Inspired Recipe: French Baguette
Here’s a baguette recipe inspired by Christopher Moore’s Sacré Bleu. Why? Well, the protagonist of the book is a baker, so his bread-making plays a large part in this decision, but it’s mostly because of this quote from his mother, “Are these the hips of a woman who doesn’t appreciate the art of baking?” I can relate.
This recipe comes from a master – that is, Mark Bittman. Find it on his website or in his cookbook, How to Cook Everything. This bread takes two hours to come together but, luckily, much of that time is inactive on your part. If you follow this exact recipe, you can make three to four baguettes, one boule – the traditional round French bread – or 12 to 16 rolls. This bread can be made by hand or with an electric mixer, but the food processor is the tool of choice and will save you tons of time.
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 cup water
Put the flour in a food processor. Add the salt and yeast and turn the machine on; with the machine running, pour about a cup of water through the feed tube. Process until the dough forms a ball, adding a tablespoon more water at a time until it becomes smooth; if the dough begins sticking to the side of the bowl, you've added too much water. No harm done: add 1/4 cup or so of flour and keep going. You're looking for a moist, slightly shaggy but well-defined ball. The whole process should take about 30 seconds, and it will once you get good at it.
Dump the lump of dough into a large bowl or simply remove the blade from the processor bowl and leave the dough in there. Either way, cover with a plastic bag or plastic wrap and let sit for at least an hour at room temperature.
Use a small strainer or your fingers to dust a little flour onto a counter or tabletop. Shape the dough as you like, into small loaves, one big one, baguettes, or rolls, sprinkling with flour as necessary but keeping the flour to a minimum. Heat the oven (with a pizza stone and/or a pan filled with rocks if you have them) to 400°F while you let the breads or rolls rise, in a cloth if you like, covered with a towel.
When you are ready to bake, slash the top of each loaf once or twice with a razor blade or sharp knife. If the dough has risen on a cloth, slide or turn it onto floured baking sheets or gently move it onto a lightly floured peel, plank of wood, or flexible cutting board, then slide the bread directly onto a pizza stone. Or you can bake on lightly oiled baking sheets. Turn the heat down to 375°F.
Bake until the crust is golden brown and the internal temperature of the bread is at least 210°F (it can be lower if you plan to reheat the bread later) or the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove, spray with a bit of water if you would like a shinier crust, and cool on a wire rack.
Now that you’re good and hungry, read our recommendation of the book that inspired this recipe: Sacré Bleu.