So there we were on the balcony with a glass of cold Vin Boulaouane, a Moroccan Vin Gris, a rosé, which although it hasn’t got brilliant ratings online, I found out later, was a perfect match for the mussels. Nice crisp, light rosé not at all sweet, with a little bite to it. And you have to admit the bottle is pretty. And experimental buy which I would repeat. And while we sipped and enjoyed the fresh melon, crisp green salad and simply prepared mussels – thanks to being able to pop across the border to France to buy seafood we have a limitless supply of fresh mussels, cockles, shrimps, salmon, octopus etc, I thought – we really should have some baguette to soak up the lovely mussel juices with and of course all I had was pita bread, which was fine, but not as good as a baguette would have been.
So, naively thinking baguettes would be fast and easy to make, I dug through my cookbook collection, found what I was looking for in William Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking and started the dough at 2pm. Instructions below are how I implemented the recipe. I left some things out, but the baguettes seem to have come out fine!
It’s not hard but it does take time. Total time: around 7 hours 30 minutes from start to removing the hot loaves from the oven, active time: around 40 minutes the rest is waiting and proving. It’s now 11pm and 3 baguettes have exited the oven. Not ready for fattoush, baba ganoush and rice dinner either unfortunately, ah well. But they do look nice. It was a lengthy process, which is fine if you can toddle in and out of the kitchen while working on other stuff. Here is the photo-documentary:
Step 1: ACTIVE You start out with a “sponge”: 10 minutes mix 2 cups bread flour + 1 package or 2 and a 1/2 tsps active dried yeast 1 teaspoon malt syrup ( I threw mine out yesterday in a cleaning up activity very prescient…. so had to make do with 1 tsp sugar) 1 1/2 cups of warm water (105°F-115°F or 40° to 46° C – as proteins generally do badly above 42°C I stuck with warm water that was not so hot I couldn’t stick my fingers in.
Step 2: PAUSE Sponge phase: 3 hours mix all ingredients together with a wooden spoon and then cover the sponge with plastic wrap. Let stand at cool room temp for 3 hours, you can also put it into the fridge, but then you need to leave it at room temperature for an hour before going to the next step. After 3 hours it looked like this:
Step 3 ACTIVE Making the dough: 10 minutes Add 2 cups bread flour, 1 and 1/2 tsps salt and add to the sponge until a soft dough forms. Knead on floured work surface until dough smooth and elastic 5-7 excruciatingly meditative minutes. Which is when you get this:
Step 4: PAUSE: You let it sit for 1 1/2 hours at which point it rewards you by bulking up:
Step 5: ACTIVE 5 minutes punch the dough down
Step 6: PAUSE and let it sit for another 45 minutes covered with plastic wrap.
Step 7: ACTIVE 5 minutes At the end of this time you can turn it onto a work surface and cut into thirds. You shape these into balls:
Step 9: ACTIVE 10 minutes knead the dough, work the dough and shape it into an oval loaf then form into a long baguette shaped bread that will fit your baking sheet
Step 10: PAUSE – 45 minutes place loaves on baking tray cover with dish cloth and let stand for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 500°F (260°C)
Step 12: PAUSE Let the loaves cool before digging in, Sonoma says, eat fresh, considering its 11pm this will have to wait.