Baguette Making Adventures
The French Baguette is iconic. So many wonderful images come mind where I think of baguettes. Mainly of my Paris trip with a dear Belgian friend, Lieve, when we both started working. We drove to Paris from Brugges. Just starting out professionally from school, we weren’t rolling in the dough, so we stayed at the hotel chain, HotelF1 and ate as cheaply as possible. But we were in Paris and that’s all that mattered. Why I remember this in detail? It was the most unique hotel I’d ever been in… the showers and loos were all automated and self-cleaning. My fear was I was going to get stuck in there and go through the sanitizing process. The weather was so hot, we resorted to washing our t-shirts and dresses in the sink every night hanging them to dry anywhere they would fit. In the morning, baguettes and jam were offered as breakfast. They were so good. And we would keep some for later.
Fast forward twenty or so years and my local brewery had a stand for the visiting Alimentaire Wholesome Bread. Franke had delicious baguettes for sale. I got the last one I think. Perfection. Of course, it got me thinking about baguettes. The French bread or baguettes you can get in the grocery stores are rubbish honestly and have no relation to the real ones.
I wanted to make baguettes. Real ones. Like in Paris and what Franke makes. Luck would have it Great British Bake-Off’s Master Class on breads. I would need all the help I could get in making the baguette. And I should have been watching as I made them. They are tricky. I made a few mistakes along the way. My first mistake was not finished the kneading by hand then putting it in a warm place. My house was too cold for the bread dough to raise so after three hours, I had to bring it into the living room and turn the fireplace on then it raised. My second mistake was in the rolling out stage. I did not start in the middle and work outwards. And I need a good surface to roll them out on. Lastly, I need to either make smaller ones or get bigger baking trays.
It was an adventure in baking, but I learned a lot about the process. While my baguettes will not win any beauty contests, they were tasty.
Paul Hollywoods French Baguette Recipe
- olive oil, for greasing
- 500g bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 10g salt
- 10g fast-action yeast
- 370ml/13fl oz cool water
- Lightly oil a 2¼ litre/4 pint square plastic container with olive oil. (It’s important to use a square tub as it helps shape the dough.)
- Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add three-quarters of the water and begin mixing on a slow speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water, then continue to mix on a medium speed for 5-7 minutes, until you have a glossy, elastic dough.
- Tip the dough into the prepared tub. Cover and leave for 1 hour, or until at least doubled in size.
- Dredge a linen couche with flour and lightly dust the work surface with flour.
- Carefully tip the dough onto the work surface. Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you can keep as much air in the dough as possible. (This helps to create the irregular, airy texture of a really good baguette.) The dough will be wet to the touch but still lively.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Shape each piece into an oblong by flattening the dough out slightly and folding the sides into the middle. Then roll each up into a sausage – the top should be smooth with the join running along the length of the base. Now, beginning in the middle, roll each sausage with your hands. Don’t force it out by pressing heavily. Concentrate on the backwards and forwards movement and gently use the weight of your arms to roll out the dough to 30cm/12in long.
- Lay a baguette along the edge of the linen couche and pleat the couche up against the edge of the baguette. Place another baguette next to the pleat. Repeat the process until all 4 baguettes are lined up against each other with a pleat between each. Cover the baguettes with a clean tea towel and leave for 1 hour, or until the dough has at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger.
- Preheat the oven to 430F and put a roasting tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up.
- When the baguettes are risen, remove them from the couche and dust lightly with flour. Slash each one 4 times along its length on the diagonal, using a razor blade or a very sharp knife. Transfer to a large baking tray.
- Fill the heated roasting tray with hot water, to create steam, and put the bread into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the baguettes are golden-brown and have a slight sheen. Cool on a wire rack.
No Knead Bread
The smell of bread is intoxicating. The process of making bread by hand can be daunting. The yeast. The kneading. The waiting. I know I was hesitate to try working with yeast. In the past I haven’t had much success.
Since my bread maker died a couple of years ago, we had been buying LaBrea bread from the grocery store since we like good bread. And it is good bread though it has was becoming expensive to buy. I had a 50-mile roundtrip to buy the bread and it cost about $4.00 per loaf. Something had to change especially since I should be capable of making bread when I can make cakes, pies, and tarts.
