FRENCH BREAD / BAGUETTES
Ingredients (Makes 2)
French Bread / Baguettes Makes 2
250g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
5-7g instant yeast
175ml cool water
Olive oil for kneading
Preparation Time 3hr including proving
Cooking Time 25min
Oven Temperature 220c
The art of making a good French Baguette is time and good quality bread flour. Professional bakers will allow for a slow prove and some leave the first prove for many hours and even overnight to allow the dough to fully mature and build flavour. However, many of us don’t want to wait so reduce this time to a minimum and while a shorter proving time works fine the full flavour is sometimes lost.
Whatever your preference I use an instant yeast, not live as I don’t bake every day and I would probably waste more live yeast than use.
Note: A basic rule of thumb, if using live yeast use twice as much has instant yeast
Baguettes are made in the same way as bread however they are shaped and proved in a different way
Sift the flour into a large bowl
Add the salt add an easy blend yeast. at this stage keep the two on either side of the bowl. Although salt adds taste it also kills the yeast.
Add to the cold water the sugar and mix until dissolved. The sugar helps feed the yeast and helps to activate it.
Pour the water mixture into the flour and mix first with a wooden spoon before taking over with your hand.
Mix the ingredients well together until it has formed a dough then remove from the bowl and place onto a floured surface.
Knead the dough for 5-8 minutes adding a little extra flour if needed. The dough should become silky smooth.
Kneading: Stretch the dough, pull back into a ball turn and repeat. Do this for a couple of minutes until the dough is small and silky. If you start to feel resistance in the knead, stop, it is done. Do not over knead, this as this can make the bread tight and do not under do this part because you will need the dough to become.
The biggest mistake made by people making bread for the first time is to over knead the dough.
Replace the dough into a clean bowl and cover with click film. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This will take 1 ½-2 hours depending on the temperature. Leave longer if time isn’t an issue.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knock back the dough and knead it for a further few minutes. i.e. push the air out, form and shape. If you use the dough and bake it like it is at this stage you will have air holes inside the finished bread.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each piece out like a sausage with each end slightly thinner than the middle. Now lightly dust all over with flour.
Use a clean tea towel or baguette proving towel to hold the baguette in shape. Basically, you pukka-up the towel one end place the baguette onto the towel and then fold the towel tightly to the side and then repeat the process for the second baguette.
A baguette proving cloth or as it should be known a baker’s couche is made from an unbleached canvas and is heavier than a cotton tea towel but you can either improvise or purchase one online.
Allow for the second prove 45-60min
Use a baker’s lame, very sharp knife or razor to cut the top of the bread. Long single strokes, three to four time. In the baking process, this will break some of the bread apart to help form a nice crust. (DO NOT USE A BLUNT KNIFE. This with just pull on the dough)
Pre-heat the oven to 220c
Place the formed baguettes on a baking sheet or if you have one a baguette baking tray and bake for 25 min.
Top Tip: If you like your baguette with a nice crust place a metal rimmed tray / shallow metal container in the bottom of the oven and allow this to heat up while the oven is getting to temperature. Place your baguette into the oven pour in a quarter of a cup of water onto the tray and shut the oven door quickly. The instant steam it generates will give your bread that extra crust. Professional bakery ovens have a feature to add water/stream during this process but the same effect can be achieved at home.
Poppy Seed and Sesame Seed Topping. Add to the baguette once formed prior to second prove.