OK, so we are now into Lent. No more cream, butter, eggs, sugar or anything nice until Hot Cross Buns, right? WRONG.
Thankfully good things come in simple packages when they are well made. Good bread, with four simple ingredients, is delicious. You would be amazed at how delicious flour, salt, water, and yeast can be when they are combined together in the correct proportions and treated with respect. Which takes us back to the great baguette bake off. Fourth place was French Culinary Institute. Third Place was Weekend Baker. Second place is….the wonderful recipe from Richard Bertinet’s book, Dough. This recipe is simpler than the other two. The hydration is not as high as that in the Weekend Bakery’s recipe which means the baguettes are much easier to shape and slash. The oven spring is terrific so you get a nice, exploding baguette. The crust is crispy and the crumb is nice and open. Finally, there is no poolish so you can wake up one day and decide you want baguettes for lunch (as long as it’s a little over 4 hours away). The only down side is that they a little bit less flavourful than the other two and that is precisely because there is no poolish. Remember, I am being forced to use a highly processes, bleached, white flour – so it’s basically edible wall paper paste. However, if you buy a good quality stone ground flour, you will have plenty of flavour in the flour itself. Try flour from Gilchesters. It is fantastic and will give you great results and delicious flavour.
500 g white flour
350 g water
2.5 g instant yeast or 5 g dry active yeast or 10 g fresh yeast
10 g salt
Total dough weight: 870 g. This makes 3 big baguettes but you may want to do 6 smaller ones so they all fit into your oven.
Dough statistics (percentage of total flour weight):
Total dough hydration: 70%
If you are using dry active yeast, measure the flour into a big bowl. Make a well in it and measure in the yeast. Pour over the water and let it sit for 10 minutes to dissolve the yeast. Measure in the rest of the ingredients except the salt. Stir everything together so that it is all blended (it will look ragged) and then let the dough sit for 10 minutes. Add the salt and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover the bowl with a shower hat. Let it sit for two hours. If you are prone to forgetting the salt, add it at the beginning.
If you are using fresh or instant yeast measure all the ingredients except the salt into a bowl. Stir everything together so that it is all blended (it will look ragged) and then let the dough sit for 10 minutes. Add the salt and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover the bowl with a shower hat. Let it sit for two hours. If you are prone to forgetting the salt, add it at the beginning.
Remove the dough from the bowl, put it on a floury surface, and divide it into at least three (if not six) pieces. Let these sit on little floury islands for 15 minutes. Take each one and gently stretch them out into a small rectangle. Fold the top edge to the middle and gently press down. Fold the bottom edge to the middle and press down. Now fold the top edge right over to the bottom edge and, using the heel of your hand, press down firmly to seal the sides and the bottom edge, cupping the dough as you do this so that it keeps its round shape. Pick up the dough and move it away from you. Roll it toward you applying pressure with your hands to the sides to stretch out the dough. Don’t apply downward pressure – just stretch the dough out sideways. I don’t like pointy ended baguettes so I leave them rounded so that the entire baguette is the same diameter.
Place the shaped dough on a heavy cloth or tea towel that you have heavily floured and let it rest for 30-45 minutes.
After 30 minutes poke it with your finger. If the indentation comes out within a minute, the dough is ready for the oven. If not, leave it for another 10 minutes or so. Pre heat the oven to 230 celsius. Humidify the oven by lavish use of a plant sprayer. Slash the baguettes and put them in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes and then remove. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Want to learn more? Come and take a bread class with us!