Love Letter to Baguette


“A finished baguette should have a rich, russet crust, crackling and fragrant- don’t underestimate the virtue of a bold bake.”

– Jeffrey Hamelman 

People often ask me why I chose to specialize in pastry instead of savory cooking.  My answer?  Baguette.   I may spend a lot of time designing elaborate and unusual plated desserts, but I truly believe that there is nothing more elegant than classic, rustic, hand-made bread.  With a few simple ingredients and techniques a Baker (pun intended) can create an amazing sensory experience.  Bread reacts greatly to minimal changes in temperature, humidity, and ingredients, making it even more demanding and precise than delicate pastries.  I previously established that I love baguette; now I offer my new favorite recipe for that classic loaf.

Baguette
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Ingredients
  1. 1 kilogram unbleached bread flour
  2. 715 grams water
  3. 22 grams salt
  4. 9 grams instant yeast
Instructions
  1. Combine the flour and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and gently fold together until hydrated.
  2. Allow to sit for 20 minutes undisturbed.
  3. Fold once more and add the salt and yeast separate from each other.
  4. Using a dough hook attachment, mix at medium speed for 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky when touched.
  5. Remove from the bowl and place in a lightly greased container and cover with cloth.
  6. Allow to sit for an hour, then fold the dough onto itself until you have make the bottom of the dough the top inside the bowl.
  7. Repeat this process again.
  8. Portion this dough gently into 375 gram masses and round them so they have a smooth, even surface.
  9. Cover again with the cloth and let rest for 15 minutes to relax the dough.
  10. Shape the dough into baguettes and allow to proof for 40 minutes at room temperature. The baguettes should be bloated and firm, but yield to the touch.
  11. Score with a sharp knife along the crest of the bread to allow for expansion.
  12. Finally, bake this bread in a 475F oven with initial steam, for about 30 minutes. If you don't have a steam injected oven, simply spray the bread with water using a squirt bottle. Spray the sides of the oven or use ice cubes to create more steam.
  13. Let the bread darken significantly; if you remove it from the oven when it is golden-brown it will grow limp and tough after it has cooled. Darker bread will equate to a better crust and much more developed flavor.
  14. Allow to cool at room temperature at least 10 minutes before using.
Notes
  1. Serve fresh, as this bread will go stale after a day.
Joe the Baker http://www.joe-the-baker.com/

About Joe the Baker

Joe the Baker is a classically-trained pastry chef who specializes in French macarons and viennoiserie. He currently sells his delicious confections online, at the Coppell Farmers Market, and at DFW-area gourmet grocers.

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