As you can see, I measure my flour the “scoop-and-level” way.
And that’s it! Our dough is complete.
Dump the sticky mass onto a non-porous work surface (I use a marble board) which has not been dusted with flour. Baguette dough is wet and sticky (think of bubblegum). If you add lots of additional flour to alleviate the stickiness, your loaf will develop a too-dense interior, or “crumb.”
Let the dough rest for 2 minutes while the flour particles absorb moisture.
Meanwhile, wash-out, dry, and lightly grease the mixing bowl.
Repeat this scooping-shifting-slamming action about 40 times, or until the dough becomes elastic and loses most of its stickiness.
Let the dough rest for 1 minute, and then repeat the slamming-procedure for another 40 rounds.
Obviously you won’t have to visit the gym on baguette-making day.
Drop the dough into the prepared bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise until triple in volume — 2- 3 hours in a 75°F kitchen. If your kitchen is incredibly cold like mine, you can place the bowl on a common heating pad set to “low.”
I hope you like my bracelet.
I’ll bet you didn’t know you’d be practicing martial arts today.
Meanwhile, prepare the oven: Place one rack at the lowest position, and another in the center. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Slashing the loaves — Take a safety razor or a sharp knife, and make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes (1/2-inch deep) atop each baguette. The slashes will open up during baking — and, if all goes according to plan — they will create a beautiful design on the crust.
It isn’t easy to make neat slashes. But I keep trying.
Baking — 25 minutes at 450°F. Place the baking sheet on the lowest oven rack, and immediately spray the baguettes with water. After two minutes have passed, quickly open the oven door, and spray the loaves again. After two more minutes have passed, spray ‘em again. The steam will cause the loaves to develop a crackling crust.
No picture of this next step, because I forgot to take one: After 6 minutes have passed, transfer the loaves to the middle oven rack, and continue baking for 19 minutes.
I wish you could hear the crackling sound this bread makes when you slice it, break it, or bite into it. Baguettes are just the thing for sopping up olive oil or spaghetti sauce, or for dunking in a mug of Leek and Potato Soup.
As always, here’s a printer-friendly copy-and-paste version of the above recipe:
Kevin Lee Jacobs, A Garden for the House
Ingredients for 3 loaves
2 1/4 teaspoons active yeast yeast, dissolved in 1/3 cup warm (110°F) water
1 1/4 cups warm (110°F) water
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Special Equipment: A bench-scraper (or a wide spatula); a 17×12-inch baking sheet, lined with baking parchment, and dusted with either flour or cornmeal; a spray bottle filled with plain water
1. Making the dough – Pour the dissolved yeast, the additional water, and the salt and flour into a large mixing bowl. Stir with a spoon until thoroughly combined.
2. Kneading the dough – Dump the sticky mass onto a non-porous work surface (I use a marble board) that has not been dusted with flour. With your left hand, scoop up the dough with a bench scraper, transfer the clump to your right hand, and then slam it down — hard! — onto your work surface. Repeat this action about 40 times, or until the dough becomes elastic and loses most of its stickiness.
Let the dough rest for 1 minute, and then repeat the lifting-and-slamming procedure for another 40 rounds.
3. The first rise – Place the dough in a clean, lightly-greased bowl (you can wash out and dry the same bowl you used before), and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until tripled in volume — about 3 hours.
4. The second rise –Punch down the dough to deflate it. Then let rise again until doubled — about 2 hours.
5. Forming the baguettes – Lightly flour your work surface. Then deflate the dough, pat it into a rough rectangle, and cut it into 3 equal pieces. Fold each piece in half, and let rest for 5 minutes.
Take one of the cut pieces, and pat it into a rough rectangle. Then fold it in half lengthwise, and seal the seam with a gentle karate-chopping action. Then flip the dough so its seam side is down. Karate-chop a lengthwise trench along the center of the dough. Fold at the trench, and karate chop to seal.
Starting at the center and working towards the ends, use your hands to roll the dough back and forth to create a rope which is approximately the same length as your baking sheet. Transfer the rope to the lined baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining segments of dough.
6. The final rise and preparing the oven – Set the baguettes in a warm location and let rise until doubled in volume — about 1 hour. About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, place one oven rack at the lowest position, and another rack at the center position. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
7. Baking – 25 minutes at 450°F. Using a safety razor or a sharp knife, cut 3 or 4 diagonal slashes (1/2-inch deep) in the top of each baguette. Set the baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and immediately spray the loaves with water. After 2 minutes have passed, spray the loaves again. After another 2 minutes have passed, spray again. After 6 minutes have passed, transfer the baking sheet to the center oven rack, and bake for the remaining 19 minutes.
Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Think you’ll try these baguettes? You can let me know by leaving a comment. Your words are the sunshine of my day.
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