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Classic French Baguettes

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Since Bastille Day was Monday, I’m sharing a tasty baguette recipe with you today. I was a French major in college, so this holiday is near and dear to my heart. Actually, I’m kind of embarrassed to say that it almost slipped by me. It’s been such a busy summer. We’ve been on the road a lot. It’s been fun, but I feel like I haven’t had a chance to just sit down and breathe. You know what I mean? 
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I know you’re not going to believe me when I say this baguette recipe is unbelievably easy, but it is. It also only takes 4 hours. Who ever heard of that? Every other time I’ve made baguettes it’s been an all day affair. Don’t get me wrong, I love making bread-there’s something cathartic about it – but if I can make baguettes in less time then I’m all for it! 

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There are two steps in this recipe that are really key. The first is letting your ropes of dough rise on parchment paper with pleats in between them. Whenever I make long loaves of bread (think sub rolls), my dough always rises out and not up. So, I end up with wide, flat sub rolls instead of tall, fluffy ones. And let me tell ya, flat sub rolls just don’t cut it.

The other step is putting ice in an iron skillet in the bottom of your oven while the baguettes bake. The process of getting the baguettes into the oven does take a little coordination, but I figure if I did it you can too! As soon as you slide the baguettes onto the baking stone, throw some ice in the skillet before you close the oven door. This part is actually kind of fun, because it sizzles A LOT when you throw it in. And you do practically have to throw it in unless you want to get burned. Just a hint. But here’s the thing: the ice trick really works! You’ll have three perfectly crusty baguettes when it’s all said and done. My children were salivating at this point, and they devoured a whole baguette between the two of them! They ate it so fast I didn’t even get a single picture of their cute little bread-stuffed faces.

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I really do hope you’ll be inspired to try this recipe. When you do, just imagine that you’re sitting in a charming French bakery, eating a fabulous baguette and savoring every bite. 

Bon Appétit!
Carol

4-Hour Baguettes
Yields 3
Crusty baguettes reminiscent of a French bakery!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups tap water, heated to 115 degrees F.
  2. 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  3. 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. canola or olive oil
  6. 1/2 cup ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Whisk together water and yeast in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour and stir with fork until dough forms and all the flour is absorbed. Let dough rest for 20 minutes. Add salt and then place dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven or microwave. Let rise until dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  2. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and shaped into an 8-inch x 6-inch rectangle. Fold the 8-inch sides toward the middle, then fold the shorter sides toward the center like a t-shirt. Return dough to bowl, seam side down. Cover with plastic and let rise for 1 hour.
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and cut into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a 14-inch rope. Line a rimless baking sheet with lightly floured parchment paper and place ropes on the paper spaced evenly apart. Life the parchment paper between each rope to form a pleat, and place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under the long edges of the paper to create support for the loaves. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 50 minutes.
  4. Place a cast-iron skillet on the bottom oven rack. Place a baking stone (or rimless sheet pan) on the rack above skillet. Heat oven to 475 degrees F.
  5. Uncover loaves, remove the towels, and flatten the paper between each loaf to space out loaves. Slash the top of each baguette with a knife, creating 4 equal cuts about 4 inches long. Pull out the oven rack with the baking stone on it and slide the parchment paper and loaves onto it. Place ice cubes in the skillet. Bake baguettes until dark brown and crisp, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Notes
  1. The ice cubes in the skillet on the bottom rack produce steam so the loaves rise fully before a crust forms.
Adapted from Local Bread and Saveur Magazine
Adapted from Local Bread and Saveur Magazine
Cafe Carol http://www.cafecarol.com/

Categories: Food

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