What better way to celebrate NATIONAL FRENCH BREAD DAY, than to actually make the King of French Bread, the Baguette? Baguettes are to France as Hot Dogs and Apple Pie is to the United States. Every day, you will find French people purchase their baguettes, twice a day. They buy one in the morning and another one upon returning from work. Like warriors with Samurai Swords in their hands or under their arms, they venture through the streets of Paris destined to enjoy their loaf of bread. There are good reasons for this ritual. First, they simply taste so good. And most importantly, French Baguettes have a shelf life of a couple of hours before they dry out and are slated for breadcrumb status, if there are any leftovers.
This ritual is so important that the French government forbids bread bakers in the same neighborhood from going on vacation at the same time, thereby leaving the entire community breadless for the duration.
Having visited Paris, France many times, I can attest to the addictive qualities of this iconic loaf of light, crisp and elegant bread. Traditional French Bread Bakers use a starter that is the descendent of part of dough that was created hundreds of years ago. Sadly, we don’t have that luxury, so I will improvise to produce a loaf that is almost as good.
- ilFornino Wood fired oven with a supply of wood (of course)
- Some heavy-duty heat resistant gloves to handle the hot pot
- A large bowl for mixing the dough, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook.
- A good digital scale for measuring ingredients
- A large pan to place the dough in for the first rise
- Clean kitchen towels to cover during fermentation of the dough
- A bench scraper
- A sharp knife
- A linen towel or couche as the French call it, and a metal tray for separating the baguettes during final resting before being placed in the oven.
- A peel to place, maneuver and retrieve the bread from the oven.
- 2 Measuring cups and spoon for scraping down the mixing bowl
- A small all metal pan for introducing steam into the oven for the duration of the baking cycle.
Ingredients for Baguette:
- 2 kilograms or 70 ounces of bread flour
- 50 grams or 1.8 ounces of sea salt or other non-iodized salt
- 10 grams or 0.35 ounces of instant dry yeast (not active dry yeast)
- 1.2 liters of spring water or 40 ounces at room temperature
Preparation Method of French Bread:
- Divide the water equally into two cups. (20 ounces each)
- Dissolve the salt in one cup and the yeast into the second cup.
- Empty the yeast and water into the mixing bowl.
- Add all the flour into the mixing bowl and set your mixer on low speed.
- As the flour begins to incorporate, add the remaining water around the edges.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl to get all the flour mixed in.
- Mix for 10 minutes.
- Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until a large smooth ball is created.
- Place the ball with the smooth side up into a large floured pan and using a sharp knife cut a large X into the top of the ball extending about 1/3 down the sides.
- Cover with a damp towel and let it rest for 3 hours at room temperature.
- After the first rise, carefully cut the dough ball into 350 gram or 12 and 1/3 ounce pieces.
- Flatten each piece into a small rectangle and roll into a cylinder as you press the heel of your hand as you fold toward you.
- Once closed up, roll the cylinder into approximately 16-inch lengths.
- As you create each baguette, place it on the linen couche that covers a tray. Bunch up the couche/towel so that the loaves do not touch.
- Let the loaves rest covered with a towel for about another hour.
- Fill a small heat resistant pan with water and place it into the oven that is at about 375 degrees.
- After the second rise is complete, and the water is emitting steam in the oven, cut three or four long diagonal slits lightly across the top of each loaf.
- Carefully transfer to a peel and place into your ilFornino oven.
- Close the door and periodically check to see the progress of your loaves.
- It may take 20 minutes. They are done when they are golden brown and offer a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
- Remove and allow for cooling on a wire rack.
At the moment you have rolled the Baguette into its shape, you can roll the top half of the baguette on to a damp terrycloth towel and dip the top half into a variety of seeds, such as sesame or poppy, before placing it in the couche.