Never has there been a food with so many wildly different recipes, each of which is Perfect, as the baguette. A quick search online will yield recipes ranging from three to twenty-four hours, with two to twenty minutes of kneading and proportions of ingredients varying just as drastically. In French bakeries this is less the case as there are laws regulating the contents of the dough, but not the size or specific shape, of the baguette.
Of course, as home-bakers we are bound by no such legal standards and since the word baguette simply refers to the shape why not try a dozen different recipes and figure out which works best for your taste in your part of the world? That’s what I did, I learned a lot and had tons of fun. The recipe I’m sharing today most closely resembles Martin Ginsburg’s in Chef Supreme, a delightful cookbook assembled by the spouses of the Supreme Court Justices in memoriam of Mr. Ginsburg. I usually make this on a baguette pan, sometimes I’ll use one section of the dough to make a batard or boule which you can make on a regular baking sheet lined with parchment paper or dusted with cornmeal. Or a cast iron griddle if you’ve got one.
-1 lb. AP flour (I like King Arthur)
-1 teaspoon yeast
-1/2 Tablespoon fine grain sea salt
-1 ¼ c. warm water
Mix flour, salt and yeast together in a mixing bowl. This will prevent the yeast from clumping up, a common problem when you add the water to the yeast first. Drizzle the water all over the top of the flour mixture and stir until their is no dry flour, but it isn’t a proper ball yet. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
Stir the dough a little more until it starts to come together as a ball and knead for just 2 minutes. If you’re not familiar with the kneading process, here’s an episode of FOODLANDia, a public access cooking show I was on back in Iowa. I’m using a different recipe so the dough is more dense, but the technique is the same. The bit where I’m kneading is at 10:12. Also, don’t miss what may be the only hip-hop song about tea at 20:06.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly and let rise on the counter for 2 hours. Afterward, flop the dough onto your counter, shape into a rough rectangle and cut into three equal pieces (each should weigh 8 1/2 to 9 ounces.) Shape these into balls, cover with a damp towel or oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
To shape each loaf, gently form a rectangle about 6” wide and 4” long. Fold it like a letter, the bottom third up, then the top third down. Create a trough with the edge of your hand, like I show in the video, then pinch it shut. Do this with each dough ball, replacing them under the towel when done. After the last ball is shaped, go back to the first and roll it out about 13”-14”. Start in the middle, moving your hands toward the ends of the loaf. For a batard, just keep it a bit shorter. After each loaf is formed place it on your pan or baking sheet, cover again and let rise about 1 hour. Preheat your oven to 475 now, so it has plenty of time to warm up.
10 minutes before the final rise is finished, heat up a cast iron skillet on the stove until it’s very hot, then place it in the bottom of the oven.
Use a razor blade or bread knife to slash each loaf on a sharp bias 3 or 4 times, about ⅛” deep. Then immediately put them in the oven and turn the oven down to 450. Wait 2 minutes, get out 2 or 3 ice cubes, open the oven, drop them in the cast iron and then quickly close the oven again. Set the timer for 22 minutes and don’t open the door until the timer goes off. When done, move the loaves to a cooling rack and let rest for 1 hour before slicing. If three are too many baguettes, wrap one in plastic and freeze. It will be fine. Serving suggestion: Cheddar and Branston Pickle sandwich.
- Whole Wheat Baguette (craftykristina.wordpress.com)
- Home-made Easy French Baguette (thecutebaker.com)
- July 21 – Baguette – Recipe (abigslice.typepad.com)