French Loaf


Baguette is my favorite bread, and I think the ability to make one it is among the greatest tests of a culinary professional – along with macarons and omlettes and lemon curd.  None of these are difficult to make, but they can be difficult to do well.  I love baguette . . . and my wife REALLY loves baguette.  The best baguettes are evenly shaped with tight rolled dough that blossoms under high heat and moisture.  The thick crust shatters when you bite into it to reveal a pillowy crumb.  Some might say that the following is not a classic baguette recipe, however it is more accessible for the home cook working without baguette pans or a bread oven.   We’ll call it a French Loaf.

French Loaf
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup water, between 90 and 105F
  2. 1 tablespoon yeast
  3. 2 teaspoons salt
  4. 2-3 cups bread flour
Instructions
  1. Dissolve yeast in water until it forms a heady foam.
  2. Add the liquid to 1/2 cup of flour and whisk together until smooth.
  3. Allow to rest (autolyse) for about twenty minutes. For more pronounced flavor, rest overnight in the fridge.
  4. Mix with the rest of the flour and the salt for about ten minutes. The dough needs to be smooth, gentle, and just barely sticky.
  5. To shape the loaf, spread the dough out into a rectangular shape. The dough should pull back slightly with each spread, but not enough to require extra force.
  6. Take the upper corners, fold them over, and pinch them tightly into the body of the rectangle.
  7. With the side of your hand roll the top of the dough down tightly and press firmly to seal this together with the body. Continue this until you have about two rolls worth of dough remaining in the rectangle, then work your way up in the same fashion.
  8. When you are nearly there you will have a loose hexagram of dough. Pull the two ends together and pinch the dough firmly into a smooth seamless form.
  9. Then roll the presentation side upward and tuck the edges under to form a smooth round.
  10. Let this rise until doubled and score with a very sharp, or serrated, knife.
  11. Bake at 400F until crusty and dark.
Notes
  1. If you happen to have a pizza stone at home, it helps bake an even, crispy crust. Also, spraying the bread and stone with water after about five minutes helps recreate the steaminess of a bread oven. The most important part of the bread baking cycle is to let the bread rest. This is also the most commonly disobeyed rule, because no one can resist hot, steamy, fresh bread. Nonetheless, let it rest until warm before you enjoy.
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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