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 ap flour for one cup of white, whole wheat flour, and I couldn't even taste the change.
Easy French Bread
5 cups ap 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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3 Punch dough down 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Looks good, doesn't it?
Maybe I'll have to try that sourdough bread someday...