I made Mireille Guilian’s French Baguettes (a previous post). I’ve never baked from scratch. Every cake, cookie, brownie or muffin I’ve ever made has come in a cardboard box. So this was my first bread making experience. The first ingredient I opened was the active dry yeast and I was not ready for the pungent smell that it had. I was just hoping that the smell would not linger on my baguettes. The process of mixing was attempted by my hand mixer. The dough was becoming thick and the harder the mixer worked the harder the dough fought back, then the mixer popped like a light bulb and stopped working. Next step, kneading. Kneading is not as easy as it seems on cooking shows. I wanted to take pictures of the process. Yeah Right! It was so sticky I couldn’t get it off my fingers and I was becoming frustrated. So, after kneading, the directions said to let it sit for an hour but for some reason I read, “refrigerate” for an hour. Needless to say the dough rising process never happened but I tried to shape the dough into breads anyway. I ended up making 4 different sized baguettes that looked more like calzones.
Today, I’m giving this bread baking thing a second try.
Growing up there were always 2 types of bread in our house. Our week bread, which was slice bread one buys in the supermarket and our weekend bread. On Saturday and Sunday it was fresh Italian bread or French baguettes. The bakery was about 15 city blocks away so my father would take his bicycle, very French of him, but we lived in New York City. Once he arrived with the fresh bread we would devour it. I would use my hands instead of a knife and so would my mother. We loved the crispy, crunchiness and smell and I would dip it in coffee like my father. Throughout the day I would grab pieces of dough, leaving the outer crust intact. When my parents went to get a piece all they got was a hollow crusted bread. I was scolded almost every weekend. Now a days I use a knife and add some butter, that’s all it needs.
Here is an easy Baguette recipe from “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano.
BAGUETTES (makes 4)
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 cups warm water
- 4 to 5 unbleached all purpose white flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 egg, beaten and mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
- In a small bowl dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Stir with fork. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Combine the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water. Mix the dough until it is sticky enough to knead. On a lightly floured board, knead for 6 to 10 minutes. The dough should be sticky and smooth. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and let rise at room temperature until double in volume, about1 hour.
- Punch down the dough and divide into 4 pieces. Roll each into a ball and shape into a baguette. Transfer the loaves to a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise until nearly doubled.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush the baguettes with egg water mixture. Score the loaves diagonally across the top with a sharp knife
- Pour 2 cups of hot water into a pan and place in the preheated oven next to the baguettes to provide moisture. Bake the baguettes for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 400 degrees and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until golden br0wn. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before slicing.