French Baguette

June 4, 2007



To make chewy French bread with big bubbles you need two things: high moisture content and good sea salt. Use a high-gluten, hard-wheat, bread flour like King Arthur. The dough will be very soupy. You can knead it by hand, but it’s far easier to use an electric mixer with a dough hook. Your loaves will have a fuller, higher profile, if you bake the dough in a shallow baguette pan, although you can bake it on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal. This is not exactly like bread you can buy fresh anywhere in France every four hours, but it’s close. And life will be the better for it. SAM

1 cup warm water
2 cups unbleached, high-gluten, bread flour
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, stir together the water, flour, yeast, and salt until just mixed. The dough will be very thin. Let it rest for 5 minutes, so the molecules can combine. Knead on low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl in rope-like strands, about 15 minutes. It will still be very sticky. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. When the top collapses slightly, turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Cut in half, and roll each half into a snake the length of a lightly greased double baguette pan. Lift each snake gently into the pan. Cover with a thin dishtowel and let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

With a razor or very sharp knife, make three slashes across the top of each loaf, just breaking the surface. Mist the loaves with water and place in the oven, misting the oven before you close the door. Lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, misting occasionally, until baguettes are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 2 baguettes.

NOTE: You might want to check the bread at 40 minutes. Some ovens cook faster than others. See Harold’s comment.