After hauling myself out of bed after the most enjoyable Sunday lay in I have had in the last six days, it was time to get up and bake some bread. I decided upon making a “lean dough”, as in one that contains no fat and settled upon a nice quick recipe for Baguettes that I found and tried a while ago.
A quick note, I am using a granite chopping board to bake my bread on. I keep it in the oven and make sure it is really hot before putting any dough on it. The idea is that it replicates a proper bakers oven and starts to cook the dough from the bottom as soon as it touches it. You can pick these up quite cheap, I got mine from Argos for £7 reduced from £15 in a clearance sale. An alternative could be an upturned heavy bottom roasting tin. You can just place the dough into the oven on a cold baking tray but you will not get a consistent crust all around the bread, it will still be good eating though, just not spectacular!
10g fresh yeast (half for dried)
280g (approx) water
482g strong flour
Sieve flour and salt into a large bowl.
Take the fresh yeast in one hand and a small handful of the flour in another. Rub both hands together as if trying to warm them on a cold day, crumbling the mix into the bowl containing the flour and salt.
Add the lukewarm water reserving a few tablespoons in case you don't require it all. Using a knife or the handle of a wooden spoon gently combine the ingredients together. When the mix looks like its almost formed add the remaining water if there is still some flour remaining at the bottom of the bowl.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes. You will know when the dough is ready as it will have a smooth appearance and will spring back when lightly pressed with a finger. It is important not to take any shortcuts here as the kneading develops the gluten that will impact the texture of the finished bread.
Place the dough back into the mixing bowl that has either had a light coating of oil or a sprinkle of flour (I prefer flour personally as I don't want a greasy dough), cover with a damp tea cloth and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. This could take 20mins in a very warm room or over an hour in a cooler spot. The dough will no longer be springy, you can make a 'belly-button' and the dough will hold the indentation.
The dough is now double the size and the gluten has relaxed and is no longer springy to the touch
Preheat oven to its maximum setting, French bakers ovens are a lot hotter than home ovens so we need to get as close as we can. Ensure the cooking stone or upturned tray is in place if using, and place an empty tray on the bottom of the oven... you will see why shortly.
Gently turn the dough out onto a floured surface and slap the dough a few times to remove any large packets of Co2 that have formed. Cut the dough in two and create a “backbone” in both pieces of the dough by following the technique below...
As you can see my technique is not up to scratch, but I have a feeling the bread will be OK, don't know why, I just do... ;-) I folded and pinched etc three times and after this the dough was elongated and more cylindrical.
After one go at shaping the dough and 'inserting the backbone'.. hmm more practice is needed!
This will help the dough have a nice round shape as a baguette should and not a flat bottom like a ciabatta.
Gently roll the dough to the desired length. If you are baking the bread on a conventional baking tray that is not heating in the oven, place the dough upon this, cover with a cloth and prove for 15-20mins in a warm place or until nearly doubled in size.
Shaped dough on floured tray ready to "slide" onto baking stone after further proving
If using a baking stone or similar, place the dough on the back of a floured upturned tray or chopping board, cover and leave to prove for 15-20mins in a warm place until nearly double in size.
To make a poppyseed baguette, beat an egg and lightly brush the dough, sprinkle with poppy seeds and then take a lame (bakers razor) or a slightly serrated knife (what I used) and quickly and confidently slash the bread seven times... I cant count so I only did six, mother will be cross. Of course you don't have to add the poppy seeds, just bake without the egg wash.
Egg washed and poppy seed coated.. ready for the oven
Slide the dough quickly from the board or tray onto the hot baking stone in the oven, pour ¼ glass of water onto the baking tray at the bottom of the oven and quickly shut the door. The steam, strangely, helps to give baguettes its characteristic crust.
After 5-6mins open the oven to vent the steam, if there is still water on the tray remove it from the oven. Continue cooking for 6-10mins until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Leave to cool on a cooling rack and don't eat for at least 20mins!!! Hard to resist but the inside needs time to dry out a little.
Venting the steam from the oven, here you can see the granite chopping board I am using as a baking stone
To make the lovely looking 'Epi' you could have followed my pictures... had I taken any. Instead follow this video...
Make sure you do this either on the baking sheet you will cook it on, or on the board you will transfer it onto the stone with. Again with the stone, confidently slide the dough onto the stone with a good jerk.
Bake as per the baguette.
Let me know how you get on... because this is soooo easy you will be making it, won't you?!?!?!
p.s. a great site for recipes involving yeast http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/