Monday, March 16, 2009

French Baguettes

This is a really quick bread - 1 hour tops. It is great with any meal and also makes awesome French Toast. It is even better made in a baguette pan - but I don't have one. Oh well.

1 1/2 cups warm water (total amount you will use) ***Think of body temperature of 98.6 - you want your water to feel warmer than your body temp, but not HOT - you want it to be 105 - 115 degrees.
1 1/2 Tbsp. active dry yeast (that is 2 packets)
2 tsp. sugar, divided
3 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (or whatever flour is in your cupboard!)
2 tsp. salt
Melted butter for brushing on loaves if you wish.

In a small bowl (I use the 1 cup liquid measure) combine 1/2 cup warm water, the yeast, and 1 tsp. of the sugar. Stir just to combine and cover with a plate sitting on top of your bowl or cup. Let the mixture stand about 5 minutes or until bubbly or foamy.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy duty mixer or food processor, blend the flour, salt, the remaining 1 tsp. of sugar, and the yeast mixture. Gradually add water, up to the remaining 1 cup, and mix until the dough forms a smooth ball that is not too sticky to handle. (If the dough ends up too sticky, add a little more flour.) Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead briefly, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Cut the dough in half and shape the halves into baguettes. Grease a baguette pan (or cookie sheet) and place the loaves in the pan. Score the loaves down the middle (make a shallow cut), cover with a dish towel, and let rise in a warm place about 30 minnutes, or until doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake the baguettes for 15 minutes or until they have a hollow sound when tapped with a knife. If desired, brush the tops of the loaves with butter halfway through baking. For a softer crust, brush with butter when they have finished baking.

I went to an enrichment activity in in Kamas Utah where Liz Edmunds did a baking demonstration. You can get her book on Amazon or in any bookstore. I have made many of her recipes and loved them all, including the above recipe for the baguettes. Her son served a mission here in New England back in the early 90's!

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