I got a slow cooker for Christmas along with a great little book with a number of recipes. The slow cooker is very convenient and the recipes are great, the book has dishes that are inspired by all sort of cuisines around the world.
The other day I decided to make a Vietnamese Beef Stew and the recipe noted that it was usually served with baguettes and not rice, as a left over from French colonialism in the area (this crossover also brings you the Bahn Mi). I decided that I should make the baguettes myself and went to investigate.
A baguette is the classic French long, white bread simply made from water, flour, salt and yeast. They are usually meant to be eaten the same day you bake them, and does not necessarily keep very well.
A key problem in making these at home is that one of the hall mark features is the very crisp and hard crust which is hard to obtain without steam injection in the oven. I decided to do 2 things to help out. I pre-heated the oven to 500 F, about 50 degrees more than I wanted to bake them at, and I had the oven running for some time with a pan of boiling water inside before adding the baguettes. The object was to create steam in the oven before even adding the breads.
Unfortunately, I think my oven is simply not tight enough, being a gas oven there are big holes in the bottom. My idea might work with an electric oven (oh, how I miss you electric oven) but this seemed to not make that much difference.
I heard numerous other suggestions from leaving wet tea towels in the oven to throwing ice cubes in the bread pan – how do you create steam?
Next time I might try the ice cubes or just sprinkle water in at the beginning.
Most recipes for baguettes I saw uses some sort of old dough – pre-fermented dough you add to the real dough later. The recipe I used in the end was from On Baking, but funnily enough most of the recipes I saw was pretty similar down to the amounts and methods.
The old dough needs to be made 5 hours to 4 days before you start
Ingredients – old dough
- 5 oz bread flour (150g)
- 1/2 -3/4 tsp instant yeast (2.25g)
- 3.25 fl oz water, 70F (100 ml)
- 1/2 tsp salt (3.75 g)
1. Mix the ingredients together and knead for about 15-20 minutes, until very supple and elastic.
2. Leave to dough to rise for about 5 hours, until doubled
3. Use right away or store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Take the dough out of the fridge about 2 hours before it is needed so it will come to room temperature
Ingredients – Baguettes
- 1 portion old dough (see above)
- 1 lb, 8 oz bread flour (720g)
- 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast (6 g)
- 15.25 fl. oz water (460 ml)
- 1/2 oz salt (15g)
1. Mix everything together and knead until rather elastic
2. add the old dough in small pieces and knead well to mix
3. Knead until the dough feels very elastic
4. leave the dough to rise for 1-2 hours, until almost doubled
5. Punch down the dough and split in 4 pieces. Leave them to rest for 10 min.
6. Roll each piece into a 10 inch (25 cm) roll and let rest for 5 min
7. Elongate each roll until it is as long as fit on your baking sheet, ideally 24 inches (60 cm).
8. place the baguettes on a baking sheet and let them rise for 30-45 min
9. Pre heat oven to 500 F. Add a pan of boiling water or generate steam in some other way if you can
10. score the baguettes with a very sharp knife and slather on lots of water
11. Place the baguettes in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 450 F. Bake for 20 to 22 min until golden and crusty. Let cool slightly on a wire rack – the fresher they are the better they taste.