Happy Friday bakers! I’ve got a trip down memory lane (for me, at least) to get you baking this weekend. It’s the golden crusted, light textured French Baguette!
Why is it a trip down memory lane, I hear you ask? Well, I’ll let you in on a secret, I spent my early childhood living and going to school in France! I’m sure that’s partially where my love for all things baked comes from, that and my Grandad’s sweet tooth! I was lucky enough to live next to a village with the most adorable patisserie and boulangerie. When I went back there last year I took a photo so you guys can see it too. This little place, and my beginnings in France, are why the French baguette means something to me. That, and the fact that it’s so moreish one taste and it’s gone! If you love the fluffiness and crust of the baguette, you’ll love this Pesto Swirl Bread and Pain de Mie too!
This recipe is from the BBC Good Food website, find the ingredients list here. It was surprisingly simple to make, although there is definitely a knack to handling such a wet dough!
This bread is so easy for you to get started on, you could do it before the school run/popping to the shop as it’ll only take a few minutes. You simple add all your dry ingredients to a bowl plus the oil and most of the water, being sure to keep the salt and yeast at separate sides. You do this because if they mix now then the salt can interfere with the yeast. End result? Not much of a rise, and no one wants a stodgy baguette.
Using a mixer with a dough hook attached, start to combine your ingredients. As you do this, pour in the last bit of water. At this point I panicked. My dough was SO wet it didn’t look like any bread I’d made before (I know that’s not a lot, but I’ve made a few this month!). After a frantic Google search I discovered French Baguette dough is a hydrated dough which means it’s meant to be wet. That’s also why you need to use a mixer for this bread, it’s too sticky too knead.
Once your dough is combined, pop it into a greased tub, cover, and leave to proof for two hours. The recipe has a fab tip for this… the square box. It means the dough takes on that shape as it grows, making it much easier to get rectangles to start your baguette shaping with.
Now it’s proofed, you can flip it out of the box onto an oiled worktop. The dough is still really sticky so make sure you don’t forget to prep your surface or you could be in trouble. I floured my hands, too. Cut the square in half to form two rectangular pieces of dough, these will become your two baguettes. At this point the recipe told me to knock back the dough. I didn’t. Knocking it back would surely take out some of those air bubbles the yeast had worked hard to put in, and French Baguettes are supposed to be light and holey. So I skipped that step and was none the worse for it.
The next thing you have to do is pull the ends of your dough pieces outwards, stretching them to build up the gluten, and fold them back into the middle. In the picture only the bottom piece has had this done.
Seam side down, roll the dough between your hands (as you did for the salted caramel pretzels here) into long baguette shapes. They can be as long/thin as you like, just don’t go too thin and make bread sticks by mistake!
Cover the baguettes again and proof until doubled in size. When you’re almost there, get your oven hot. Lots of bread recipes recommend splashing water in to create steam, but this recipe goes one step further. You put a hot baking dish of water in the oven with the bread so steam is made throughout the bake which is what makes your French Baguette crust so good. I really wouldn’t miss this step out, it’s not there as a flouncy addition it really does help!
If mine is anything to go by, you’ll smell this gorgeous bread coming. Once it’s done, allow it to cool and then slice up and serve. The recipe suggests serving it with various cheeses. I know when I eat it in France in the summer I love to slather on Boursin garlic cheese, but today I settled for Malteser spread. It’s a hard life, isn’t it?
Did this dough turn out sloppy for you? Did you get bigger air bubbles than mine? Please comment, tweet, Facebook or Instagram me your own creations. I love seeing your bakes and any feedback is welcome.
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