Bakery, Bread

Homemade French Baguettes

10 Comments 05 October 2012

When it comes to making bread, I usually look at the time prognosis first to see if I can squeeze such a laborious task into my day. If it involves days, forget it. The approximate hour and a half this one boasted made my eyebrow shoot into my hairline and my heart trip like my klutzy kid-aged self used to every day. Less than two hours to make two homemade loaves of bread? People, I am so on that. I got so excited that when I watched the accompanying video on how to make the recipe that, well, let’s just say I about fainted from excitement.

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In case you’re wondering, no, there is no oatmeal in the bread. The steel cut oats are for sprinkling on the baking sheet to keep the bread from sticking. Sis blogging partner figured that one out when I realized I’d forgotten to buy the traditional corn meal that’s usually used. Honestly, the steel cut oats worked much better.

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The thing that makes this recipe a quicker one is the two packets of yeast, whereas one is usually the norm.

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Yeast needs sweet treats to activate and honey is used in this instance, though regular sugar will work fine, too. Pour in the honey, give it a little whisk action and wait a few minutes and the yeast will begin to foam.

Unlike waiting for paint to dry or the coffee to finish perking, watching yeast foam is kind of fun. If you’re a big enough dork you could look for a sec, turn your back, look again and I promise the yeast will have foamed even noticeably more.

No, I don’t do that every time. Only most of the time. There’s a difference. Really!

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In a stand mixer (there are ways to do this w/o a stand mixer, just look up some tutorials on you tube or google; be warned, it does take longer by hand), with the dough hook attached, slowly add the yeast to the dry ingredients, foam and all.

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The dough doesn’t have to be kneaded for long with the mixer, just until it starts to adhere to the dough hook, like so.

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Give it a 1-2 minute knead by hand on a floured board until it become smooth and elastic-ish. A thumbprint pressed into the dough should bounce back when the dough is ready. That was a new trick for us. We were so pleased when that thumbprint bounced back.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, much of cooking successfully should rightly infuse you with dorkish enthusiasm.

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After only 30 minutes, the dough, which we covered with a towel, doubles in size. It’s a monster! Ahhh! We likey. Can you see the miniscule thumbprint? We pressed in more than twice the depth seen above.

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When the dough’s done rising, you literally get to punch it down. I mean, don’t go all Muhammad Ali on it, but using your fist, press into the dough a few times. This releases, it’s – ahem – gases.

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Next, cut the dough in half as evenly as possible and shape each into a flat-ish rectangular shape. then take one of the long sides and begin folding it over towards you. Repeat with the other side. Do this twice, the folding in towards you bit. The loaf will lengthen even more as you do this. You should end up with a loaf about 12-14 inches long. Press the folded edges together to seal them. If they don’t completely stick together it’s OK. You only need them to stay together well enough to transfer to the baking sheet.

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Take the very ends and fold them in as well, pressing as you did with the longer sides. Transfer the first folded loaf to your corn meal or oat-lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Repeat the entire folding process with the other loaf and transfer it to the pan as well.

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The top of the unbaked loaves are scored several times across the top, just like you see in the store bakeries. Cover them again and let them rise for thirty minutes.

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And lookit lookit lookit! Show off your best kitchen dork dance, cuz you just made really awesome bread! And it didn’t even take half a morning or afternoon to do!

Ok, all cheerleading aside, these are seriously good. Kitchen scout’s honor.

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You know what to do now, right? Yes, go make some delicious soup – stay tuned, we’ll have an awesome one next Wednesday – tear off a piece of this yummy bread and prepare for total satisfaction.

These toast up great in the oven, too, for garlic bread. You could use them to make panini sandwiches, crostini, French toast – there are lots of options. Enjoy!

Homemade French Baguettes

from Kelsey’s Essentials via The Cooking Channel

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Rise Time: 1 hour    Cook Time: 12-15 minutes    Level: easy    Makes: 2 loaves

  • 2 envelopes dry active yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Canola oil, for greasing bowl
  • Cornmeal or oats, for dusting pan
  • 3 to 4 ice cubes

Combine the honey, yeast and 1/2 cup warm water. Stir to combine and let the mixture stand until the yeast is activated and begins to foam, 5 minutes.

Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl with a dough hook and slowly add in the yeast mixture. Gradually add 1 cup warm water and mix until the dough comes together into a ball that is not too wet (you may not need all of the water). If the dough is sticky, add a little bit more flour. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 2 to 6 minutes. You can do the thumbprint test: press in the dough with your thumb and it should bounce back when it’s ready.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover with a dishcloth, so it doesn’t dry out. Let rest in a warm environment until doubled in size, 25 to 30 minutes.

Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Shape into 2 baguettes by making a flat rectangle out of your dough, then folding the top and bottom towards the middle, like an envelope, and sealing the seam with your fingers. Keep repeating the folding and sealing, stretching the rectangle lengthwise as you go, until it’s about 12 to 14 inches long and 2 inches wide. Fold and seal either end to round. Flip seam-side down and place on a sheet pan or baguette pan that has been dusted with cornmeal. Score the tops of the loaves, making deep diagonal slits 1/2-inch deep, cover with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm environment until they have doubled in size, 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and position your oven racks with one on the bottom and the other in the middle. Place an oven-safe (non-glass) bowl or pan on the bottom rack.

When your bread has doubled for the second time, remove the towel and quickly and simultaneously, slide the sheet tray with the baguettes onto the middle rack while carefully throwing the ice cubes into the bowl on the bottom rack. The ice will create a burst of steam that will give you a nice crispy crust. Quickly shut the oven door so no steam escapes. Bake the baguettes until golden brown, 15 minutes.

Cook’s Note: If you have a glass window on your oven, place a towel over it when throwing the ice in, hot glass can shatter if ice touches it.

Notes:

Don’t forget to check out the video we linked at the beginning of the post. The recipe creator does a great job of demonstrating the entire recipe.

If your kitchen’s a little on the cool side, you can heat up your oven to warm up your stove top area a little. If you have a flat-surface cook top, you can also turn on the back burners for a few minutes, then turn them off (oh please remember to turn them off). Place a kitchen towel over the burners before placing your bowl of dough in between the two burners, on top of the towel.

ETA: Forgot to mention, we only needed 1/2 cup of the warm water. Add a little in at a time to see what amount you’ll need. You just want the four to all come together in a nice, non-sticky dough.

Author

- who has written 296 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and book blogger, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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Your Comments

10 Comments so far

  1. I will confess that I have never made homemade bread before. I am a little afraid to try, but this little tutorial may have tipped the scales in favour of giving it a go sometime soon!

    • KMont says:

      I’ve felt the same way before and know how you feel! Be sure to watch the video linked at the top of our post. It really is a great visual for showing you how to do the whole recipe. I might not have tried it either had I not seen it. Have fun! :)

  2. Rowena says:

    I love this blog. Thanks for this post, I can’t wait to try it. It looks SO good.

  3. Rachael says:

    Have you tried freezing a loaf of this bread after you bake it (or before)? I don’t think my two-person household could use up two loaves of bread before they went stale.

    • KMont says:

      We haven’t frozen any of this bread yet at all, but it would probably be fine after it’s baked. I freeze store-bought bread all the time that I plan to toast later or use as breadcrumbs or something. As far as freezing before it’s baked, that’s where my inexperience comes out. I’m not sure how it would do, if you would need to thaw it for so long before baking, etc.

      If I think we’ll take longer than a few days, 3-4, to eat the two loaves, I will put it in the fridge. This helps stretch its use a little longer.

      • Rachael says:

        I think maybe I could just halve the recipe. The calculations are pretty simple. The video, along with you explanations, are so tempting . . .

        • KMont says:

          Good idea!

          Although…I’m the type that wishes it yielded even more loaves. I like lots of reward for the effort. But then I’d have too much. Guess I’d have to give some away lol! ;D

  4. Cathy says:

    Hi! Can you use olive oil instead of canola oil?

    • KMont says:

      Cathy, I’m sure you can if you’d like. The oil is only for lightly greasing the bowl your dough will rest in as it rises, and we’ve used olive oil for that while making pizza dough.

      Sorry for taking a couple of days to answer! For some reason I didn’t get an email notification of your comment.


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