french baguettes

i was so excited about the bagels from yesterday that i decided to whip out the french bread recipe from the class i took at orange tree taught by one of the bakers from batch bakehouse. what i did not realize was that the recipe they gave us made 6 loafs. we now have 5 of those in the freezer for future thawing and baking (which isn’t the worst problem to have, in fact, i’m kind of happy about it). making french bread is a time-consuming process. actually, it’s just a lot of waiting. without further ado, here is the recipe:

step 1: make sponge

  • 590g all purpose flour
  • 400g water (room temperature)
  • 6g (2tsp) active dry yeast

mix all the ingredients together in a mixer using the dough hook. it should be wet. knead once or twice to get it to form into a ball. put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. let it ferment at room temperature for 1-3 hours.

step 2: make dough (keep in mind this makes 6 loafs)

  • 455g all purpose flour
  • 305g water (room temperature)
  • 9g (1 1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2.5g (3/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • …and the sponge you made before

cut the sponge into pieces (about 8). combine the water, salt, and yeast in the mixer. slowly add in pieces of the sponge and flour until it’s all well mixed. let the dough sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. then (and this is the best trick i learned in the class) instead of kneading the dough you ‘slap and fold’ it. that means slap it on a very lightly floured surface, and then fold it in half. do this for about 7 minutes. this helps keep air bubbles in the dough, which leads to a nice, airy baguette. from then comes the waiting – put it back in the bowl (after slightly oiling it) for 2-3 hours. every 45 minutes, take it out of the bowl and fold twice. in the end, your dough should look like this:

image

step 3: shaping

this is when you realize just how much bread you’re about to make. cut the dough into pieces, depending the size of baguette you want. for a big baguette, cut 350g. for a small (demi-baguette) cut 180g. a kitchen scale comes in handy.

image

then pre-shape the dough into the size you want. don’t flatten the dough too much, but it’s inevitable that it will deflate somewhat. don’t worry. you’ll let it proof again. if you’re not baking all of the bread, at this point you should freeze it (roll it into the general shape and then wrap in plastic). let the piece you’re going to bake proof covered in plastic for another 30 minutes.

image

last. shape the dough for how it should be baked. this is tricky (and after baking i realized i didn’t do a great job). you want to basically fold it into thirds under itself. the seam should be on the bottom. now let it proof for another 30 minutes (i said there was a lot of waiting). finally, when it’s done, score the baguette with a knife every couple of inches. it’ll look like this:

image

step 4: bake.

if you have a convection oven, lucky you. i’m jealous. if not, you’ll want to spray down the oven with some water (on the sides and top). this will help the bread brown. transfer the bread to your baking pan (i used parchment paper on the bottom and a little semolina). bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan half way through so it gets an even bake. in the end you should have something that looks like this:

image

i got too excited and cut into it before taking a photo because i wanted to see the inside and make sure it was fluffy enough. i would say it’s 80% fluffy enough. that just means there is room for improvement!

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