Jul 22, 2013
I'd recently fallen out of the habit of making homemade bread (really, really fallen out of it). I think with having a new baby, a toddler running around, and just regular old life, something had to give and that was it. With company coming, though, I wanted to make something special and I was feeling the baking itch. I broke out a Fine Cooking magazine that is full of bread recipes that was definitely gathering dust and found a baguette recipe that looked very promising.
While there are a lot of steps and a lot of waiting (as with most bread recipes), it was so, so worth it in the end. This was by far the best bread recipe that I've ever made and these baguettes tasted just like the ones from our local bakery. Chewy and crisp on the outside with a soft fluffy interior - bread perfection.
The recipe makes six mini baguettes (about half the length of a regular baguette, or so) and you can freeze them after you partially bake them. I thought that the frozen ones baked up just as great as the fresh ones.
Note: For the best results, weigh the flour and water. This dough can be very sticky, so only lightly flour your fingers and use only as much as you need to keep it from sticking to the work surface. If the dough sticks, use a bowl scraper to loosen it and lightly flour the work surface.
1 lb. (3 ⅓ cups) bread flour; plus more for dusting
2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 ½ tsp. table salt
Semolina or fine cornmeal for the baking sheet
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, yeast, and salt with a wooden spoon. Add the dough hook to the mixer and weigh out 12 ounces (1 ½ cups) of lukewarm water; add it to the flour mixture.
2. Knead on medium-low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides, bottom of the bowl, and the dough hook with a rubber spatula. Knead again, scraping down the bowl and hook every 2 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes.
3. Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the dough and your fingers.
4. Working around the edge of the dough, fold the sides into the middle in about 7 folds, firmly pressing each edge into the center of the dough with your fingertips after each fold.
5. Remove the dough from the work surface to a medium bowl with the seam side down. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free location until it doubles in size, 1-2 hours.
6. Line a large (17 ½ x 13-inch) rimmed baking sheet with a linen or other flatweave towel and then generously flour the entire surface of the towel; set aside. With a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, remove the dough from the bowl and place onto a lightly floured work surface with the smooth side down.
7. Fold one side of the dough into the middle and press down firmly along the center of the seam. Fold in the opposite side and press firmly along the length of the seam again, forming a rectangle.
8. Turn the dough over so that the smooth side is up and cut into 6 equal size pieces with a sharp knife or a bowl scraper. (This is done easiest by making on cut lengthwise and then two crosswise cut. Each piece should weigh about 4 ¾ ounces.)
9. To form the baguettes, make a line of flour on your work surface to dredge the baguettes. Working with one piece of dough at a time, place it smooth side down on a lightly floured work surface. Press the dough into a rectangle that is about ⅓-inch thick. Starting with a long edge of the dough, fold it into the center and press firmly with your fingertips until you feel the work surface below the dough. Fold the other long end into the center with the same process. Continue folding and pressing alternate edges until the baguette is about 12-inches long, this should take 5-6 folds. Dredge the smooth side of the dough through the line of flour.
10. Set the baguette seam side down on the towel and make a fold in the towel to separate it from the next baguette (see picture).
11. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces, setting the baguettes on the towel with a fold separating them. Cover with another towel and let rise until the baguettes have doubled in size, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
12. While the dough rises, position oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 500°F, using the convection setting if you have it on your oven. Fill a spray bottle with water; set aside.
13. Prepare two heavy-duty rimmed baking sheets with a sprinkling of semolina flour or cornmeal.
14. When the baguettes have risen, very carefully transfer them to the baking sheets with your hands or by scraping two bowl scrapers or spatulas underneath the dough to move it, arranging 3 lengthwise per sheet. Using a very sharp, thin knife, make 4 to 5 slashes on a sharp diagonal, ⅛ to ¼-inch deep, on the tops of each baguette.
15. Quickly spray the inside and bottom of the preheated oven 10 times with the water bottle. Quickly place the baguettes in the oven and spray the insides and bottom again and then quickly close the oven door, trapping the steam.
16. Reduce the oven temperature to 475°F and bake the baguettes for 6 minutes and then very carefully turn the baguettes over and rotate the baking pans from top to bottom and bake for another 5 minutes.
17. To freeze baguettes, remove the partially cooked bread from the oven at this point and allow to cool completely and then place in a freezer safe container or bag. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 450°F and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
18. To continue baking without freezing, remove the baguettes from their baking sheets and place them directly on the racks, scored side up. Bake until the baguettes are golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a rack to cool.
from Fine Cooking: The Best of Breads 2012