So I’ve been making bread using this no-knead recipe for about six-months now and for the most part it is fail proof. The key to the success is the proofing process and a cast iron enameled Dutch oven.
I’ll be honest this method does take time so be prepared. Being that I run my business from home, I can be flexible in making this bread. For those without a flexible schedule this is a weekend endeavor. That all said, the process is worth it given the bread perfection at the end.
It is four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. That’s it. I use bread flour, but you can use all-purpose flour in a pinch. To make this really cost effective, I buy my bread flour in bulk from Sam’s Club and store it a big dog food container with a lid. I’ve lost track of how many loaves I’ve made with my 25 pound bag (cost about $9.00 at Sam’s) of flour and I’m not even half way yet.
Ready to make some bread?
No Knead Bread Recipe
- 6 cups of bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of yeast
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of table salt
- 2 2/3 cups cool tap water
- Place the first three ingredients in a mixing bowl. You can mix the dough by hand. I preferred to use a stand mixer with a dough attachment. Mix until blended.
- Add the water mixing until a sticky dough forms. It may take awhile. You may have to add more flour or water depending on what is happening with the dough. Be very conservative when adding more flour or water.
- Place dough in a large mixing bowl covering with cling wrap and let proof for 10-12 hours. Don’t worry about leaving it out. I place in on the stove top and have it sit there. Once it turns a little gray and bubblies then it is done and ready for the second proof.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surfaced and knead into a ball with floured hands. Only do it two or three times.
- Transfer with flour to parchment paper. I prefer to use parchment paper over a towel since the dough is less likely to stick to the paper then the towel. Seal up the paper and let the dough proof for another two hours.
- Around 1 1/2 hours into the second proofing, place the Dutch oven in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 425F.
- Take the Dutch oven out and roll the dough into it. Please be careful not to burn yourself. This bread will have character depending on how good (or bad) you are flipping it in there.
- Place back into the oven with lid on and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and bake 10 minutes more.
- Cool the bread completely. And I mean completely. Cutting the bread when it is warm is ruin the airy texture. Trust me the wait is worth it.
My bread schedule varies. What I mostly try to do is start the process first thing in the morning and by the evening I can bake bread then cool it by bedtime. Next morning we have fresh bread. The Dutch oven is perfect to keep the bread fresh.
Start the day with Homemade Bread!
There are some smells which evokes the feeling of home. Baking bread is one of those smells. For the longest time we had a bread maker. When our last bread maker died, we didn’t replace it. We just aren’t eating as much bread as we once were. I have to admit I miss having it. We not only made bread, but we also made pizza dough with the bread maker.
This post isn’t about bread makers. It is about bread. Let’s be honest it is really hard to find good bread in the US. And when you do then it is expensive. Sometimes a small loaf is over $4.00. But we pay it because we prefer crusty bread, which isn’t sweet.
There is something about fresh-made bread especially in the morning. So one Sunday morning I got up and decided I needed to make fresh bread for breakfast. I used a recipe a friend shared with me years ago called “Doris’ Easy Crusty Bread” which is a dense Cuban-style bread. It is noted that the recipe came from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads.
Make bread by hand can be time consuming and a workout, but it is well worth it. When I made my bread I started the process later than I would have liked. I made choice to make hard rolls in the end instead of a big loaf.
I cut rolls out with a pizza cutter and then slashed them in the middle.
Fresh out the oven, hot hard rolls for breakfast.
And the taste test… yum.
While this is a good recipe, I’m not a fan of the denseness. I like a crusty crust with an airy inside.
I’ll continue to use this recipe until I find an easy bread recipe which fits the bill.
Yes, that’s right. I just wrote white bread was made for chocolate. And for breakfast no least. It is. Really. I wouldn’t lie here. Especially about chocolate.
I was first introduced to chocolate on bread from my college roommate, Leive, from Belgium. I was repulsed at first; however, once you try it, you will be hooked.
While you could put your chocolate on wheat or brown bread, it doesn’t quite work in my opinion. It is something about white bread. It compliments the chocolate.
You can put on your bread Nutella (chocolate hazelnut) spread, “Vlokken” (flakes) or “Hagel”(sprinkles). Various options such as pure, milk, or white chocolate. I like them all.
So this morning I felt like white bread and “Vlokken.” And it was so very satisfying! Yum!
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