MY EASY ‘BAGUETTE’

MAKES 1 LARGE OR 2 SMALL BAGUETTES

delicious - - SILVIA COLLOCA -

“Tech­ni­cally speak­ing, this is not the tra­di­tional method for a French baguette, which re­quires a pre-fer­mented starter and sev­eral other stages. This is my sim­pli­fied ver­sion for the home baker, and I can as­sure you the re­sult is a very close cousin of the de­lec­ta­ble French cre­ation. No one has to know you skipped a few steps!” Be­gin this recipe at least 1 day ahead.

Se­molina and ex­tra flour, for dust­ing Ice cubes and wa­ter

‘STRETCH AND FOLD’ DOUGH

1/ 2 tsp dried yeast 1 tsp bar­ley or rice malt syrup, or honey 3 cups (450g) baker’s flour

For the ‘stretch and fold’ dough, mix the yeast, syrup or honey and 300ml luke­warm wa­ter in a bowl and stand for 30 min­utes to froth up.

Place the flour in a large bowl. Pour in the wa­ter mix­ture and mix un­til a dough comes to­gether. Add 3 tsp salt flakes and knead lightly to in­cor­po­rate. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t look smooth at this stage – the slow fer­men­ta­tion and the fold­ing will take care of that.

Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and rest in a warm place for 1 hour. Af­ter this time the dough will feel softer and more relaxed.

Us­ing floured hands, stretch the dough into a rec­tan­gle, then fold the top and bot­tom thirds into the cen­tre like fold­ing a let­ter and then onto it­self into a ball. Cover with a damp tea towel and prove in a warm place for 3-4 hours. Re­peat the stretch­ing and fold­ing, then cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 2-3 hours, be­fore rest­ing overnight in the fridge.

Rest­ing the dough in the fridge overnight (or for up to four days) will add both flavour and texture to your bread, and will also make it eas­ier to di­gest.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge. Rest it in a warm place for 30 min­utes, then stretch and fold.

To make the baguette, roll the dough up from a long edge into a sausage. Taper the ends, dust with se­molina and ex­tra flour, then cover with a damp tea towel and prove in a warm place for 1 hour to 1 hour 25 min­utes. ( You can di­vide the dough in half and shape it into two smaller baguettes if you like.) Pre­heat your oven to 220°C. Place an empty me­tal bowl on the lower shelf of your oven to heat up. Line a bak­ing tray with bak­ing pa­per.

Once the bread has risen, place it on the pre­pared tray and score the top four or fi­five times, 5cm apart, with a sharp knife or ra­zor. Spray the top with wa­ter mist, then place the tray in the oven and fill the empty me­tal bowl with iced wa­ter to cre­ate steam. Bake for 40-45 min­utes or un­til the baguette is golden brown and the bot­tom sounds hol­low when tapped. Re­move from the tray and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour be­fore slic­ing.

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