Tuesday, March 29, 2011

French Bread (Baguettes)

Unfortunately, I didn't even think about taking photos the first day of class.  I was just too excited to remember that I have a camera on my cell phone!  The first day was mainly focused on Bread. I will be posting each bread recipe separately as some take longer than others.  Plus, it will be easier to find later!

The first recipe is from On Cooking (page 980), the culinary textbook used as a reference by the Research Chefs Association.  We halved the recipe in class and made 3 beautiful baguettes.  The dough may be used to make baguettes, rolls, or french bread.  We used a baguette pan to bake our loaves, but they may also be baked free form.  The pans are fairly inexpensive and can be found online for around $20.  This is what a baguette pan looks like:
The French Bread Pan looks similar, but has wider valleys to accommodate the larger bread loaf (only 2 per pan instead of 3).  If you don't have one of these pans, you can use a floured kitchen towel on a sheet pan to help maintain shape and prevent the dough from spreading out while rising.  See the YouTube Video at the bottom of the post that details how to shape a Baguette for an illustration of this technique.

The trick to this bread is baking in a moist oven.  Fill an 8"x8" pan with boiling water and place it in the bottom of the oven while baking the bread.  This will help your crust to develop that wonderful crunchy texture found on artisan breads.  You could also open the door to the oven and mist the floor and sides of the oven with a spray bottle every 5 minutes or so-- but who has time for that?!  I don't want to be glued to my oven door. :-)

French Bread
1 quart (32 oz.) warm water (about 110°F)
1 oz. active dry yeast
3 lbs. 12 oz. Bread Flour
1 oz. salt

1.  Combine water and yeast in the mixing bowl of a large capacity stand mixer.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix on low speed with dough hook until all the flour is incorporated.

2.  Increase speed of mixer to medium low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

3.  Let the dough rise until doubled.  Punch down, divide, shape and slash as desired*.  Let rise again until doubled.  Preheat oven to 400°F.

4.  Place pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven to generate steam while the dough cooks.

5.  Bake at 400°F until the crust is well developed and golden brown and the bread is baked through, approximately 12 minutes for rolls and 30 minutes for small loaves.  Larger loaves will take a bit longer-- up to 45 minutes.

*Shaping dough: one recipe of dough may be used for: 4 loaves french bread, 6 loaves baguettes, several rolls (pinch off dough into golf-ball sized balls and place on a greased sheet pan).  Use a very sharp blade when slashing the dough. 

There are several YouTube videos on shaping Baguettes.  This one was a good one:

Hope you enjoy that fresh baked bread smell!

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