I had a day off of work earlier this week for President’s Day, so I decided to take on a cooking project. When I found this baguette recipe from Food52, it seemed like a perfect challenge for a snowy day. I’ve tried making bread from scratch before (most successfully with the no-knead ciabatta recipe) but I was ready to try a more traditional recipe and had the time to devote to a longer bread-making process. It took the better part of the afternoon, but the results were worth it! We ate the bread alongside bowls of Ellie Krieger’s Beef Mushroom Barley Soup for dinner.
After reading a couple of reviews on the recipe page, I did make some changes–some of which were successful, some not so much. I added a bit of sugar to the water for the yeast-proofing step, and reduced the amount of salt because I didn’t have the brand Dan uses. (And really, it was still a bit salty. I’d drop to 1 tsp of Morton’s kosher salt for next time.) I also inadvertently increased the amount of flour from 3 1/4 cups to 3 1/2, but that didn’t seem to affect the final result.
My big screw-up here was trying to use waxed paper instead of parchment paper for forming the loaves. Unlike parchment, you can’t bake on waxed paper. When I had to move my loaves of dough from the waxed paper to the baking sheet, they stuck like crazy! So, don’t do that. Use parchment. (The bread still came out fine, despite mangling and reshaping the dough at the last minute, but still.)
Makes 3 baguettes
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water, about 115F (microwave it for about one minute)
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- canola oil
- 1/2 cup ice cubes
- Combine the sugar and water in a large bowl and sprinkle with yeast. Let proof 10 minutes. Because it’s a small amount of yeast, it won’t fluff up the way it would if you were making pizza dough, for example, but you should still get some foaming. (If nothing happens, check your water temperature and try again. If it still doesn’t work, your yeast is dead and you’ll need a fresh container.)
- Stir in the flour with a fork until combined. Let the dough sit and hydrate for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the salt and turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Flour your hands and board as needed to prevent sticking.
- Wash and dry the bowl and coat the inside with a light layer of canola oil. Add the dough and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Place the dough in the microwave or a cold oven to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Turn the dough out on a floured surface and pat it into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle. Fold the long sides into the middle, then fold in the short sides. Place the dough back into the bowl seam-side down. Cover and let rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.
- Roll up two kitchen towels tightly and lay them across a baking sheet. Lay a piece of parchment paper across the towels and flour it. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll each into a 14-inch-long log. Lay each log on the parchment paper so that it sits between the towels to hold its shape. Cover and let rise again until doubled, about 50 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 475F. Place one rack in the lower third of the oven with an oven-proof pan like a stainless steel skillet. Place a rimless baking sheet or a cookie sheet turned upside down on the upper rack while the oven preheats.
- Slash each baguette in four places with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Slide the towels out from under the parchment paper. When the oven is preheated, remove the preheated pan. Use the parchment paper to slide the baguettes onto the hot pan and place it back in the oven. Carefully place the ice cubes in the pan and close the oven door immediately to contain the steam.
- Bake the baguettes for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and let cool before slicing.
Despite being a bit mangled and little too salty, the bread was great. The ice cube trick worked perfectly and produced a nice crunchy crust while the bread inside was soft with just the right amount of chew. Next time I find myself with too much time on my hands, I’ll try again!
I’m not sure how well the baguettes would keep on their own–I recommend eating your fill the day you make them and then cutting the leftovers into individual portions and freezing. To defrost, let them sit on the counter in a sealed baggie at room temperature for a while or wrap in paper towels and microwave for a minute or two using the defrost setting. Pop the bread into the oven or toaster oven for a few minutes to warm it up and revive the crunchy crust.