Last week, my husband requested that I make some baguettes to take to work for his lunch. I was more than happy to oblige and attempt to make a new-to-me bread. I was surprised to discover that baguettes don't require any butter or oil - all they contain is flour, yeast, salt and water. I think I have avoided attempting this kind of bread in the past, because I thought it would be hard to create the same beautiful texture of baguettes bought from a bakery - crispy on the outside and very soft on the inside.
Thankfully, it turns out that baguettes are much easier to make than I was anticipating. I love the satisfaction that comes from trying something daunting and being delighted with the results.
ingredients: makes 5 baguettes
400g malted bread flour
100g strong white bread flour (or you could use all white if you prefer)
370ml cool water
1) Lightly oil a 2 - 3 litre square plastic container.
2) Put the flour, salt and yeast into a mixing bowl. (Paul Hollywood recommends that you put the salt on one side and the yeast on the other.)
3) Pour in three quarters of the water and start mixing all of the ingredients together, either by hand, or with a freestanding mixer.
4) As the dough comes together, slowly add the remaining water then continue to mix the dough on a medium speed for 5 - 7 minutes(if using freestanding mixer). If you don't have a mixer, knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes, or until you have a glossy, elastic dough.
5) Put the dough into your oiled container, and leave to prove for one hour, or until doubled in size.
6) Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
7) Lightly oil your clean working surface, and carefully tip the dough out. The aim here is to keep in as much air as possible, rather than knocking it back, which is the usual process when baking bread.
8) Divide the dough into 5 equal sized pieces. I did this by weighing the dough, then diving that amount by 5, so that they were all as equally sized as possible.
9) Shape each piece of dough into an oblong, flattening it out then rolling in the sides. Roll each piece up into a sausage so that you have the smooth edge facing upwards, and the seam of the edges of dough tucked underneath. Gently stretch and wiggle the dough until it is the length that you would like your baguettes to be.
10) Place your baguettes on the trays, leaving space between each one, then place inside a plastic bag, making sure the bag does not rest on top of the dough. I like to think of it as creating a little tent for the dough. Leave to prove for an hour.
11) When the dough has been proving for about 40 minutes, preheat your oven to 220C and put an empty roasting tin in the bottom of the oven to heat up.
12) Once the dough has finished proving, pour boiling water into the roasting tin to create steam which gives the baguettes a crisp finish, then place the baking trays in the oven.
13) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.