BASIC FRENCH BREAD
Yield: 3-4 baguettes
2 # (A.P. or Bread flour will work, see note below)
2 ½ - 2 ¾ cups warm water (depending on which flour you use, bread flour absorbs more water so go with the 2 3/4 cups.)
1 T. active dry yeast
1 T. plus 1 t. salt
· Proof yeast in warm water until slightly bubbly.
· Combine water with yeast with flour and combine. It should still look rough.
· Let the dough sit in Autolyse for a few minutes. (The dough without the salt. Salt will retard initial gluten development.)
· Add salt and continue to knead until smooth until smooth. Check with “window pane” test. (You should be able to stretch the dough between your fingers so that it does not tear and is so thin you can see light through the dough. If it tears, knead some more.)
· Place dough in lightly oiled bowl large enough to allow for increase in volume. Cover with plastic. Let sit for 15 – 30 minutes or until it starts to bulge. This is your “first rise.”
· Remove dough from bowl and pull the dough at 3 and 9 o’clock and fold these flaps into middle. Do the same at 12 and 6 o’clock.
· Return to bowl so folded ends are underneath. Let rise until doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours or refrigerate over-night. This is your “second rise.”
· Roughly shape dough into baguettes. Let sit for 10 minutes to relax, then give them their final shape. To shape dough into a baguette, stretch the dough into a rectangle. Roll the long end of the dough over itself creating a long baguette shape. After rolled up, pinch the end into the baguette. Place the baguettes onto a parchment lined sheet pan and let proof in warm humid spot or covered with damp towel and let rise until doubled again. This is your final proof.
· Score the tops of the baguettes by quickly cutting with a razor blade or a serrated knife and bake at 475 with steam until well colored, 20- 30 minutes.