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Baking French Baguettes

December 13, 2012

Fresh warm baguettes

A batch of warm, crusty French baguettes just out of the oven.

I love a good French baguette — crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside, with a pat of cold unsalted butter.  I’m trying my hand at making my own.  Using just five ingredients — water, yeast, sugar, flour, salt — the process is amazingly simple, and the results are divine.

the dough process

Classic French Baguettes

1 cup lukewarm water

2 teaspoons yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1.  Put water into a large mixing bowl; sprinkle in the yeast and gently stir.  Cover the bowl with a cloth and let the yeast rise for 5 minutes.

2.  Mix the sugar, flour and salt into the yeast mixture.  Blend thoroughly.  Knead on a lightly floured surface, then cover with towel and let rise 10 minutes.

3.  After 10 minutes, knead again, cover and allow to rise another 10 minutes.

4.  Punch down the dough, cover, and let rise for about 30 minutes.

5.  Divide the dough in two, cover, and let rest for 20 minutes.

(Note:  If you have a bread machine, the steps 1-5 above can all be done using the “dough” setting, which takes approx. 90 minutes. This works equally well.)

6.  With a rolling pin, roll out each of the two lumps of dough on a lightly floured surface into approx. 9″ X 12″ rectangles.  Roll each lenghtwise into a tight roll, tapering ends to a point.  Press the dough firmly along the rolled edge to seal.  Put loaves onto baking pan, cut 3 or 4 diagonal slashes along the top. Cover with a towel, and let rise 20 – 25 minutes.

7.  Just prior to baking, brush loaves with a wash of 1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water.  This creates the crusty top.

8. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned.  (If you’ve rolled very thin baguettes, they will require less baking time.)

warm baguettes with butter
Warm, crusty baguettes with cold unsalted butter … absolute contentment!
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