Have you ever wanted to try baking every Frenchman's love, the baguette? They were the technical challenge of the Great British Bake Off this year, but I was put off baking them due to the need for thick linen (to make a couche) as well as apparently needing a stand mixer...this weekend we experimented and found a way to get the recipe to work without needing either the couche or the mixer!
I've been on holiday in France a couple of times, and these baguettes genuinely looked, smelt and best of all, tasted like those we purchased every morning. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, with a light, fluffy center. They're brilliant to dip in soup or fill with cheese and meats :)
Makes 4 baguettes
- 500g strong bread flour
- 10g salt
- 10g yeast
- 370 ml water
1. Lightly oil a large bowl and set aside.
2. Make the dough. In a large mixing bowl, pour in the flour, and to opposite ends add the salt and yeast (DO NOT directly add the salt to the yeast, as this retards the growth of the bread).
3. Add two thirds of the water and start mixing. We didn't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, so did this by hand instead. Once the mixture starts to come together, add the rest of the water and keep stirring - it will be a very wet dough.
4. If you use a stand mixer, mix for 5-7 minutes. This will take at least 10 minutes by hand - a very tiring job. We found the best way to work with the wet dough was to put your hand in the mixture, then make move the dough in circles (like the dough hook does).
5. Once the dough looks elastic and smooth, place in the oiled bowl, and cover. Leave to prove for one hour, until it has at least doubled in size.
6. Make the couche. Place two kitchen towels on top of each other. Make two pleats in the towel, one and two thirds along long side. This makes two grooves where the dough sausages will sit. Repeat with another two sheets (to make 4 grooves in total). Dust with flour.
7. Once proved, lightly dust your working surface with flour. Carefully tip the dough onto the surface, and divide into four.
8. Shape each quarter gently into a sausage about 30cm long. The dough will be very sticky but try not to add too much flour, and don't be too tough with the dough, or you will lose the irregular air pocket structure.
9. Place each baguette in the grooves in the tea towels, and cover. Prove for a further hour.
10. Preheat the oven to 240c/220c fan/gas mark 9. Place a roasting tray in the bottom of the oven. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
11. Once the dough has risen and it springs back when lightly pressed, carefully transfer the dough to the baking trays - they will need to go on the baking trays diagonally to fit. Make four diagonal slices along the top of the baguette (only 2-3mm deep).
12. Pour water into the roasting tray at the bottom of the oven. Place the baking trays in the oven, and bake the baguettes for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Leave on a wire rack to cool.