Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baking Homemade Baguettes

One of the most comforting foods in autumn and winter is fresh homemade bread. French
Baguettes to be exact. Crusty on the outside, light and airy on the inside, warm out of
the oven...there's just not one bad thing about that no matter how you look at it!

I don't often write about food on my blog, but today when I decided to make baguettes,
I had the idea to take some photos along the way so I could share with you how it's done, 
or at least how I do it. 

I love to bake. I enjoy cooking, yes, but I come from a family of women who bake. 
You've got a baby shower, wedding, or funeral, you say? We bake.
I couldn't tell you how to use a bread machine, or how to make those popular fancy 
cupcakes with elaborate decorative icing designs, but I have the world's best recipes for 
kiffles, nut bread, cakes, and pies. 

Baguettes have a crispy crust and light interior, and are the perfect accompaniment for
winter soups and stews. The also make great sub sandwiches.  My favorite way to 
enjoy them though, is simply warm out of the oven with butter. 

There are plenty of baguette recipes to be found in cookbooks and across the internet, but
I have found that the basic recipe for baguettes does not have too many variations. Most
baguette recipes are very similar. I will often try a few different recipes until I find one that 
I like, and then adjust it here and there to suit my tastes. 

The basic ingredients for baguettes are flour, salt, dry yeast, and water. 

I also like to sprinkle a little bit of sea salt or course salt onto my baguettes right before
I pop them into the oven.

French Baguettes

One package of active dry yeast (about 2 & 1/2 teaspoons)
1 & 1/4 cups of warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 & 1/2 cups flour
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt 

1. In a measuring cup, stir the yeast into the warm water until completely dissolved.
Add the sugar and stir. Set aside for five minutes to allow the yeast to activate. 

2. Mix flour and salt in a mixing bowl and create a well in the center of the flour.

3. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour.

4. Gently stir the flour into the liquid (just a few times) to create a paste. Cover and allow to
rise/activate for 15 minutes. 

5. Mix thoroughly (I use an electric mixer) until a sticky soft dough is formed. Add additional 
water (a few Tablespoons) while mixing if needed. 

6. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover and allow to rise for 90 minutes. 

7. Punch down, then cover again and allow to rise for another hour. 

8. Place dough on a floured surface and slice into two pieces. Gently shape into two loaves. 

9. Place loaves on a lightly floured baking sheet. 

10. Cover the loaves and allow them to rise for about 45 minutes. 

11. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. 

12. Place a pan of water on a lower over rack. The steam from the water will 
help the baguettes form a crispy crust.

13. Before baking, slash the tops of the loaves with a knife. I sprinkle my loaves with
a little bit of sea salt before baking them. This is optional.

14. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. 

15. Remove from baking pan and cool on a wire rack.

These loaves turned out a little bigger than I would have liked. I probably should have 
made them into three loaves instead of two! Maybe next time I will try that instead. 
Either way, they were delicious! 

What do you think?

I hope you have a great week! 

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