Baguettes

I have being going through a bread making phase lately. I recently bought Paul Hollywood’s “How to Bake” and have been making a different bread everyday. No low carb diets in my house anyway. Before I had always found that when I made yeast bread it never turned out right so I decided to start at the very beginning and make  a plain white Cobb, I followed the recipe and steps exactly – the result a delicious white loaf of bread. Next day I advanced on to brown bread. Again the result was  good well texture wise anyway, it was a little salty to taste but that’s easily corrected. I now felt I was ready to advance to a seed bread which contained a combination of rye, wholewheat and strong white flour. This time my loaf was not a success it was heavy and stodgy. I reviewed what I did wrong and I think I came up with my problem, you NEED to knead. For the previous two breads I had kneaded them for 5-10 minutes for the third loaf I had become more relaxed an kneaded for about 3 minutes. So it was back to basics I made the white Cobb again just to prove I still had my bread making mojo. Then I advanced to a spelt bread which was really tasty despite sticking to the parchment case used to line the tin. Then today I stepped a little outside my comfort zone and made baguettes. I was a little nervous about this their is something daunting about the long thin loaf. I was wrong though the hardest part making these was not eating all 6 as soon as they came out of the oven they smell so good. 

This recipe for the classic french loaf coincides with the 100th birthday of the women who made French cooking famous outside France, Julia Child

Baguette Recipe adapted from Paul Hollywoods How to Bake 

This dough is a lot wetter than most other dough so don’t be tempted to add more flour

500g of strong bread flour

7g of salt

7g sachet of instant yeast

370ml of water

olive oil for kneading

Lightly oil a rectangle or square container. (The shape of the tub is important as it plays a role in shaping the baguettes.)

Put the flour in a bowl. Put the yeast to one side and the salt to another side of the bowl (the salt can kill the yeast if it comes in direct contact with it). Add three quarters of the water to begin with and using a wooden spoon mix it vigorously ad the dough comes together add the rest of the water. Now using your hand shaped in a claw position combine all the flour and water. Keeping it in the bowl knead it, pull and mix it. I oiled my hands with the olive oil to prevent to much sticking. Work with the dough for about seven minutes. It is a little tedious but keep at it. Tip the dough into the square container and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise for about 1 hour or until double in size.

Coat the work top with oil and tip the dough out on it. Handle it carefully you want to keep as much air as possible in it.

Divide the dough into 5-6 pieces.  (Shape each into an oblong by flattening the dough out slightly and and folding the sides into the middle. Then roll each into a sausage – the top should be smooth with a joint running along the bottom. Now beginning in the middle roll each sausage out with your hands. Don’t force it out by pressing heavly. Concentrate on a backwards forward movement and gently use the weight of your hands to roll out the dough to the length of the tray. ) I couldn’t do this instead I dipped each piece of dough into flour and gently rolled it out to a baguette shape.

Lightly flour two baking trays  Place 2-3 baguettes on tray. Place each tray inside a clean plastic bag tucking the edges under the tray. Leave for about one hour until the the dough has doubled in size and springs back when likely prodded. Meanwhile heat your oven to 220C and put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up.

When your baguettes have risen and are light dust them with a little flour adn slash them with a very sharp knife. Fill the roasting tray in the oven with water to achieve a steamy oven that creates a crispy crust (essential) bake for 25 minutes or until the baguettes are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and try not to eat straight away. 

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