Fairway Market's Holiday Breads
3 cups unbleached bread flour (16 oz)
1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup hot water (2 oz)
1 ¼ cup warm water (10 oz)
Vegetable oil for greasing bowls
Cornmeal for dusting the loaves
Liquid measuring cup
Dry measuring cup
2 bowls, 1 small & 1 medium
Spatula or bowl scraper
Permanent magic marker
Small sharp knife (or a lame or a straight-edged razor, if you have one)
Pan for water to be placed in oven
Cooling wire rack
2 baguettes, approximately 8-9 ounces in weight, 12-14 inches long.
1. Before you start mixing, oil the medium sized bowl and set aside a small bowl of flour for dusting the counter. This way, when your hands get sticky from mixing and kneading, you won’t gum up your supplies and equipment with bits of dough.
2. Measure hot water into a liquid measuring cup and feel it with your finger. It should be the temperature of a cup of coffee when it’s become just cool enough to drink.* Pour a ¼ cup of water (2 ounces) into small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and stir. Set aside and let it dissolve. *110º F is the ideal temperature for yeast rehydration and activation.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt with your fingers until fully incorporated, then form a well in the center of the flour mixture.
4. Weigh out 10 ounces of warm, baby-bath-temperature water and, with one hand, slowly pour it into the center of the flour mixture while the other hand pulls the dry ingredients into the water and mixes clockwise. Keep your fingers together as you mix, making sure to always work from the center and let the flour come to you. Continue until all of the water has been incorporated.
5. Add the water/yeast mixture and mix as before until all of the ingredients are incorporated and the grit of the salt is dissolved. Continue until the dough forms a wet, sticky and shaggy mass.
6. Sprinkle a coating of flour onto the counter of your surface, then take your spatula and scrape the dough onto the counter and let it assume its natural shape. To sprinkle flour evenly, hold the flour in your hand in an upright position with fingers curled, then splay the flour across the counter as if throwing dice.
7. Tap your hands in a little extra flour, then begin to knead the dough (dust it with flour whenever it starts getting too sticky). First, pull the upper edge of the dough towards you, then push it away with the heel of your hand—turn the dough a quarter-turn and repeat. Do this 15-20 times until the dough comes together and tightens just a little (resist the temptation to keep on kneading as overworking the dough will make the bread tough).
8. Fold the dough into a smooth ball and place it in the oiled, medium-sized bowl and cover it with oiled plastic wrap. Mark the time with a magic marker on your plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest and rise in a moderately cool place until it has doubled in volume: 1-2 hours, depending on the heat of your environment.
A baguette is the most challenging of all shapes, and though the instructions for forming it may seem complicated, with practice your instincts will kick in!
1. After the dough has doubled in volume, sprinkle a little more flour onto the counter, then take your spatula and scrape the dough out onto it and let it assume its own shape. Dust the top of the dough with a little flour and pat it down gently, then divide it into two equal pieces. To shape a baguette, start with the basic log structure:
2. Take the first piece of dough, flatten it into a rectangle, and position the rectangle so that the short end faces you. Using two hands, pick up the top edge and pull it past the center of the dough, press it so it adheres to itself, then pick up the bottom edge and do the same thing. Finally, repeat this action again with the top piece only and press together firmly so to make this a tight log.
3. After the dough has been shaped into a tight log, let it rest for 15-20 minutes, covered with oiled plastic. When the rest period is finished, sprinkle just a bit more flour on the counter, then take one log and position it length-wise in front of you with the bottom seam up.
4. With the full side of your floured right hand, make a slight indentation down the middle of the length of the baguette. Take the left thumb and forefinger and starting with the top right corner of the log, pull that piece of dough straight down to the bottom edge of the dough. Now take the floured heel of the right hand, and press that piece of the dough into itself, with the right hand straight up as if waving. Continue this process—left-hand, right-hand—all the way down the log, then repeat it a second or even a third time to make the shape a little tighter and a little longer.
5. Place the baguette seam side down under plastic and repeat the shaping process with all of the remaining pieces of dough. Let both rest under plastic for another 15 minutes.
6. After the rest period, elongate the baguettes on a lightly floured counter. Place one baguette back in front of you, take two hands—fingers together—and place them on the center of the baguette. Begin to roll it back and forth while the hands move away from each other and begin tapering the edges.
7. To proof the baguettes, place them on a floured baking sheet 4-6 inches apart, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for 45-60 minutes or until the dough has doubled in volume.
8. As the shaped dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 475 º.
1. When the baguettes have approximately doubled in volume, take your small knife (or lame or straight-edged razor) dip it in water or spritz the dough, and make 4-5 cuts down the center. Leave ¼” on either end and cut approximately ½” deep. Scoring a baguette is tricky. Pretend there is an imaginary line running straight down the center. Your first cut should start ever so slightly to the right of center, end just to the left of center, and be approximately 3 inches long. The second cut starts at the end of the first cut, the third cut starts at the end of the second cut, and so on. Before you score a baguette, take a piece of paper and draw four baguette shapes, then practice drawing the cuts of a baguette. To score the dough, hold the lame flexibly between thumb and forefinger halfway down the handle, then angle the blade into the dough while quickly pulling it toward you.
2. Open the oven door, place the tray of baguettes on the second shelf.
3. To set the steam in motion, pour approximately eight ounces of hot tap water into the pan that has been heating up in the bottom of the oven. Be careful and avert your face so it’s not burned by the burst of steam!
4. The baguettes should bake in approximately 35-45 minutes and be an even dark reddish-brown color.
Promotional consideration furnished by Fairway Market.
First Published: Dec 18, 2009 4:52 PM EST