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La Belle Cuisine - More Bread Recipes

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is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight..."

~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating


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Bread and Baguettes in Boulangerie in Town Centre, Lille, Flanders, Nord, France
Bread and Baguettes in Boulangerie in Town Centre, Lille, Flanders, Nord, France
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Hughes, David
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King Arthur Flour's Baguettes

"The first goal of every budding artisan bread-baker is a crusty, flavorful baguette. Let this recipe be the starting point on a journey that may last for quite a long
time — the "perfect" baguette is a serious challenge for the home baker. Just
remember — the pleasure is in the journey, not the destination!
If you’ve never seen the term before, a poolish is a pre-mixed "starter" of flour, water and a touch of yeast. Stirred together about 12 to 16 hours before the remainder  of the dough, the organic acids and alcohol produced by the growing yeast do wonders for both the bread’s taste, and its texture. And the provenance
of the word itself? Poolish (pronounced "pool-eesh," accent on the second syl-
lable) is the French word for Polish, as in Poland, which is where the French
believed this type of starter originated.
One last word: Notice the "symmetry" of the ingredient amounts: equal amounts
of flour and water (by weight) in the poolish, and in the dough, the same amount
of water again, with double the amount of flour. This is the classic French
formula for a baguette."

Poolish (Starter)
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached
All-Purpose Flour or European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces) cool (approximately 60F) water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
Dough
2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached
All-Purpose Flour or European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons (3/8 ounce) salt
All of the poolish
2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces) cool (approximately 60-degree F) water

The Poolish: Combine the flour, water and yeast and mix just until
blended in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Let the poolish rise for 12 hours
or so (overnight is usually just fine). It should dome slightly on top, and
look aerated and just plain goopy. Try to catch it before it starts to fall, as
it will be at its optimum flavor and vigor when it's at its highest point. On
the other hand, don’t make yourself crazy about this; I’ve used plenty of
starters that were either pre- or post-prime, and they’ve worked just fine.

The Dough
: Place the flour, yeast and salt in a mixing bowl, the bucket of your bread machine, the work bowl of a food processor, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the poolish and water, and mix until everything is more
or less combined (it’s OK if there’s still flour in the bottom of the bowl).
Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes. This resting period allows the
flour to absorb the liquid, which will make kneading much easier. (If
you’re using a bread machine, simply program it for dough, then cancel
it once the ingredients are roughly mixed.)
Knead the dough, by whatever method you like, till it’s cohesive and elastic, but not perfectly smooth; the surface should still exhibit some roughness. You’ll want to knead this dough less than you think you should; while it’ll
shape itself into a ball, it won’t have the characteristic "baby’s bottom" smoothness of fully-kneaded dough.
 So, why aren’t we kneading this dough "all the way"? Because we’ll give
it a nice, long rise (fermentation), and during that rising time the gluten continues to develop. If you were to knead the dough fully before rising,
the gluten would become unpleasantly stiff during the long fermentation.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (or oil your mixer bowl, and leave
it in there, or leave it in the bread machine, which you’ve stopped so the dough cycle has been cancelled). Cover it, and let it rise for 2 hours, fold-
ing it over after the first hour. To fold dough, lift it out of the bowl, gently deflate it, fold it in half, and place it back in the bowl; this expels excess carbon dioxide, and also redistributes the yeast’s food.
When it has finished its 2-hour rise, divide the dough into three pieces, and gently pre-form them into rough logs. Let them rest for 20 minutes, then shape them into long (13- to 14-inch), thin baguettes. Proof the baguettes, covered, in the folds of a linen or cotton couche until they're about 85% risen, 30 to 40 minutes. If you don’t have a couche, place them in a perforated triple baguette pan, or on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and cover them lightly with an acrylic proof cover or greased plastic wrap.
Preheat your oven and baking stone to 500 degrees F. (If you don’t have
a baking stone, that’s OK; baguettes baked on a stone will have a crisper
crust, but those baked on a pan will be just as tasty, if not equally crunchy.)
Just before putting the loaves into the oven, use a lame or sharp serrated knife to gently make four diagonal cuts in each loaf. These cuts should
slice into the dough at about a 45-degree angle (in other words, don’t cut
straight down), and should be a good 1/4-inch deep. Be gentle, but quick;
if you hesitate and drag your lame or knife through the dough, it’ll stick
rather than cut.
Spray the loaves heavily with warm water; this will vaguely replicate the professional baker’s steam-injected oven*. Reduce the oven heat to 475 degrees F and bake the loaves for 25 minutes or so. Remove the loaves
from the oven when they're a deep, golden brown, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Listen closely just as you take the loaves out of the oven; you’ll hear them "sing," crackling as they hit the cool air of your kitchen.
Let the loaves cool completely before slicing, if you can wait; if you can’t wait, understand that the texture of the loaves where you cut them may be
gummy, as they still contain moisture, which will be emitted as they cool. Yield: 3 baguettes.

These loaves, since they contain no fat, should be eaten the same day
they’re baked. However, they can also be revived pretty successfully
by wrapping them loosely in aluminum foil, and reheating for about 10
minutes in a 350-degree F oven.

*Note: While spraying water into the oven, tossing ice cubes in a cast iron pan, spraying the loaves with water, and other methods will give baguettes a rough approximation of the distinctive shiny, crackly crust produced in a steam-injected oven, the closest you’ll come at home is with a specially designed "steaming"
bread pan.  We sell such a pan in The Baker’s Catalogue, the Steam Baking
Master, and it really does work! It’ll make two shorter, somewhat fatter loaves
from the recipe above; while one loaf is baking, simply keep the other covered
and refrigerated, to develop even more flavor.

And you thought baguettes were just flour, yeast and water!!!

 
Copyright 2001, The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc
 

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