To accompany my novel in progress: Breaking Bread, welcome to Le Boulangerie!
There is no more appropriate bread to open this series with than the baguette. The most basic of breads, the simplest of ingredients and yet the most wonderful results. The composition of a traditional baguette is nothing more than flour, salt, yeast and water. You need no complicated tools, this can all be done by hand. Though it takes time to get from start to finish, most of that time is spent waiting for the rise. The actual working time is quite short. Here’s what you do:
We begin with a “starter” – a water/flour/yeast mixture that gives the yeast a head start in the consumption of the carbohydrates in the flour. The byproduct of ‘yeast eating sugar’ is CO2 and that is what makes bread rise.
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water (comfortable enough to dip a finger in)
Combine in a large bowl, cover and let rise 2-3 hours, until it gets bubbly.
When the starter has done its thing…
1 tsp yeast
2 additional cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
Enough water to make a smooth dough (usually not more than another 1/4 cup)
Hand form dough into a smooth ball. (Or you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook) Place dough ball in a bowl dusted with flour, dust top with flour. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Let rise 40 minutes or until doubled in size.
When doubled, cut dough in half, keeping as much air in the dough as possible. Fold and roll dough pieces into 2 baguettes. Place on floured baking sheet, cover and let rise an hour.
Heat oven to 425. Just before placing baguettes into the oven, slash the tops of the loaves diagonally several times. Spritz with water to make the loaves nice and crusty. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
I actually use a baguette pan. I have a similar one for Italian loaves. These aren’t necessary but they do help make more uniform loaves. I hope these turn out for you if you try them. They are the perfect accompaniment to a hearty soup or stew. Bon appetit!