Amazing 4-Hour Baguettes!

Accidental Locavore My BaguettesIf you’re looking for something to do this President’s Day, here’s a 4-hour project with a delicious result! Sometimes the Accidental Locavore comes across a recipe that just looks unbelievable enough (this can’t work, or taste good) to make me want to try it. Such was the case with the 4-hour baguette recipe I found on the Food52 website. Since I’m not a baker, especially of bread, this was even more laughable, but one Sunday I threw down the flour and yeast and went to work. Makes 3 small baguettes:

  • 1 ½ cups (12 ounces) tap water, heated to 115°
  • 1 teaspoon (1/8 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 ¼ cups (14 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (3/8 ounces) Diamond Crystal kosher salt (note: if using a fine-grained salt like table salt, fine sea salt or other brands of kosher salt, you will need to use a smaller volume)
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing bowl
  • ½ cup ice cubes

 

Accidental Locavore Bread for RisingWhisk together water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour, and stir with a fork until dough forms and all flour is absorbed; let dough sit to allow flour to hydrate, about 20 minutes. Add salt, then transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven or microwave. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and shape into an 8-inch x 6-inch rectangle. Fold the 8-inch sides toward the middle, then fold the shorter sides toward the center, like a T-shirt. Return dough, seam side down, to the bowl. Cover with plastic again, and return to oven. Let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Remove bowl with dough from oven and place a cast—iron skillet on the bottom rack of oven; position another rack above skillet, and place a baking stone or upside down or rimless sheet pan on it.

Heat oven to 475° F. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and cut into three equal pieces; shape each piece into a 14-inch rope. Flour a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet; place ropes, evenly spaced, on paper. Lift paper between ropes to form pleats; place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under long edges of paper, creating supports for the loaves. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

Accidental Locavore Baguettes BeforeUncover; remove towels, and flatten paper to space out loaves. Using a sharp razor, knife, bread lame or scissors, slash the top of each baguette at a 30—degree angle in four spots; each slash should be about 4 inches long. Pull out the oven rack with the stone or baking sheet on it and, using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone or pan. Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms). Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes; cool before serving.

My verdict: Amazing! While Maison Kayser has nothing to worry about (yet), these were everything you’d want a baguette to be—good flavor and a great crust. Much better than anything we can get locally. The texture of the bread itself needs a little work, and my slashes were barely noticeable (time to get a lame, my single-edged razor blade wasn’t cutting it — literally), but I’m really nit-picking now. Frank paid them the ultimate compliment, saying “we’ve had worse baguettes in France.” I’m not sure how you would do this without the cast iron pan, ice and pizza stone combo — it sounds weird, but it works wonderfully! I added the sugar to the recipe, it makes the yeast work better, but it’s not essential.

 

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