There’s nothing like fresh baked bread for noshing, with salads and pastas, french toast and pb&j’s. MMM. Dan has been experimenting with our favorite bread of the french baguette variety for over a year now and has come up with a delicious recipe that he’s finally sharing with us!
If you haven’t made bread before, don’t be scared! This isn’t as time consuming as it may seem. You just have to stick around the house while it’s rising. And once you do it a few times, it’ll be second nature.
A few items that will help make this bread come out perfectly:
a stand-up mixer
unbleached bread flour
active dry yeast
a baguette pan (we use this one from Williams-Sonoma)
Dan’s French Bread
Total prep time with two 45-60 minute rises: about 2 hours
Baking time: 25 minutes
2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
5 cups + 3 tbsp unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg white (optional, for shine)
Combine water, sugar and yeast in your mixing bowl and stir by hand a few times. Let sit for 5 minutes, until a little frothy. Here you’re proofing the yeast, to make sure it hasn’t gone bad. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix on low until just incorporated. Turn mixer up to medium speed and let it kneed the dough for 8 minutes. Check the dough after 2 minutes; it should be moist and elastic, but not stick excessively to your fingers. If that is the case, add a little more flour.
Remove the dough from the bowl temporarily, and coat the bowl with a non-stick spray. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 45-60 minutes at room temperature, or until doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down (gently kneed it with your hands to release excess air). Sometimes, just pulling it out of the bowl and moving it around in your hands will do the trick. Don’t fold it or work it too much here. Divide the dough in two equal parts with a dough cutter or sharp knife - but don’t tear the dough.
Next you’ll shape the baguettes. Gently stretch each section of dough, or allow gravity to pull part of it down out of your hands, to form two long baguettes the length of your baguette pan. Spray the pan with non-stick spray and lay the dough baguettes into the pan. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes. At this point, pre-heat the oven to 400-425 degrees. 400 for a softer crust, 425 will give you a crunchier crust.
If you’d like a shiny crust, lightly brush the egg white wash onto the baguettes before popping them into the oven. If you’d like a rustic crust, leave off the wash. Take a sharp razor blade or knife and make one long slit down the center of each baguette, about 1/8″ deep. Be careful not to press down onto the bread too much, so as not to deflate it. The slit allows for expansion in a controlled way, and also looks mighty nice.
Bake for 25 minutes. Put baguettes immediately onto a cooling rack and let cool for as long as you can wait to slice into it. Ryan and I usually whine right away and Dan cuts us off a piece while it’s still hot. With a little butter - oh the yum.