Makes 4 baguettes
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ cups bottled water, heated to 110 degrees
2 tablespoons honey
1½ teaspoons salt
2½ teaspoons (one pack) active dry yeast
½ cup starter - optional
Combine 1 cup of flour and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Make a well in the center.
Whisk honey into warm water (100-110 degrees), sprinkle yeast over water and honey mixture and let sit for 3 minutes, until foamy.
Pour yeast/honey mixture into flour and salt mixture and stir to combine. Add flour about a half cup at a time until dough begins to come together, then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until springy and smooth, about 10 minutes. This dough will be slightly sticky and tender.
Lightly oil a bowl. Roll dough into a smooth ball, place top side down in oiled bowl and then flip over so both sides are coated. Cover bowl with saran wrap and a kitchen towel and leave to rise for an hour and a half or until doubled.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface, deflate and knead, about 3 minutes.
Punch dough down and knead 10 times on lightly floured surface. With a bench scraper cut dough into four equal pieces. Cover with saran and let rest 10 minutes. Shape each piece of dough into a rectangle. Roll like a jelly roll, very tightly, placing a bead of water on the back edge and pinching to seal. This takes a little practice, but your final loaf should be about 1 to 1 and ½ inches in diameter, very tight, and about 12 inches long.
Place on pizza peel covered with cornmeal or in a baguette pan or on a cookie sheet or half sheet pan lined with foil and sprinkled with corn meal and cover with kitchen towel and let rest 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
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Uncover baguettes and with a razor or serrated knife, make five slices 1/3 of the way through the dough on each baguette. Bake for 25 – 35 minutes, or until golden brown, and internal temperature is between 190-210 degrees.
Keys to this bread’s success:
LOTS OF KNEADING. This bread is all about gluten development so go to town! Knead until you are sweating. Let it rest, covered, and go again. Maybe even a third time!
High heat cooking. We have slowly but surely come to accept that this bread bakes best between 400 and 450 degrees.
Make and eat – this crusty style baguette is not meant for long time shelf life. Eat the day it’s made, or wrap well, freeze and reheat in either a very low oven (250 wrapped in foil for 35 minutes) or a very hot oven, 400, wrapped in foil 10 minutes.
Things that can make interesting changes: adding 2 teaspoons Vital Wheat Gluten will help keep this more pliable and, shelf stable for up to 2 days.
Change 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with rye or wheat. Add seeds or nuts to dough (not to top of this bread as the high cooking temperature will scorch them).
Make an overnight starter with 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon yeast. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Add remaining yeast, flour, water and honey, and salt, the next day to make your dough. You are the master of YOUR bread kitchen! Take notes and have fun!
Tools to have on hand for great results with bread baking:
Instant read thermometer
Glass measuring cups
Standard set of metal measuring spoons (use the same ones each time you bake)
Your own bread-baking notebook
Stoneware or pottery bowl
Bowl cover or kitchen towel designated for bread baking
Baguette baking pans (optional)
Bread basket for rising (optional)
A good serrated knife
Lots of room temperature salted butter (um, for eating with the bread of course…)
Cooking In A Dutch Oven:
Shape dough into a round.
Sprinkle ¼ cup corn meal into the bottom of a 4 or 6 qt. Dutch oven. Set dough on top of corn meal, cover (I just put the lid on the pan) and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Uncover and using a sharp knife make a few slashes in the top of the loaf.
Add lid back to pan and place in a cold oven.
Turn oven on 450 and bake 45 – 55 minutes with the lid on, check final temp after 45-50 minutes cooking (you want an internal temperature of 190-210- any reading in that range is fine.)