In France, they serve up the most delicious crusty bread pretty much everyday. They call it the baguette. You can buy it at the boulangerie. There are bakeries here in the States that make reasonable facsimiles too. But, oh, nothing beats a fresh baguette, warm from the oven...
My dear friend Jessica makes a fantastic baguette at home. At least, it looks fantastic. I've yet to make it out to visit her in California, but, oh, when I do, I can just imagine the things we'll cook up. I digress. Her baguette looks wonderful, but uses a special pan. Despite how much I cook, I am so simple and basic when it comes to my kitchen gear... no full-size crock pot, no bread machine, no pastry bags, no fancy graters or slicers (I use a simple plane grater)- you get my drift.
I wondered... would I have to invest in a special pan to make a decent baguette? Turns out... nope. While I have no doubt the "correct" pan probably yields great results, I think mine turned out acceptable too! Here's what I did:
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I made this with all white because that is how I remember it... I imagine you could play around with mixing in wheat flour if you'd like.)
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- Pour 1 cup very warm (not hot) water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the surface. Let sit until it gets foamy.
- Add flour and salt and mix until dough forms into a ball- it will be a little sticky, but it shouldn't fall apart in a gooey mess on your hands. (I do this step in my Kitchen-Aid mixer, but I'm sure you could add and knead the flour in by hand too.)
- Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk- mine only took about 30 minutes.
- Punch down dough.
- On a floured surface, roll dough into a 16x12" rectangle. Let sit for a moment, then cut in half to form two 8x12" rectangles.
- Starting at the 12" side, roll each rectangle tightly. Then, roll gently with hands to create tapered ends. Place both loaves on large, greased cookie sheet.
- Make deep, diagonal slashes across the surface of each loaf- about 2" apart.
- Cover and let rise about 45 minutes in a warm place. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix egg yolk and tablespoon of water together. Brush this mixture over the tops of loaves.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Enjoy a little taste of France... bon appetit!