Damn, I love making bread. Just that smell and the first slice with a little bit of salty butter is just like no other. Although, I have never attempted to make baguettes until this week it’s something that I have briefly thought of attempting. After seeing last weeks episode of the GBBO it was a tie between making some soda bread (which is such a common thing in Ireland that it just seemed unappealing to make as a challenge) or baguettes because I was definitely not going to attempt to make a bread sculpture….did you see that lion?!!
Anyway, I gave this challenge two goes…I don’t think that’s cheating?! The first attempt was the recipe from my Paul Hollywood how to bake book, which I didn’t find to be too successful for shape. On my second try I used his recipe on the great british bake off website which was slightly different and I found it worked better. This is actually a really easy recipe for something I thought could be quite tricky. The only difficult thing about it would be the shaping of the rolls, I didn’t want to handle them too much and push out the air so I was ok with them being a bit wonky but having some great texture inside.
These were just so tasty with some garlic butter or even plain butter smeared on top. A great treat with some full bodied red wine….my kind of combination.
Recipe makes 4 small baguettes
olive oil for greasing
500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g instant yeast
370ml cool water
Prepare your container for letting the dough rise, oil a 2/3 litre square container. This is supposed to give the dough a better shape.
Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add three-quarters of the water and begin mixing on a slow speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water, then continue to mix on a medium speed for 5-7 minutes, until you have a glossy, elastic dough.
Tip the dough into the prepared tub. Cover and leave for 1 hour until at least doubled in size.
Dust a linen couche or a clean tea cloth (which is what I used) with flour and lightly dust the work surface with flour.
Carefully tip the dough onto the work surface. Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you can keep as much air in the dough as possible. This helps to create the irregular, airy texture of a really good baguette. The dough will be wet to the touch but still lively.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces, you should have approx 210g in each ball. Shape each piece into an oblong by flattening the dough out slightly and folding the sides into the middle. Then roll each up into a sausage – the top should be smooth with the join running along the length of the base. Now, beginning in the middle, roll each sausage with your hands. Don’t force it out by pressing heavily. Concentrate on the backwards and forwards movement and gently use the weight of your arms to roll out the dough to 30cm long or as long as your oven will permit.
Lay a baguette along the egde of the linen couche and pleat the couche up against the edge of the baguette. Place another baguette next to the pleats. Repeat the process until all 4 baguettes are lined up against each other with pleated couche in between each. Cover the baguettes with a clean tea towel and leave for 1 hour, until the dough has at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger.
Preheat the oven to 240C/fan 220C/gas 9 and put a roasting tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up.
When the baguettes are risen, you need to transport them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. To do this, I simply let them roll off the material onto the baking sheet, it shouldn’t be difficult if everything is floured and non sticky. Dust them lightly with flour, then slash each one 3/4 times along its length on the diagonal, using a razor blade or a very sharp knife.
Fill the roasting tray with hot water to create steam and put the bread into the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the baguettes are golden brown and have a slight sheen. Cool on a wire rack.
Try not to eat them all in one go while still piping hot…..that is the real challenge here.