Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Rustic Country Baguettes

These baguettes are a variation on the Rustic Country Bread that I did a few weeks ago. That dough is not only delicious, but versatile. It works well in any shao, whether it is a large loaf, individual sized dinner rolls or baguettes. The one thing that changes is the baking time.
As I have mentioned before, though it is definitely worth rehashing, the best way to check if a yeasted bread is baked thoroughly is by using an internal read thermometer, or a meat thermometer, to take the temperature at the center of the bread. When the internal temperature reaches 200-210F, the bread is done. This will produce consistently cooked bread with not a whole lot of effort on your part. I mean, how hard is it to stick a thermometer through the bottom of a loaf?
I used part whole wheat flour in these baguettes, though you could certainly use all bread flour. The bread flour gives these baguettes a much better texture than all-purpose flour would. Adding a spray of water into the hot oven before baking will give these a great crust. To refresh the bread for serving, or the next day, simply place the loaf in a 350F oven for about 5 minutes.

Rustic Country Baguettes
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 cup water, warm (110F)
1 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3-4 cups bread flour, approximately
1 1/3 cups water, warm (110F)
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp salt

Make the sponge:
Dissolve yeast in warm water and stir in flour. Let rest for at least one hour (or up to 5, as time permits).

Make the Dough:
In a large bowl, combine the sponge, 2 cups of flour, water, honey. Add salt and remaining flour, stirring in about 1/4 cup at a time until the dough comes together into a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic - about 5 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Divide the dough into three even pieces and shape into oblond baguettes, about 16-inches long. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled lightly with cornmeal or flour. Cover baguettes with a clean dish towel and let rise for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450F.
Slash the tops of the baguettes 4-5 times with a very sharp knife. Bake for about 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and an instant read thermometer (meat thermometer) inserted into the end of one of the loaves reads 200-210F.
Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Makes 3 baguettes.