After some over-the-top holiday baking, it’s nice to get back to the clean-and-simple. My sister-in-law reminded of this the other day when she called last week to ask me for the baguette recipe I shared when we spent some time together last summer. So instead of linking or photocopying, I finally put my tweaks in writing. This simple bread recipe is adapted from Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois’ Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:
This will make 6-8 small baguettes or 4 boules.
In a 5-qt container, combine 3 cups water (100°F), 1 tbsp kosher salt, and 1 & 1/2 tbsp yeast. Add 6 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or about 6 if you’re using bread flour). Use a sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon. It’s easier to mix if you combine about half the flour first, then stir in the rest. You can also swap out a cup or so of the flour for whole grain flour (I like spelt for this).Mix until there are no dry patches left, but don’t worry about kneading, or getting rid of lumps. Rise:
Cover loosely, and let rest until it rises then begins to collapse, about 40 minutes. If the water you used was too cool, or room is cold, this could take 2-4 hours, but it will still work. I like to refrigerate the dough after this rise because it’s easier to shape, but you could form & bake it now if you want to. You can refrigerate from about 2 hours (until it’s chilled through) or up to two weeks. This is what I love about this method.Turn a baking sheet upside down and place a sheet of parchment on it. Shape: Using a serrated knife, cut chunks of dough out of the batch, and refrigerate what’s left (for up to 2 weeks). I eyeball mine now, but at first I made 1/2 lb – 3/4 lb baguettes, & 1 lb boules.Shape your baguettes or boule/s (very quickly!) and let them rise uncovered on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 45 minutes. (Or you could use a floured linen couche, or a parchment lined “French bread pan” to help the baguettes hold their round shape, or a banneton for the boule.)*Preheat oven to 450°F, with a pizza stone, if you have one, on the lowest rack, for at least 20 minutes before baking.
Slash & bake:Now you can dust tops of boules with flour if you like. Slash the loaves with a sharp, serrated knife, and slide the parchment & bread onto the stone. If you don’t have a stone, just place the baking sheet with the loaf/loaves right on the oven rack.Bake 20-30 minutes for baguettes, 35-40 for boules. Let cool before tearing into them! *There’s more in Hertzberg’s book about shaping, but I have my own way, and so does my sister-in-law. The key is to think about what you are going to do, then work fast. You want to create a tight skin on the dough’s surface, by pinching the dough into itself, kind of like turning a sock inside out. For the baguette shape, I imagine folding a letter lengthwise, 4 or 5 times, pinching it shut each time. Let me know if you are interested and I will post a video.