Warm, golden, crusty bread: the smell, the texture, the way it melts on your tongue. I can hardly think of anything I love more than homemade bread. I love it smothered with honey. I love it with a slice of tangy manchego cheese. I love it with nutella. To me, the bread that comes in those plastic bags at the grocery store is just a sad imitation of the real stuff; its the european in me–a kitchen without good bread is a sad one indeed.
I decided to welcome August with some homemade baguettes. I’m thinking of it as my way of beckoning fall, despite the fact that I was overheating as I turned on my oven. Despite the heat stroke, they came out beautifully, tasted amazing, and they were so easy to make.
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Homemade French Baguettes
makes 2 baguettes
1 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast
2 tablespoons honey
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
In a bowl, mix together the yeast, the honey, and 1/2 cup of warm water. Stir, and let it rest for about 5 minutes or so, until the yeast has bubbled and its doubled in volume.
we’re honey fiends in this family, which is why I had to scrape together 2 tbs from many different containers.
In a standing mixer with a dough hook attached, mix together the flour and salt. Stir in the yeast mixture and let it combine. Then, with your setting on low, drizzle in 1 cup of warm water just until your dough combines.You may not need the whole cup, and if your dough is wayyy sticky, feel free to add up to another 1/2 cup or so of flour until it comes together.
Flour your counter top and your hands, and plop the dough out for kneading. Knead for a couple of minutes, adding flour whenever it gets sticky, until your dough is elastic.
Put your dough into a big greased bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume.
After an hour or so has passed, grab your dough and punch it down . Take it out of your bowl and onto a floured surface, knead it into a blob [technical term], and cut it into 2 pieces.
Spread each piece into a rectangle and then shape your baguette. The best way to do it is to take top and bottom of your rectangle and fold them towards each other, pinching in the middle (like an envelope). Keep repeating until your baguette is about 1/2 inch thick (smaller if you want it really thin).
Fold the ends just a bit to get rounded tops & bottoms, and place seam side down onto a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.
Take a paring knife and cut slits into both baguettes that go about 2/3 of the way through. Spread them a bit with your fingers so that they don’t disappear during the second rise.
Cover the baguettes once more with a kitchen towel and let them rise–the original recipe calls for 25 minutes, but I let mine rise for another hour, almost two. The longer you let it rise, the longer the bread has to develop–just don’t leave it all day, otherwise your bread will be coarse.
Preheat your oven to 450 F. with an oven-safe pan or sheet on the bottom rack.
When you’re all pre-heated, slide your baguettes into the oven and toss a handful of ice cubes into the pan on the bottom rack. Close the oven door and don’t open it again until they’re done baking. The ice creates steam with keeps your bread moist while getting the outside nice and crisp.
(side note: ice can crack glass dishes or glass oven doors, so don’t drop any ice cubes!)
After 15 minutes of baking, your house will smell like heaven and your baguettes will be ready for munching.
This recipe is a baguette recipe, but if you can’t be bothered with the whole shaping process, no worries. Just split the dough in half and form some sort of bread-type shape– their misshapen-ness will just add to the rustic charm!