I was so glad that C’s visit coincided with last month’s Fancy and Delicious bread workshop. It’s always such fun to bake with those guys, and C. is a home baker who turns out batches of bagels without batting an eye. I got to show her my old neighborhood and introduce her to my new friends at the same time.
French bread was on the menu. I gravitate towards a crunchier, long rise, wild yeast, free form loaf when left to my own devices so it was great to learn a classic white bread. We divided into groups to bake, and C. and I named our team the Georgia Peaches.
That counter is made out of salvaged bowling alley floor. Jealous? I am, just a little.
While the bread rose between mixing, shaping, and baking, we talked bread and ate pizza. The baguette dough makes a great pizza crust, if you were wondering. There’s a rumor that next month’s baking will take place at Fancy and Delicious’s outdoor oven, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for good weather.
This French bread recipe isn’t too daunting and is super tasty, especially toasted. It also keeps well, not that I left it hanging around for a week in a plastic bag on the counter or anything like that.
Barnraisers’ French Bread adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup bread flour
3/4 t salt
1/2 t instant yeast
3/4+ cup warm water
1 lb. pre-ferment made from above ingredients, kept in fridge overnight, and brought to room temperature
Mix dry ingredients and pre-ferment and add water until dough forms a cohesive mass, not too sticky. Knead until dough passes windowpane test, 10+ minutes. Rise until doubled in an oiled bowl, about an hour and a half. Turn out gently onto work surface and cut into three equal portions. Pull each gently into a vaguely rectangular shape. Fold each long side in (like folding a sheet of paper into thirds), pressing to close seam. Pull gently into baguette shape and let rise, seam side down, on a floured towel covered with plastic as in the picture above. Slash with sharp knife on the diagonal. Bake in 450 degree oven for 20 minutes, rotating from front to back halfway through and misting 3 times at 30-second intervals after start.
If your peel and baking stone are longer and your oven permits, make one or two longer baguettes instead of three short ones! Then go have a picnic.
And for comparison’s sake, here’s a loaf of French bread we spied at a convenience store later that afternoon:
Like I’ve said before, once you start baking it’s really hard to go back to the other stuff.