Well my friends, today is officially the last day of bread week, and as I type, I still have dough underneath my fingernails and a fine dusting of flour covering every square inch of my kitchen.
I’m not going to lie: This was a lot harder and more time consuming then I thought it would be. My mixer is on the verge of suicide (it was literally walking itself off the table with a loud thumping noise on that last large batch of dough), and I am in a carb-induced coma.
But I’ve learned a lot and gained some serious patience along the way. And I can’t tell you how rewarding it was to pull those final baguettes out of the oven and marvel at their crusty, golden-brown beauty.
The french baguette, the Holy Grail of all all breads (well, maybe it’s sourdough, but I haven’t had enough time to make a starter, OK??) is the perfect end to a week of endless kneading, bagel/pita heartbreak and overall triumph.
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 1/3 cup poolish (see Joe Pastry’s instructions, but be sure to double his measurements)
A small chunk (5-10 oz) of old dough (dough that has been in the fridge for 1-3 days)
First, you should have a chunk of old dough before you start. You can make some just for this purpose, again using instructions from Joe Pastry, or you can set some dough aside from another bread. I used some from my pitas.
Then, about 12-16 hours before you are going to start the dough, make your poolish.
It should be bubbly and foamy when it’s ready.
When the poolish is ready, mix the yeast and the water. Combine this with the poolish and flour and mix until incorporated. Chances are you may need a little more flour, but don’t worry, you can add that little by little as you knead. Let this sit for 20 minutes.
Now mix in the old dough (torn in pieces) and the salt and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and passes the windowpane test. It should still be a little tacky, but not so much that it’s impossible to work with. Put the dough in an oiled bowl covered in cling wrap and allow it to double in size (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours).
When the dough is done proofing, separate it into six equal sized balls, and the form them into football shapes and let rest for 10 minutes. Next time I’ll do this all on parchment to make it easier to transfer to the pizza stone (I tried to transfer the loaves to parchment after the final proof and it was difficult to say the least)
Then, take your hand and create an indent in the bottom of each loaf like so:
Then fold and pinch them together like this:
Apparently this creates tension on top for a nicer looking baguette, but I’m not sure if this did much for mine. Now roll these out into long, thin baguettes:
You can refrigerate these at this point (this makes the flavor better, they say. I refrigerated three and baked the other three) or let them rest for another 30 to 40 minutes. In the mean time, heat your oven to 500 with a pizza stone and a broiler tray in it.
When ready to bake, slice diagonally down the loaf (more vertical than horizontal). I think my loaves were a little too wet, or my knife not sharp enough, because this didn’t work very well for me. No biggie—this is just for show. Dust lightly with flour and slide the loaves (still on the parchment paper) onto the pizza stone.
Then pour a cup of hot water in the broiler tray and quickly close the oven.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown.
My baguettes weren’t as pretty as Joe Pastry’s, but they were still completely delicious.
Well, thank you all for tagging along for this very LONG week. I’ll post within the next day or so to share the tips and tricks I’ve learned about bread making during this adventure.