A Baguette Recipe for Simple Kneads

Get your mind out of the gutter.
I'm a fan of baguettes. It's serious business in Europe too, especially among chefs, and bakers. The joke in Paris is that when bakers get to heaven, their admittance into the pearly gates is based upon their ability to make this simple, but perfect type of bread. The baguette separates those who can from those who cannot.

Quite too often, I'll visit local bakeries here in the States and find not only does the person behind the counter not do the baking, but they don't even know what a baguette is. (Try asking next time you're in your local grocer.)

 A perfect baguette should crunch when cracked, and the inside should be fluffy and soft. That sound, the "crunch", is music to my ears. In fact, I've heard an angel gets its wings each time someone breaks bread.

In France and Belgium, baguettes are commonly referred to as simply "le pain (francais)", or "the bread." Colloquially often called "ficelle", which literally translates to "string", referring to the shape of the bread. My love, recalls her Italian customers referring to baguettes as "batons" (like a police baton) to describe the baguette. All over the world, people love this wonderful bread. It's common in almost every European country, and can be consumed as a meal, or a snack. Commonly served with butter and a pinch of salt as we learned from our friends in Belgium. Truth be told, humans likely could survive on baguettes only. In other words, the baguette is a bread that fulfils one's simple kneads.

As I fell in love with the baguette while in Europe, I quickly realized once back home here that I was having trouble finding them at all, let alone a good one. Then one day, I said, "hey let's make one!" In two days, I had succeeded at producing a perfect baguette recipe that left me jumping up and down in the kitchen screaming "yes, yes, yes," laughing with delirious joy as I cracked my baguettes over and over again. Since that moment I've never looked back, ever! Here's how you can do the same:

Rolling it out reminded me of my
 Play-Doh days in elementary school
Ingredients: (recipe for two baguettes)
2.5 cups of bread flour
1 cup + 1 tablespoon of water
.5 teaspoon of salt
1 packet of rapid rise yeast (or 2.25 teaspoons)

Method:
  1. Mix the above ingredients in bowl with fork, and begin kneading with hands. Work into a ball, and knead for several minutes.
  2. Oil a bowl, place bread in it and cover to rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
  3. Split dough in half, and on a breaded counter work dough into a flat rectangle about 10x4. Fold it into half  and press out with lower-palms. Repeat 3-4 times, finally making a seal with your fingers. (Sometimes a bit of water is necessary.)
  4. Now roll the dough with the middle-palms of both your hands, back and forth on the counter (like we all did with Play Doh worms! :) ) until the dough spreads in length and thins down. It should be considerable smaller at this point than you assume the final baguette to be. Approximate length should be about the diagonal width of your baking pan.
  5. Once the baguette is formed, oil your sheet, transfer the dough, and allow it to rise for another 1 to 2 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 450F and place another empty cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven.
  7. Sing the chorus of your favorite song.
  8. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan on the lower rack to steam, and bake your bread for about 14-18 minutes (depending how rustic you prefer it) or until brown.
  9. Remove and brush with egg if you're storing them, or butter if you're going to eat them.
  10. Bon apetit!




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