I have this fantasy in which I live in Paris. I wake up at 10am every day, then proceed to get a milky cup of cafe au lait and a chocolate croissant, then take a leisurely walk along the Seine. When I’m feeling peckish again, I grab a baguette and a hunk of cheese and sit for a long lunch on a sunny patch of grass on the Ile St. Louis. I lounge there, eating bread and cheese and reading Hemingway. I have red wine too. There’s an accordion playing in the background and I’m wearing stripes. I sit there with my bread, my book, and my Bordeaux until one of them runs out, then I take a deep breath, thank my lucky stars, and go along my merry way. It’s a good life I have in Paris.
It’s a good life I have here, too, though. Sure, most days I have to get up earlier, and while we do have a river, there are no islands in it. Even so, I get to live in another one of my favorite cities in the world and I can make baguettes at home, anytime I want. So, I’m not complaining.
Homemade baguettes. This was by far my favorite stand mixer adventure and the one that I am most proud of. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to start a project on a Saturday morning with serious amounts of trepidation and end Sunday night with my entire building smelling like a French bakery and four golden loaves to show for my hard work.
This two-day undertaking was a crash course in bread baking if there ever was one. I figured if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. As I mentioned before, even if these had been a disaster, the smell alone was worth it. The smell of baking bread is one of life’s great pleasures, isn’t it?
You should wait until the baguettes have cooled because they slice much neater that way and that’s what the recipe says to do. However, if you’re at all like me and find yourself doing any or all of the following: wearing new clothes the day you buy them; looking to the end of the chapter as your reading a book to see how long it is; or always, always looking when someone says “don’t look!”, you will not wait. You will eat just a corner of one of these hot, soft, luxurious creations right away and burn your hand in the process.
As far as taste goes, these were baguettes! That’s the best thing I can say about them; they were crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, and were perfect with salted butter and jam or, my personal favorite, any type of cheese, ever.
You’ve all heard me go on and on and on about my stand mixer. I have completely fallen head over heals for that appliance and how easy it makes my life. So far the dough hook has been my best friend and I have made pretzels, bagels, hamburger buns, and, of course, my tour de force, these baguettes. If you have a stand mixer, or have the space, the strength, and the patience to knead by hand, you should try these.
Sitting in the sun drinking wine and eating bread and cheese in Paris sounds wonderful, but making these at home is equally as great.
Here’s the recipe!
Homemade Baguettes (From Not Without Salt)
- 5 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 1/4 teaspoon (1 package) instant yeast
- 2 cups warm water
- Prep Day: Combine all ingredients in bowl of mixer, set with paddle attachment, and mix on lowest speed for 1 minute until well blended and smooth. Dough should form a coarse, shaggy ball. Switch to dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 5 minutes. Dough should be smooth and tacky but not sticky. Transfer to a large clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and immediately refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.
- Baking Day: Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours prior to baking. Gently transfer to lightly floured work surface, being careful to release as little gas as possible. Divide dough into four equal portions. You can also remove just enough dough to make one baguette and have fresh bread for the rest of the week!
- To form the baguettes pat each piece of dough into a thick rectangle. Fold the top side to the middle and press to seal. Fold the bottom side up to the middle and again, press to seal. Fold the top over onto itself and form a new seal on the bottom. With lightly floured hands, gently rock hands back and forth starting at the middle and working your way out, until the loaf is elongated and slightly tapered at the end. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add a casserole dish to the bottom oven rack. Just before baking, score the baguettes with a sharp serrated knife or razor. Ensure that the cut goes no further than 1/4 an inch into the loaf. When ready, add baguettes to oven and pour one cup of hot water into the casserole dish on the lower rack. This serves as a steam pan and gives the baguettes their golden, crusty exterior. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 15-20 more minutes, until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour. Serve with butter, cheese, or as the star of a sandwich.