Another Bread Post- French Baguettes like from the Boulangerie! But at Home!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

One of the things I miss the most about living in France is the bread! Those delicious, golden baguettes that are crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.  I miss going twice a day to my local boulangerie where I would pick up my fresh bread, as is the tradition in France.  In the years since I have lived there, I have tried to find a baguette to match the ones in France- whether it be from a local bakery or making it at home- but I have never found anything even remotely close...until TODAY!  For Christmas I got some Baguette pans and baguette banneton proofing baskets from my husband and sons.  The last year or so I've been working really hard learning how to make bread so that I don't have to buy it anymore.  Not only is it much cheaper to make your own bread, it is also much healthier.  There's all sorts of crazy gross stuff in store bought bread.  Last Christmas David bought me a bread machine, and so I have combined the ease of using the bread machine with baking artisan type breads in my oven on a baking stone.  The result has been beautiful and much easier than I thought once I learned the technique.  The last several days I have been making baguettes with my new equipment and today I perfected the baguette- it's just like in France!  I've made 6 baguettes today  just to be sure I had it right and they all turned out the same! I have found the most successful loaves I made were the ones that used a starter.  There is a specific starter you can make for baguettes or you can just pull out some of my sourdough starter from the fridge (see my sourdough post).  I did it both ways and honestly, it turned out exactly the same.   Also, I used artisan bread flour for these.  I also tried them with regular bread flour and 00 flour.  The artisan bread flour yielded the best results, but the other two flours were also delicious.    So don't be afraid, give this a try!  I promise you, it will be well worth it!  

Now, before I get to the recipe and the process, let me tell you- you DO need to have the correct equipment.  The bannetons were around $25 on Amazon and the baguette pan was around $18.   I also use my bread machine to make the dough.  I know that bread purists would probably scream at me for doing this, but I have found that it makes life easier and why not let the machine do all the kneading and the first rise for me!  I have an Oster bread machine which costs around $60 and I never bake my bread in it, not even my sandwich loaves, I only do the dough in it.  I also have a baking stone in my oven.  The stone is a fibrament stone from Forno Bravo.  To make the baguettes you do not need a stone, but it does help with the distribution and retention of heat in the oven while baking the bread.

Ok so on with it...

French Baguettes

1/2 cup water
a pinch of yeast
1 cup bread flour

Mix the ingredients in a clean non reactive bowl (like a glass bowl- not metal).  Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and allow to rest overnight (at least 12 hours).  It should rise slightly and become bubbly.  

Bread Dough:
  • Starter (all of the prepared starter or one cup of sourdough starter straight out of the fridge, unfed)
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 1/2 cups artisan bread flour (like 00 or other good bread flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yeast
For Baking:
  • 1/4 cup cold water in a clean spray bottle
  • 10 ice cubes
1. Place all ingredients IN THE ORDER THEY ARE LISTED in the bread machine and set to dough cycle.  

2. When the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Turn the dough out carefully onto a lightly oiled and floured surface.  Without deflating it, cut it in to three equal pieces (about 6 oz each- you can weigh them using a kitchen scale if needed but it's not essential).  

3. One at a time, press each piece out into a small rectangle with your fingers and preform.  To preform- take the top half of the rectangle and press it into the middle with your fingertips to create a crease.  Bring the bottom half up to the crease and press lightly with your fingertips.  Bring the two halves together and press together with the heel of your hand.  

4. Place each preformed dough piece seam side down on a lightly floured surface and cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.  (note-I only have two proofing baskets and two slots in my baguette pan, so I actually only work with two at a time, forming the third piece of dough into a ball and placing it into the fridge for the next round of baking).  

5. Once the dough has rested, working with one piece of dough at a time, press the air out evenly and gently with the tips of your fingers.  Using the same action as you used to preform the dough, form your baguette.  Cup your hands over the formed dough and gently roll from the middle outwards to elongate the baguette.  Place each roll into floured proofing baskets and cover with a clean kitchen towel.  Allow to rise until doubled in size about one hour.

6.  Spray your baguette pan generously with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with flour.  Turn the risen baguette rolls out carefully into the baguette pan, being extra careful not to deflate them.  Use a very sharp knife or bread lame to make three slashes about 5 inches each along the length of the baguette at about a 45 degree angle.  Use a spray bottle and spray the tops of the baguettes generously with water (this will help create the super crispy crust).  Place the baguettes in the oven and toss the ice cubes in the bottom of your oven (this will create steam and contribute to a crispy crust...and will not hurt your oven).  

7.  Bake baguettes 25-30 minutes until deep golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees (internal temperature is important because it is what tells us what type of crumb the bread will have- dense, soft and chewy, or light and airy).

Enjoy!  My husband has been eating jambon beurre sandwiches using our leftover Christmas ham!  YUM!   

Please let me know if you have any questions or need any clarification!

Until next time, happy, healthy, and CLEAN cooking!


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