Bill's Home Baguettes

"The wonderful and somewhat miraculous thing about bread is that in its purest form it contains just four ingredients: wheat, yeast, water, and salt. These baguettes, made in a food processor, are surprisingly easy to make at home -- and no kneading! They will profit from some minimal equipment such as a pizza or baking stone and a peel to slide the loaves into the oven. But if you’re not ready to commit you can substitute a few dollar ceramic tiles from your home center for the stone and a cookie sheet for the peel. The one thing I recommend more than anything else for baking bread is an inexpensive kitchen scale (you can get one online for as little as $11), as flour are salt are notoriously difficult to accurately measure by volume. (And once you have your scale, you’ll find all kind of uses for it.) But in case you don’t have or want one, I’ve included approximate volume equivalents.

 

Baguettes are best eaten the day they are baked, but freeze well when sealed in a freezer bag."

Ingredients

500 g (approx. 4-1/8 cups when measured by the “scoop and sweep” method) all-purpose flour
340 g (12 ounces) ice-cold water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
10 g salt (approx. 2 level teaspoons of coarse kosher salt)

Flour for dusting peel (rice flour best, but optional)

Directions

  1. Thoroughly mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water and mix until uniform. Transfer to a food processor and allow to rest, covered (a process called "autolyse") for about 15 minutes.

  2. Process for about 45 seconds, until a ball forms and starts flying around the processor bowl. (If you don’t have a food processor, knead by hand for 8-10 minutes.)

  3. Return the dough to the bowl you started with and cover tightly with oil-misted plastic wrap. The dough will seem a little sticky and wet and – this is normal, and is what gives you those nice air holes.

  4. Allow to rise (or in bread-speak, “ferment”) at cool room temperature (68 degrees is ideal) for about 2-1/2 hours. Two hours into the rise, place your baking stone or tiles on the oven’s middle shelf. Place an old sheet pan or frying pan on the bottom shelf. Preheat oven to its highest setting, usually 500-550 degrees F.

  5. After 2-1/2  hours divide dough into 4 equal pieces on a lightly floured countertop.

  6. Form each into a 3x5 inch rectangle, then grab the short ends and fold down into thirds, as folding a letter to go into an envelope. Then fold once more, in half, and tightly seal the seam with the side of your hand.

  7. Roll out the cylinders using a rocking motion with your hands to a length of about 12 inches. (Remember, the loaves have to fit on your stone.) Take a piece of parchment paper or wax paper and place the bread between folds to hold the loaf shapes. Support at both ends. Cover with oil-misted plastic wrap and allow to rise about 30 minutes.

  8. Score loaves down the middle, using a bold stroke with a single-edged razor held at a 30-degree angle. Generously sprinkle a wooden baking peel or the back of a cookie sheet with flour (rice flour is best) Transfer loaves to a peel, and then to the stone with a quick jerking motion. Pour 1 cup water into the pan in the oven, taking care to protect your hand. If queasy about that, toss in the same amount of ice cubes instead.

  9. Reduce heat to 475 and bake until loaves are golden brown, about 25 minutes, or, if you have an instant-read thermometer, until center of loaf registers 210 F. Cool on a rack for at least an hour before eating.

 

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