Recipes

Traditional French Baguette


February 25, 2016 By:
Prep:
1 day
Cook:
30 minutes
Serves:
8
There are few things as uniquely French as its bread. With its hard crust, airy but chewy crumb and simplicity in ingredients, rustic-style French breads have been the hallmark of baking, with the baguette being the most recognizable French loaf of all. The baguette is widely-held as one of the most recognizable symbols of French culture today. Despite this association, the baguette only came into existence in 1920, when a labor law – which banned bakers from working from 10 pm to 4 am in France made it impossible to properly proof traditional round loafs. The baguette, which uses active yeast instead of a starter or a big and multiple short rises instead of a single extended proof€“ was easier to produce and, as it is slender, faster to bake. This made for a bread that – while not as tasty as older styles was cheaper and easier to get. By French law, traditional baguettes must only have as ingredients water, wheat flour, salt and yeast€“ although small amounts of fava, soy and malt are now allowed. Tradition also dictates that there is a set way for the loaves to be made. However, these are issues that a novice baker can easily overcome and master. What makes baking baguettes at home difficult is the fact that a traditional baguette is between 26 to 39 inches long, while the average home oven is 20 inches wide. Most home baker recipes (including this one) address this issue by making a shorter, wider baguette than what is expected from a bakery; but, this should not affect either the flavor or texture of the final product.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix the honey, one tablespoon water and yeast. Set aside until mixture looks creamy, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. In a stand mixture, add one cup water and the yeast mixture. Add the flour and sprinkle the salt on top. Affix the bread hook to the mixer and mix at a low speed until the flour is incorporated. Turn the mixer to a higher speed and continue to mix until the dough ball cleans all of the flour from the sides of the mix bowl, approximately seven minutes. Cover the mix bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to sits for thirty minutes.
  3. Continue to mix the dough using the stand mixer and the bread hook for seven to eight minutes or until a small piece of the dough can be stretched into a translucent sheet without breaking. Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a lightly-oiled bowl. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into two. Stretch one-half of the dough on a lightly-floured surface into a rectangle approximately 7 inches by 13 inches. Starting with the short end, roll the rectangle into an oblong, sealing the edge of the roll to the unrolled dough with your palm after each complete roll. Pinch closed the ends of the roll and the roll’s final seam. Set aside and repeat for the second half.
  5. Returning to the first roll, gently roll the oblong until they are the length of your baking sheet. Start in the center and apply gentle and even pressure as you work toward the ends. Repeat with the second roll. Using a towel to hold the shape of the loaves, set the loaves aside to rise for an hour or until doubled, using a second towel to cover the rolls.
  6. Set the oven for 450 degrees Fahrenheit and set an empty metal pan below the rack where the bread will bake. Carefully remove the loaves from the towels and set on a cornmeal-sprinkled baking pan. Using a razor blade or a sharp knife, cut shallow slashes into the top of the loaves at a 30 degree angle. Make sure that the cuts only slice the surface of the rolls and run the length of the loaves. Recover with towel and allow to rest for thirty more minutes.
  7. Paint the surfaces of the loaves with the egg white. Quickly, add the ice cubes to the pan you previously placed in the oven and place the baking sheet on the rack above it. Shut the oven door before any steam escape. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the loaves are dark brown and hollow-sounding. Allow to cool on a rack before eating.