MY EASY ‘BAGUETTE’
MAKES 1 LARGE OR 2 SMALL BAGUETTES
“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.