettes.
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry Yeast
2 1/2 Cups warm Water (110° F)
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoons Cornmeal
1 Egg White
1 Tablespoon ice water
As noted, this recipe is meant for a KitchenAid mixer, but you can certainly do it by hand.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a mixing bowl that has also been warmed to about 100° F. Allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes.
Add the flour, butter and salt to the water and yeast.
Using the dough hook for your KitchenAid, attach The bowl and slide the speed setting to 2; mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until everything is well incorporated.
Continue to knead on Speed 2 for 2-3 minutes longer.
Dough will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but will still feel somewhat sticky; it’s important to make sure you stop kneading when the dough still is still sticky,
Turn dough into a large lightly buttered bowl, and coat the dough evenly.
Cover with a clean, dry towel and allow to rise in a quiet, relatively cool spot, free from drafts, until the dough has doubled in bulk. You want a cooler, slower rise than you might be accustomed to. This helps the baguette develop is characteristic flavor and texture.
Punch the dough down gently and divide it in half.
Roll each half into a rectangle about 12″ x 15″.
Starting on a long side, roll the dough tightly and evenly into a baguette shape, about 15″ long and 2″ wide.
Cover with a clean, dry towel and allow to rise in a quiet, warm spot, free from drafts, for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Place one rack square in the middle, with another below; leave enough room for a cast iron skillet full of boiling water. Ideally, you’ll have a heavy pizza stone or baking pan of the same material; this really makes a difference, just as the stone does for pizza. Put the stone or pan in the oven to preheat as well.
Place a large cast iron skillet on the lower rack, filled with boiling water. If you want to go all out, find a nice big rock, clean it up, and heat it separately through the preheat cycle, then carefully lower it into the skillet of water when you begin to bake. Our ovens at the bakery are stoned line, and have precise temperature and steam controls. We don’t at home, and just like Julia discovered 40 some years ago, this is the best way to approximate a real baking oven at home.
With a very sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf, about 1″ long for each.
Carefully slide your baguettes onto the hot stone or sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Combine egg white and cold water and whisk lightly. Pull the rack with your loaves on it out carefully, and brush each loaf lightly with the egg wash.
Return to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer.
Immediately remove baguettes from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Try not to eat it all before dinner.
By the way, those beauties at the top of the post were made by our Producer, Steve, right after we recorded; bread is powerful stuff!