I started baking bread a few years ago & have become hooked. It’s amazing how small changes in ingredients, technique and even weather can effect the finished product. This recipe yields 3-4 loaves depending on how you divide the dough. Leftover bread can be frozen for breadcrumbs and day-old Baguettes can be used for french toast!
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
Cornmeal, for dusting
Egg or Milk, for brushing
In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water; stir to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the salt. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until most of the flour has been incorporated and the dough forms a ball. Continue to mix at the lowest speed until the dough has become a sticky ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl; about 4 to 5 minutes.
Dust the counter lightly with flour. Knead the dough by hand for a minute and form into a ball. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm spot for 2 hours to rise.
To form the baguettes: Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Press each piece of dough into a rectangle and fold the long sides up into the middle. Roll each into a log, taking care to close the seam. Taper the ends by gently rolling it back and forth. Lay the dough on a perforated baguette pan (or a sheet pan that is dusted with cornmeal) and cover with a towel. Let the baguettes rise for another 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
With a lame (bread slashing tool) or a very sharp knife, make 4 or 5 diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Brush the tops of the loaves with egg (or milk). Bake for 40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Mark Bittman from the New York Times had this recipe on his blog quite a while ago. Being a fan of homemade bread (mainly french baguettes) I had to give it a shot. It’s definitely worth the time to make this bread & a cast iron dutch oven is pretty much required…
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.