Fresh Bread

“I am proud to be an American.  Because an American can eat anything on the face of this earth as long as he has two pieces of bread.” Bill Cosby

I’ve spent most of the winter trying to lower my carb intake.   I’ve resisted baking because I have no resistance when it comes to hot bread, warm bread, fresh bread, or any bread, as far as that goes. Today I was trying to weed out magazines that I no longer need and I came across a “Fine Cooking” from February 2008.  The recipe for Mini Baguettes caught my attention.  Wow chewy bread, in small portions, yum!  We were having company for dinner and the baguettes would be a great compliment to our grilled steaks.

The recipe is simple and takes less time than regular bread. The following is my adaption of the recipe.   The dough is soft but easy to work with.  “Fine Cooking” recommends that you weigh the water and flour.  This is a very reliable method for achieving consistent results and easier than filling and leveling each cup of flour.

INGREDIENTS

1 lb  unbleached flour                                                                                                                                      2 1/2  tsp.active dry yeast                                                                                                                                1 1/2 tsp. salt                                                                                                                                                     cornmeal for baking sheet                                                                                                                              1 1/2   cups lukewarm water

Add flour, yeast, and salt to bowl of stand mixer.  Add water to dry mixture mix for 1 minute, scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with spatula and mix until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Continue this process until dough is smooth and silky.  Place on a floured surface and knead by folding over and pressing the center down. Dough is soft and becomes smooth rapidly.  Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover.  Allow to rest until doubled in size.  The first time I made this recipe it took about 90 minutes to double in size, the second time less than 30 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with a flat weave towel and dust with flour. Place dough on floured surface. With rough side up fold dough to form a rectangle pressing edges down firmly in the middle.  Turn smooth side down and cut into six equal pieces.  They should weigh about 4 3/4 oz.  Working with one piece of dough form a rectangle, alternating edges fold long edges to the center and press down. Repeat until you have a 12 inch long baguette, aprox 5 or 6 folds. This part was more difficult than it looked in the magazine.  I made a double batch so by the time I was on the twelfth baguette forming the dough was going much better.  Dredge your pretty little baguette in flour and place on the towel, seem side down.  Make a little fold in the towel to keep all baguettes separate.  Repeat until you have worked all 6 pieces.  Cover with plastic wrap dusted with flour and allow to double in size.

Place oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat @ 500.  Sprinkle two baking sheets with corn meal.  Carefully transfer 3 baguettes to each sheet.  With a thin sharp knife or razor blade make 4 or 5 slashes on the diagonal on the tops of each baguette.  Open oven and spray with 10 sprays of water. Put baking sheets in the oven and spray bottom and sides of oven again.  Close door and reduce heat to 475.     Bake 6 minutes turn baguettes and trade positions of baking sheets.  Bake 5 more minutes.  If you are going to eat the baguettes the same day remove from pans and place directly on rack and  bake 5 minutes longer or until dark golden brown.  If you are making them ahead save this step until you are ready to serve.    Cool and enjoy!“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” –Robert Browning

Quotes are from The Fresh Loaf, an excellent website that addresses everything you ever wanted to know about bread.

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