When I saw this post from Megan at Country Cleaver, I felt some inspiration. It’s been a while since I’ve baked my own bread, mainly because it takes a lonnnnng time. This is because magical things happen when you make bread. Bubbles, fizzles, squeaks and pops are all signs that your working with a live organism, and when it’s finally done and everything has worked out as it should have, the result is quite majestic! Case in point: I wanted to make baguettes, but my recipe called for a small piece of dough to make the starter. I wasn’t about to just make a dough so I could snag a bite-sized piece from it, so I made a focaccia bread dough which is a little less time consuming. I took the piece I needed for the baguette starter and continued with the focaccia which you’ll see in a future post… maybe. It didn’t turn out as well as I hoped, even though it tasted amazing.
Baking your own bread isn’t really all that labor intensive, but if you don’t think ahead things can get messed up really quickly. If the recipe calls for the dough to be punched down in two hours, you better be there to get it done. If you leave a dough to keep rising, it’ll just reach a high point and then collapse and no amount of prayers or Googling will bring it back. I started these two french baguettes recipe mixes on Saturday morning and they finally hit the oven around lunchtime on Sunday. I also made my baguettes into mini’s because I don’t have a commercial baking oven in my kitchen or traditional baguette pans, or steam. All I have is my KitchenAid and my hands (with the help of some other little hands in the picture). So don’t get all crazy if you make bread and it doesn’t look like the gorgeous La Brea baguette you always buy. Commercial bakeries have all the gadgets, but baking at home will require some extra thinking in the head department!
There’s very little chance that you’ll throw bread in the trash no matter how it turns out, because fresh bread with some cheese or olive oil is really hard to top. If you have the time and the patience to make some bread I would totally encourage you to try it. Check out my no knead bread and kalamata olive bread posts. These are great recipes to start with and practically fool proof! They’re also from my early days of blogging so the pictures are a little sketchy- yikes! Once you master the basic recipe, you’ll be adding all sorts of crazy things like cheese and herbs or some chunky grains or seeds.
French Baguettes, from Baking with Julia:
First Stage Starter–
A 1 1/2 ounce piece of fully risen white dough
1/4 cup warm water, about 110 degrees F
2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
Cut the dough into small pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the water and let the dough soften for about five minutes.
Add the flour and mix by hand until all of the flour has been absorbed by the water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for eight hours in a warm place, between 80-85 degrees F.
Second Stage Starter–
The first stage starter from above
1/4 cup warm water, 110 degrees F
3/4 cup unbleached al purpose flour
Cut the first stage starter into four and transfer back into the bowl it cam from. Add the water and let sit for five minutes. Finally add the flour and mix until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for four hours.
After four hours, chill the starter for an hour in the fridge.
The Final Dough-
1 1/4 cups cool water, 78 degrees F
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
The second stage starter
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
Put the water into the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast on top and mix with a wooden spoon. Deflate the second stage starter and tear it into pieces adding it to the bowl. Let it sit for five minutes.
Add the flour and mix on low just until the dough has been absorbed by the water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Next add the salt by sprinkling it over the dough as it spins on low speed. Mix for five minutes. Transfer the dough to a bowl which has been rubbed with some olive oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (80-85 F) for about 1 1/2 hours. Next take the dough from the bowl and cut it into six ounce pieces, you should have six pieces of dough. Take a clean dish cloth and sprinkle it generously with flour. Create little channels on the towel so that the baguettes can rest their.
Take each piece of dough and gently roll it into a sausage shape, tapering the ends. Lift and place on the dish cloth seam side up. Do this until you have all six mini baguettes laying on the dish cloth.
Cover with another cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
Baking The Bread–
Set the oven to 470 degrees. Place a small sauce pan in the bottom of the oven. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and sprinkle with a little cornmeal. Gently lift a baguette and transfer it to the baking tray laying with the seam side down this time, you should get three baguettes on at a time.
Spray with a little water from a spray bottle or just sprinkle some on with your hands. Using a sharp knife, make 4-5 slashes across the baguette Place the tray into the oven and quickly spray the heated sauce pan with some water. Don’t let any steam escape if you can help it!
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and repeat with the other three loaves.