What is more typical in French food than freshly made, crispy French Baguettes ? I know making one’s own home-made bread may seem difficult and actually many persons don’t dare taking the risk of making home-made bread. Yet… Once you’ve found and understood the basis of cooking bread, you’ll see it is not only quite easy but it also quickly becomes addictive…
The smell of the yeast, seeing the dough rise little by little, kneading and shaping one’s bread, the smell of it cooking in the oven and finally hearing it crunch when you take it out of the oven… Every step of making one’s own baguettes will bring you small but yet incomparable moments of hapiness.
I first tried to cook my own baguettes some years ago now, and at first the failures nearly made me give up this idea. Typical french baguettes must be crispy outside and its crumb must be tender and airy. My baguettes first were soft and condensed… But after several attempts and researches… I finally understood were the secret of perfect and authentic French Baguettes lies… The dough must stand just enough to rise but not too much ! Above all the secret of a crispy baguette is to humidify both the dough AND the oven before baking the baguettes.
If you apply those two rules and follow the steps of the following recipe, you can be sure your kitchen will soo smell like a typical French bakery and you’ll appreciate the crispy sound of your baguettes when you’ll cut them !
Recipe : (for two french baguettes)
475 to 490 grams (3 cups) of flour (bread flour)
300 ml (1 1/2 cup) of water at room temperature
2 teaspoons of salt
9 to 11 grams (1 tablespoon) of dry (instant) yeast
In a large bowl, mix the yeast with the water. Let sit 10 minutes until it becomes bubbly.
In the bowl of your stand mixer (with the dough hook), or in a large bowl with a big wooden spoon, or by hand, mix the water+ yeast along with the flour. Finally add the salt and mix it all again.
If you use a stand mixer, knead the dough for at least 3 to 5 minutes, first at low speed and then faster at the end.
If you knead by hand, take the dough out of the bowl, and knead it on a floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes (making french bread is a real sport, isn’t it ?)
Put the dough back in a large bowl, or leave it in the stand miwer bowl, cover with plastic wrap, lid or cloth and let it rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 410 degrees F (220 °C). Place a metal bowl or pan at the bottom of your oven to heat up.
On a floured surface, gently form a ball with the dough, cut it into two small parts you will then roll into two baguettes. Pay attention not to knead or over work the dough ! Only take some flour in your hands, and gently flatten and roll the dough into baguettes. The more you’ll work the dough, the more condensed your baguettes will be… And real french baguettes are everything except condensed ! Quite the contrary in fact ! The crumb has to be airy and full of bubbles.
Place your baguettes on a baking sheet lined with lightly floured parchment paper, or a lightly floured (or lined with parchment paper) special baguette pan or mould (see below).
Cover the baguettes and let sit until the oven is ready for baking.
When the oven has reached the perfect temperature, uncover the baguettes, and slash them with a very sharp knife in a quick movement (see below).
With a pastry brush or with your fingers, sprinkle some water on your baguettes.
Place the tray with the baguettes in your oven, then pour a whole cup of cold water in the metal bowl or pan. At this stage you’ll have to quickly close the oven for the steam to STAY in the oven.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the baguettes are golden. If, during the baking, you see that all water in the bowl or pan has dried out, do not hesitate to open the oven, pour again a cup of water and close again the oven very quickly.
When the baguettes look crunchy and golden as you like them (some people do like them barely golden and some others like them what we call “bien cuites” which means very weel cooked, nearly burnt-brown. Do not hesitate to follow your tastes!)
Remove the tray from the oven, and let the baguettes cool on a cooling rack. Do you hear the peculiar sound your french baguettes do when you take them out of the oven ? Yes, exactly, that’s the sound of an authentic crispy french baguette. Now, all you have left to do is be patient until the baguettes are cool enough for you to finally taste them !
In France, baguettes are eaten all day long, a real essential part of each of our meals : with some butter and jam for breakfast, to wipe the dressing of our lunch or diner, or just like that, on its own, “par gourmandise” as we say. The bread lover I am can eat bread and baguettes all day long.