French Stick beginner
Most of us assume there's no way anyone could make a baguette at home, but that just isn't true. In this video, I show you how to make a beautiful baguette, in the same time it takes to make any loaf of white bread. If you have been baking bread already, I highly recommend that you try this.
Cup, bowl, spoon, baking pan, a few empty glass jars, baguette pan, rolling pin, serrated knife,oven.
Ingredients: 2 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups of warm water
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4-5 cups of white flour
(ideally unbleached, your call).
The first steps in this recipe are exactly the same as making a regular white bread. Place the yeast into a large bowl. Add two cups of warm water to get the yeast activated. How warm? I use tap water. It's the right temperature when it's hot enough to start hurting my finger ( around 105 degrees F).
Stir the water and yeast together with a spoon once to make sure the yeast doesn't stick to the bottom of the bowl. Now walk away for 10 minutes. When you come back, there should be a scum or bubbles on the top of the water. If you're unsure, watch the video, it shows you what it should look like.
Next, add the salt. Give it a stir.
Now, start adding flour, one cup at a time. Stir it in with the water, making sure it all gets wet. The consistency will change from pancake batter to a thick gloopy mess, until finally it gets too hard to stir with a big spoon. It should still be pretty wet and sticky at this stage.
It's time to get your hands in there. Put flour on your hands, and start mixing in extra flour with your fingers. Squeeze the dough as you add more flour. Once it isn't really sticky, start kneading. You can do all of this in the bowl. To knead the dough, press it down with the heel of your hand so that it lies flat on the bottom of the bowl. Next, fold it over on itself. Push that down with your hands, adding a bit of flour as you go. Keep doing this folding and flattening until the dough isn't sticky anymore.
Now you should be able to pick up the dough with your hands, and it hangs together. Start molding it into a ball. It should start to feel smooth and silky. It is often a bit warm and pliable, but won't fall apart if you hold it up, allowing gravity to tug on it. The video can help you see what this stage should look like. But relax, you've done the hardest part already!
The First Rise Now it's time for the first rise to begin. Take the dough ball out of the bowl. Scrape out any of the flour in the bowl, dump it. Now add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the bowl and grease the bowl. This is to prevent the dough from sticking to the sides. Now put the dough back in. Cover with a damp towel. The first rise has begun!
Allow the dough to rise for an hour until it has doubled in size. How long this takes depends on the temperature of your kitchen. If it's cold, the first rise may take 90 minutes.
Once the dough has doubled in size, it needs to be punched down. So take your fist and slam it into the bread so that it deflates. For the past hour the yeast has been eating the flour, and belching out carbon dioxide. Now you're letting that gas escape. Pick up the bread and knead it with your fingers for a minute or two, just like you did before.
Now it is time to shape the bread into baguettes. This involves two steps. The first is to take your longest baking pan, one with sides that are at least an inch (2.5cm) high. Place the three empty glass jam jars into the middle of the pan, end to end. Ideally, they fill the whole space so you now have a divider of glass that runs the length of the middle of the pan. If they don't quite fit snuggly, don't worry. The key thing is that they form a kind of mountain range in the middle of the pan.
Next, place parchment paper over top of the pan and its jars. Push it down so you can see one hollow on either side of the jam jars. This is where the bread will sit. The parchment paper needs to be long enough so that it will cover both sides of the pan. Cut it to fit.
The goal here is to have the two snakes of bread dough sit on the parchment paper. They will rise to three inches high or more, inside the walls created by the jam jars and the side of the pan. You don't want the dough to stick to the jar jars, or get strange indentations from them, so we cover the whole surface in parchment paper. That smooths it out. Otherwise, the dough might rise into cracks between the jars.(Note: since there is nothing holding down the parchment paper at this stage, it will try to slip off. No worries. When the bread lands on it, it will be anchored).
