What’s better on a cold, dreary fall day than fresh baked bread? Now that the heat has left us (have I mentioned that enough?), I’m using our oven more often — much to the delight of my family.
When I buy baguettes at the store, they’re usually over two dollars a loaf (granted, Joseph’s has great bread for $1.49 but I don’t get that direction often), which is hard for me to justify when it’s so easy to make on my own. Plus, it’s so much more healthy when I do it, as I can count the ingredients on one hand.
I’ve made this twice this fall already, and my mom has told me that when she goes into the home, this is what I’m to bring her when I come to visit. And yes, she has a flair for the dramatic. We all know where Little Miss gets it.
Whole Wheat French Baguette
1 1/2 c water (hot but no more than 115 degrees) and no, I’m not counting water as an ingredient, so hush
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
3 c whole wheat flour*
1 1/2 c white bread flour
1 t salt
Add the water to your bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, then the sugar atop that. Stir well. Add 2 c of the flour (either will do) and mix thoroughly. Add the salt and combine. Slowly add your last 2 1/2 c of flour. Knead your dough until it’s starting to stretch some (about 7-10 minutes on a stand mixer with a dough hook). When you’re adding flour, you want to add the flour until the dough no longer sticks at all when you strip it from the dough hook. If you add too much flour, you can sprinkle (and I mean sprinkle — a little goes a long ways) water into the bowl while it’s mixing. The amount of flour you’ll need will vary based on the humidity in your home, so be flexible and play with it. It’s quite forgiving.
Once your dough is thoroughly kneaded, cover your bowl with a damp towel. Let it sit for an hour and a half until it’s doubled in size. Gently punch it down and separate it into two balls. One at a time, stretch a ball into a flat rectangle about 5 x 9. Fold a long edge 2/3 the way up the rectangle, then fold the other long edge over. Pinch both long ends together next so that you have a neat seam atop your rectangle. Flip over your rectangle and gently roll with your hands to finish up the loaf shape. Repeat with the remaining ball.
Place both loaves onto either an oiled baguette pan (I was young and single and loved to cook — I’ve got some great gadgets that I love) or a greased jelly roll pan. Cover them with your damp towel again, and let them rise for another hour or two.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your loaves into the oven (after removing the towel!). Toss 1/2 cup of water into the oven, but NOT on the loaves. Repeat this process three or four times during the first several minutes of cooking. It will create a steam bath in the oven which will help create a great crunchy crust to your bread. Bake for 25 or so minutes until golden brown and it has a hollow sound when you thump it.
Let it cool for a couple minutes, then slice and enjoy. This bread is great for a day or two, but eat it quickly! It will freeze nicely.
*If you don’t have whole wheat flour, feel free to use all white flour, but reduce the water to 1 1/2 cup or so.