The Practical Baker really enjoys experimenting in the kitchen. From taking tried and true recipes and altering them in different ways, to sometimes striking out and attempting to build something from scratch, I get a lot of pleasure in seeing how many different ways I can make a baked good! I will be the first to admit, however, that not all of my experiments work out; indeed, I’d say about 50-60% of them work the first time I try them. It regularly takes 2 or 3 attempts to get the right balance of crust, crumb, texture and flavor. Since we like a good baguette, I decided to see if I could make some without using any existing recipe that I know of. The results were pretty good, if I do say so myself (but it did take 3 tries!).
12 ounces warm water (110 degrees)
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar (honey can be substituted, or the sweetner can be left out altogether)
3 ½ cups A/P flour, plus more, if needed
Dissolve yeast and sweetner in warm water and let stand for at least 5 minutes
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the 3 ½ cups of flour and the salt
Pour the yeast/water mixture into the bowl with the flour and mix thoroughly
Dump dough mixture onto a well-floured surface. Sprinkle dough ball with flour, and begin kneading; adding more flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands or the kneading surface. Knead for 6-8 minutes.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for 1 ½ hours
Gently deflate the dough with your fist, cut into 2 pieces, and roll or pull out each piece to about 14 inches long, shaping it to loaf form
Place loaves on baking sheet that you have oiled, cover them, and allow them to rise another 1 ½ hours
At the one hour mark, turn the oven on and set it to 425 degrees
Spray loaves with water, make ¼ inch deep slashes across their tops, and bake them for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool the loaves on wire racks.