French baguettes ready to eat or freeze for later use
French baguettes are the perfect addition to any meal. They take some time, but they are easy to make. Make some extras, and keep them in the freezer. Heat a baguette in the oven while you prepare a soup and salad, and you have a quick, easy and tasty meal.
Makes four 11 oz French Baguettes
2 Packages of active dry yeast (5 teaspoons)
3 Cups of water
6 1/2 Cups of bread or all purpose flour
A generous pinch of powdered vitamin C (see note * below)
3 1/2 Teaspoons of salt (Use unrefined sea salt if available.)
Stir the yeast into 1/2 cup of warm (100 degree) water. Set aside until it is foamy (called proofing the yeast). Then stir in the vitamin C. (A crushed vitamin C tablet works fine if you do not have powdered vitamin C on hand. See note * below. If not available just omit from recipe.)
It is important that the rest of the water be at the correct temperature for this method. Let the tap water run until it is cold to the touch and measure 3 cups into a measuring pitcher. Add 3 ice cubes. You want the water temperature at about 60 degrees.
To mix with a dough hook on a mixer, pour 6 cups of the flour into the bowl (reserving 1/2 cup for later use). Add the bubbly yeast mixture and 1 1/2 cups of the cool water. Mix on the lowest speed for about 3 minutes. With the mixer running pour in the rest of the water. The dough will now be quite wet.
Increase the speed to medium-high speed and mix for 5 minutes. When the dough rides up the hook simply push it down by hand. At the end of 5 minutes, add the salt and remaining 1/2 cup of flour and mix for 2 more minutes.
To mix by hand Pour the yeast mixture and 1 1/2 cups water into a large mixing bowl. Starting adding the flour by the handful (about 1/3 cup) stirring well after each addition. As the dough starts to thicken, you should start to see strands of dough between the spoon and the rest of the dough in the bowl. After you have added about 5 cups of flour, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Sprinkle the salt over the dough. Knead the dough
(See Kneading Bread Dough)
adding the rest of the flour as needed. If you have stirred the dough in the bowl vigorously, this will take about 5 or 6 minutes. When you finish, the dough should be smooth, elastic, and moist but not sticky.
You may let the dough rise in the mixing bowl for about 1 hour (more or less depending on the warmth of the room). Cover the bowl with a damp cloth. You don't have to move the dough to another bowl. We have found that it doesn’t improve the bread, and just adds another bowl to clean up. After an hour, the dough should pretty much fill a 5 quart mixer bowl.
Turn the dough out on a board or counter that has been liberally dusted with flour. Form the dough into a ball and divide into 4 roughly equal sized pieces.
Then work each of these pieces into a long (14-18 inch) roll and place in a greased baguette pan.*** If you don't have a baguette pan, you can place them on a greased baking sheet. The shape will be a bit different, but you will still have 4 tasty French baguettes. If you wish, you may slash the loaves with a Lame or razor.blade. (** see note below) To slash dough just cut diagonal slashes into the top of the loaf. They should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep and enter the dough at about a 45 degree angle for optimum spreading when dough rises and bakes. When you have formed the 4 loaves, fully cover them with a damp cloth and set aside to rise for 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and spritz 3 or 4 times with water from a spray bottle. Place loaves in the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes (at or near sea level, 20 minutes may suffice while in mountainous locations, the full 30 minutes may be required). Test bread for doneness by thumping on the bottom of loaf. You want to hear a hollow sound.
Storage Tip - Placed in your freezer in a zip lock plastic bag, the French baguettes may be kept for months. We often cut the loaves in half before freezing. Take from the freezer a couple of hours before you want to enjoy a fresh loaf and place in a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving. Yes, you may freeze the dough (see elsewhere on EasyBreadBaking), but we prefer freezing the finished loaves because of convenience.
* Why use Vitamin C in Bread Dough Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) creates an acidic environment for the yeast which helps it work better. It also acts as a preservative and deters mold and bacterial growth. With just a touch of ascorbic acid in your Artisan breads, the yeast will work longer and faster. If you can't find pure ascorbic acid crystals you can use Fruit Fresh (canning aisle) or a crushed/powdered vitamin C tablet (Source: Baking911.com) If you do not have vitamin C on hand, don’t worry, your bread will come out well without this enhancement. (EBB)
**Lame Bread Slashing Tool For the perfectly fashioned slashes in the top of your baguette,use the tool French bakers use to slash loaves before baking. The curved extra-sharp blade gets underneath your crust as you cut, allowing just the right shape of expansion for your bread as it bakes. (Source: www.KingArthurFlour.com catalog)
***Baguette Pans see: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004R91J for examples of pans you may purchase. If you don’t have these specialty pans, the formed baguettes may be baked on a cookie sheet with good results. (EBB)
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