French Baguettes (Long Proof)

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The French baguette....a product that defines France. We've all walked home in the morning from the boulangerie with one or two tucked in under our arms, taking in that wonderful aroma and feeling its warmth through our clothes. 

The baguette is to eaten really doesn't keep. You can try and resurrect it with a water spray and a hot oven, but once it's started to go's really not worth keeping. 

A true baguette should be 2 - 2½ inches in diameter and have a length of between 26 inches and 39 inches. It's made from a basic lean dough - low in fat and sugar - and this is defined in French law. 

The word baguette simply means a wand, a baton or a stick. The origin of the baguette has been lost to myth and history. Today's baguette really only appeared in 1920, although a French tradition of long loaves dates from far earlier. In the time of Louis XIV, loaves as long as six feet were produced. Rumour has it that Napoleon preferred its shape as it meant for easier carrying by troops. Some believe the shape came from the 'Bread of Equity' at the end of the Revolution; bread that was fit for rich and poor, alike. 

So, simple ingredients, a straightforward process and you're rewarded with a crisp outer shell and a white, fluffy interior. 

I'm having these with pulled pork and salads......

INGREDIENTS (for four baguettes)

500 gms T55 flour

360 gms filtered water

10 gms sea salt

3 gms instant dried yeast

25 gms honey

Optional : 2  baguette moulds (each one holding two baguettes)

1. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes

2. Over a period of 1.5 hours, perform 3 sets of stretches and folds, flipping the dough upside down after each set.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a refrigerator for at least 12 hours. 

4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and tip it onto a lightly-floured work surface.

5. Divide the dough into four equal parts and shape into rolls. Cover and let them rest for 45 - 60 minutes.

6. Stretch each dough rectangle slightly and fold into a cylinder, sealing the seams. 

This is the most difficult part of baking baguettes. You might find this video useful....

7. Roll the cylinders, gently stretching them to the desired length.

8. Place on a light-floured mould (or generously floured tea towel couche). Cover and proof at room temperature for 30 - 60 minutes until the dough has risen to an appropriate size. 

Before final proof

9. Preheat the oven to 240⁰C

10. Score the dough with help from this video : (This is a lovely video)

11. Bake the baguettes for 10 minutes at 240⁰C and then for 10 minutes or so at 200⁰C. 

12. If you can, add steam to the oven.  I tend to mist the dough on entry. The only reason for this is that my oven is not suited to adding additional steam. 

13. Remove the baguettes from the oven and cool on a wire rack. 

And the cut.....

Happy baking.....


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