Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Make fresh French baguette daily

I grew up in France and I can appreciate a good quality bread. There is nothing like the taste of fresh baked bread .

Years ago, after moving to a somewhat remote location on a hill, far from any decent bakery, I purchased a bread machine in order to make my own bread at home. It is a small Zojirushi model.

This machine makes bread reliably, but the quality of the bread is inferior to that found in many commercial bakeries.

Recently, I took it upon myself to try making French baguette instead. I am using the machine on the dough cycle to mix the dough. I then bake the baguette in my oven.
The dough can be kept easily for a week in the refrigerator. This allows me to get fresh French baguette at home every day.

The recipe is exceedingly simple, with only 4 ingredients.
  1. 170ml water . I measure it by weight, not volume, as 170g. I use room-temperature water from my reverse-osmosis water filter.
  2. 250g all-purpose flour . I have used inexpensive Conagra flour with plenty of success.
  3. 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast. This is approximately 9 to 11g by weight. I use SAF brand.
  4. 1 teaspoon salt. This is approximately 5 to 6g by weight. I use Morton kosher salt, which also conveniently works great as dishwasher salt in my Miele dishwasher's water softener.
Here are the very easy, can't fail, steps to make baguette.
  1. Measure the ingredients and put them into your bread machine's bread pan . In my Zojirushi, water goes first, then flour, salt and yeast.
  2. Make the dough using the machine's dough cycle. It takes 1h45 minutes in the Zojirushi.
  3. Separate the dough into two balls of approximately equal weight  - they will be about 210g each.
  4. Start preheating the oven to 260°C (500°F). I use the "convect bake" mode on my Thermador convection oven.
  5. While the oven is preheating, shape each ball of dough into a cylinder of a length of about 28cm (11") .
  6. Lay down the 2 baguettes on an oiled baking sheet or baguette pan. I use a Chicago metallic pan.
  7. Score the baguettes using a sharp knife or scoring tool. I use a lame from Weekend Bakery to make about 4 or 5 indentations.
  8. Once the oven has reached the desired temperature; bake the baguettes in the oven for 18 minutes. You may need to adjust the time depending on your oven, or if you are baking more than 2 baguettes at once.
That's it. The baguettes are ready to eat . You can let it cool down a few minutes, but don't let it sit too long.  It is meant to be eaten the same day.

You can obviously make this recipe without a bread machine. I have not tried kneading the dough by hand.

I have also used a Ninja Ultra blender to mix the ingredients.

The Ninja can mix the dough ingredients quickly using the food processor bowl and the dough blade. However, you will still need to let the dough sit afterwards for at least an hour before you can bake it, so you won't really save time. If you want to bake the baguette the same day, then the bread machine is more convenient, in my opinion. In addition, I haven't figured out the right amount of time to use the Ninja. When blending in "dough mode" for 6 to 7 minutes, the resulting dough was hot. I don't know how much shorter it should be run, I would still need to experiment. It might be as few as 3 minutes.

Where the Ninja comes in handy for me is to make larger quantities of dough for future use. Unless you have a much larger bread machine, you will be limited in how much dough you can prepare.

I have used the Ninja Ultra to make enough dough for 4 baguettes, by simply doubling the quantities of ingredients, and separating the dough into 4 balls. I believe the Ninja food processor bowl should be large enough to make dough for 6 baguettes, and possibly more, but I have only tried up to 4 at a time so far.

I use some Rubbermaid Premier airtight food containers to store the dough in the refrigerator. They work well to keep the dough fresh. Some have been known to freeze the dough, but I haven't tried.
When using refrigerated dough, I take it out of the refrigerator at the same time as I start preheating the oven. The baguettes always come out great. In fact, no matter how many I bake, they always get devoured right away. So I keep to baking one a day only as I'm watching my weight.