However, there I was, soon caught in a downpour, without an umbrella, and with an immediate need for cover. I was lucky to find a patisserie which had tables on the sidewalk, set up underneath a sheltering awning. I sat at one of the tables and ordered a café au lait and an éclair à la pistache (pistachio éclair, yum!). I took leisurely sips of my coffee while waiting for the rain to stop. Every now and then someone would run inside the patisserie and then reemerge carrying one or two baguettes. When the rain stopped a steady stream of people came to buy their baguettes. I especially remember a hurried young boy who was wearing shorts, round glasses, a plaid brown shirt, and an annoyed expression. It seemed to me this lad was non too happy to be running the baguette errand for his family. Still, off he went, home for dinner, carrying his two baguettes. I truly enjoyed my brief glimpse into the everyday life of that Parisian neighborhood. So now, as I attempt to make my own baguettes for the first time, I reminisce of the fragrant rainy afternoon when I sipped coffee at a patisserie and watched the Parisian folk rush to buy their baguettes for Sunday dinner.
(This recipe is from the King Arthur web site).
for the Starter:
1/2 cup cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup King Arthur unbleached flour
for the Dough:
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.
- Make the starter by mixing the yeast with the water, then mixing in the flour to make a soft dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have risen and become bubbly. (If the starter hasn't risen, your yeast may not be working. How to test yeast: dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of yeast in 1 tablespoon lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar, and wait 15 minutes. If nothing happens, the yeast needs to be replaced).
- Make the dough: Mix the 1 teaspoon active dry yeast with the water, then combine with the starter, flour, and salt. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you've made a soft, cohesive, smooth dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces.
- Shape each one of the pieces into a rough, slightly flattened ovals, cover them with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. Using the heel of your hand exerts a gentle pressure, which will allow us to preserve the volume and shape of the bread.
- You Tube has nice videos of the baguette folding technique. You can see one of them by clicking here.
- With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll each piece of dough into a 15" log. Place the logs seam-side down onto a parchment-lined sheet pans.
- Cover them lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they've become very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours.
- When nearing the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F.
- Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8" vertical slashes in each baguette. Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.
- Bake the baguettes until they're a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2", and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.Yield: Three 16" baguettes.