Okay, with your pan ready, it is time to roll out the dough. To do this, you need to roll out the dough on a floured table top. So spread some flour on the clean table. You need a floured surface that is a little wider than your bread pan from side to side, and three times as wide heading away from you. This will give you enough room to roll out the dough.
Take the dough ball, and flatten it with your hands on the floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll it out so that it forms a rectangle. The rectangle's shortest side should be almost as long as your baking pan. The longest side of the rectangle should be two to three times as long as your baking pan. I recommend that you watch the video to see how to do this. Now, you need to roll up the dough so that it becomes a snake or baguette shape. To do that, start at the shortest end of the rectangle ( the one that is almost as big as your baking pan). There are two ends you could choose from, or course. Use the shortest of the two. Turn the dough around so that this shortest end is closest to you, if necessary. Roll the dough away from you using both hands with fingers spread out, so that the roll is even. Roll it all the way to the end. It should now look like a long snake.
Now we just want to make a few adjustments to make it look pretty. All along the snake shape there is a seam. Roll the dough over so that the seam is on the bottom. Next, on each end of the dough, you can probably see where the dough was rolled, with a layer beneath it exposed, like a croissant. Let's cover that up. Gently tug on the top of the exposed end, and pull it over the end of the dough, so that it covers the exposed bits. The dough should be pretty elastic, so this can be done without ripping it. Tuck it in underneath. Do this one both ends. Now there should be no visible folds on the dough, since the seam is on the bottom.
There's one last step before you put it into the pan. One of the reasons baguettes have such a nice look is that some flour has been left on the surface of the dough as it bakes. This causes the surface to turn a golden brown in the exposed parts, while some areas remain more white, since there was flour on the surface. It looks lovely. So, to get that effect, sprinkle a little flour on the tabletop, and roll the dough once across it. One revolution is enough. This will leave a bit of flour dusting on the dough.
Now gently lift the dough snake into the pan, landing on top of the parchment paper on one side of the jam jar divider. The dough should fit, since we rolled it out to be almost as long as the pan.
Do exactly the same thing with the other half of the dough. Roll it out, roll it up, and place it in the pan on the other side.The Second Rise
With both snakes in place on top of the parchment paper, it is time for the second rise. Place a damp cloth towel over top of the whole pan, and leave it to double in size, which should take about an hour. This may all seem like a bother the first time you do it, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes very easy.Baking the Dough
After the hour is done, it is time to bake the bread. The oven needs to be preheated to 425F. Also, place a pan of water into the oven as it is preheating. A steamy oven helps a lot with baguettes. One cup of water is enough.
Once the oven is at temperature, take the towel off the baguettes. One of the keys to a nice looking baguette is making slices across their tops. Doing this takes some practice, so I would suggest trying it on just one of the two baguettes to start. Here's what to do: take a serrated knife, and dip it in water. Stand above the dough with the knife. The idea is to make two or three slices across the dough, but not too deep. The key is to do this *very* quickly. 1-2-3. They should be one to two inches long. If you do them quickly, the knife can't deflate the dough, it will just cut a seam into the outer skin of the dough, which will then open up due to pressure from below. The cuts should be quite shallow. I recommend watching the video for this. Once the cuts are made, give them 60 seconds to expand.
Now place the pan into the steamy oven. When the oven door opens, turn your face away, so it doesn't get burned by the steam. Place the pan inside. Bake at 425F for 22 minutes
After 22 minutes, pull it out. The crust should look golden, and the slices on top have expanded. The bread should sound hollow if you tap on it. Voila! Baguettes at home. GIve the bread ten minutes to rest before you try to eat it - I know waiting is hard! The bread will collapse if you try to cut into it too early.
This bread is wonderful for sandwiches, and is terrific for serving with dinner. It lasts for a few days, and is lovely if reheated for ten minutes in an oven, since that makes it crusty all over again. If you do this often, you may want to invest in a baguette pan, which makes it a bit easier. They can be purchased at places like William Sonomas, and other baking stores.Enjoy!