Isn’t this baguette pretty? I really enjoy baking bread, but I don’t get to do it too much. These loaves were my first try at making baguettes.
I have to admit that I am intimidated by recipes that call for making a sponge days in advance – and don’t get me started on how terrifying saking sourdough from scratch is. I tend to stick with recipes that involve one or two non-scary rises. I searched through the recipes at AllRecipes until I found this one for French Bread. It sounded easy and got good reviews. It turned out to be chewy with a nice, though not terribly thick, crisp crust. It only took 5 cups of flour, and I substituted one cup of all purpose flour with one cup of white whole wheat flour, and I couldn’t even taste the change.
Easy French Bread
5 cups all purpopse flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
Put yeast in 1/4 cup of the water (with a pinch of sugar) for 5-10 minutes, until foamy. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour and salt. Stir in remaining 1 3/4 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
Gently deflate the dough and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up tightly, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends and pinch to seal.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush on loaves. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.
With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and crusty.