Baguettes

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Lately I have been obsessed with finding the perfect and simple baguette recipe. Many recipes call for a dozen ingredients: vitamin C, shortening, vital wheat gluten,… you name it. If you are into this path, head over here for a recipe by my favorite chef Andrea Nguyen (and by the way, I strongly recommend her book “The Banh Mi Handbook” if you are a crazily loyal fan of Vietnamese sandwiches. It’s awesome!).

Other cool recipes suggest pre-ferment which then requires 18-24 hours to prepare (example is here). They swear by the superior flavor developed from this pre-ferment process. Go for it if you have time… something so luxurious that we rarely have.

Usually, this is what happens in our household: the most voracious dude (yeap, I’m talking about my biggest kid, aka my hubby) but also a picky eater (wait, how could it possible be?) would throw his arm around me and charm me into making some baguettes for brunch. Sounds reasonable enough? Yup, if it’s not at 9 in the morning. My 5-year-old and 3-year-old have developed something called “I want it NOW NOW NOW” symptom. And they love baguettes. My 1-year-old eats whatever I give her for now, but I suspect she will be joining her brother and sister very soon.

So, this recipe works amazingly well for me. It’s simple (only a few key ingredients), straight forward (knead, let it rest, bake), and fast. Well, “fast” is a relative term. It would take about 4 hours from the request to the table. But compared to other recipes, this one is doable.

Two things to keep in mind: (1) choice of flour, and (2) room temperature. Each flour absorbs water differently. I use King Arthur organic flour, and have to increase the amount of flour significantly. You may want to adjust yours accordingly. In addition, the amount of time needed for the dough to rise doubled in size varies by your room temperature (and humidity), let it be summer or winter, Hanoi or Accra. The recipe below works well for a room temperature of 68-72 F. Again, keep an eye on the dough if you are unsure.

Four-hour Baguettes

(adapted from Saveur, May 2012)

340g warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast
415g all-purpose flour (increase to 540g if using King Arthur brand)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of boiling hot water

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together water and yeast and let sit for about 10 minutes, until yeast is foamy.
  2. Add flour, stir with a fork, and let dough sit to allow flour to hydrate for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add salt, and knead until smooth and elastic.
  4. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  5. Knead again, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest the second time, until doubled in size, another 45 minutes.
  6. Divide into 3 balls, shape into a rectangle, and roll into 3 long baguettes (see basic rolling technique here).
  7. Place the rolls on a baguette pan (I got mine here), sprinkle lightly with flour to avoid dough sticking to plastic wrap, cover with plastic wrap, layer one towel on top, let it sit until 150% rise, about 30 minutes.
  8. 15 minutes before dough finishes rising, heat oven to 400F.
  9. Use a sharp razor to slash the top of each baguette. Spray some water on each baguette.
  10. Open oven door quickly to throw in 1 cup of boiling hot water. This produces steam that let the baguettes rise fully before a crust forms).
  11. Bake the baguettes for 20-25 minutes. About 15 minutes into the baking process, open oven door once to let the remaining steam escape.
  12. Cool before serving (we never get to this part).

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