Monday, March 2, 2015

BTB: Homemade French Baguettes

What is it about a simple piece of warm bread, slathered in butter that makes an ordinary meal extraordinary?  A bowl of soup on a cold day is wonderful.  Now, place a plate with warm bread on the table to accompany that soup and it takes it to a whole new level.  Serve warm rolls or crusty bread with a roast, mashed potatoes and gravy and oh-my-goodness.  There's just something about being able to sop up gravy and soak up soup with a piece of bread that is just so magical.

And if, and I do mean if, I'm lucky enough to have a slice or two leftover I wake up, warm it up, schmear some butter and jelly on it and enjoy it with my morning cup of coffee.  There's truly no better way to start the day.

Before a few weeks ago, I had never made baguettes.  I always picked up a loaf or two when I was at the store and just served them along side our meal.  The craving for a crusty, chewy baguette hit but we were snowed/iced in.  So, the time had come for me to bite the bullet and attempt to make a baguette at home.

I looked through several different recipes, but most had to have a resting time of at least 8 hours if not longer, and well, I just couldn't wait that long.  So, I finally came across a recipe for simple, homemade baguettes from Kelsey Nixon of Kelsey's Essentials that didn't require any extended amount of rising time.  Just what I needed!
This recipe didn't disappoint.  These were just what I was looking for; a crusty outer shell with a fluffy, chewy inside.  The simple ingredients came together and in no time the dough was set aside to rise.  The only, somewhat, tricky part about this bread (which goes with any baguettes) is the forming process but that comes with practice.  It's a matter of folding, stretching and pinching the dough together; this process is repeated until the baguettes reach the desired length.
Forming my first baguette was a matter of trial and error, but I finally got the hang of it.  Forming the second baguette was a lot easier and I had it on the pan in not time.  The secret to this dough is not to overwork it!  The bread is given time to rise again and then it's time to bake.  The end result is delicious and these baguettes definitely hit the spot!

Homemade French Baguettes

2 Envelopes active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
2 Tbsp honey
3 1/2 - 4 Cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tsp salt
Canola oil for greasing the bowl
Cornmeal for dusting the pan
3-4 Ice cubes


Combine 1/2 cup warm water, honey and yeast in a small bowl.  Stir to combine and allow yeast to proof, about 5 minutes or until it becomes foamy.

Meanwhile, combine 3 1/2 cups flour and salt in a large bowl and mix using a dough hook.  Once ingredients are mixed, slowly add the yeast mixture and mix until combined.  Gradually add 1 cup of warm water until dough comes together and forms a ball (you may not need all the water).  If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 2 to 6 minutes.  You want to be able to gently press the dough and it bounce back.

Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Roll dough to coat and cover with a towel.  Place in a warm place and allow to rise for about 20-25 minutes, until doubled in size.  Punch dough down and divide in half.  Form each piece in a rectangle.  Working with the long edges of the rectangle, fold each edge towards the center of the baguette and pinch the seems to seal.  Fold the ends of the baguette over slightly, pinch to seal.  This will keep the ends squared.  Continue this process, stretching the dough slightly each time, until the baguettes are about 12 inches in length.

Dust the baking sheet with cornmeal.  Place baguettes on the prepared sheet, cut half inch slits in the baguettes, cover with a towel and allow to rise about 20-25 more minutes.

Preheat oven to 450.  Place one oven rack in the center, and the other on the bottom.  Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack.

Once dough is risen and oven is preheated, uncover baguettes and place in the oven.  Carefully pull the rimmed baking sheet out and drop the ice cubes on the tray*.  Close the oven quickly and allow to bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

*If your oven has a glass window in the door, place a towel over the window before dropping the ice cubes on the tray.  This will avoid any issues if any cold water or an ice cube falls on the door.

*Here is a video tutorial on how to fold the baguette.

Recipe source: Kelsey Nixon via Cooking Channel TV

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