I love the word “GUARANTEED”, don’t you? I mean the word “potentially” doesn’t do much for me. For instance, if someone tells me “potentially, you’ll get a good result”, well, I’m probably not going to try. But, if someone tells me “this is guaranteed to work”, well count me in! Do you know who else likes the guaranteed word ~ King Arthur Flour! They have a baguette recipe that comes with the KAF guarantee to work!
Unable to pass a guarantee up, especially with the promise of crunchy, tender bread, I followed their recipe to the tee and am here to tell you: it works!!! Perfect Baguettes graced my table this weekend, thanks to KAF. This recipe is not for the faint of heart – it takes almost 24 hours to finish. The good thing is, it is easy because most of the time is spent in allowing the dough to rise. The slow rise is what develops the fantastic flavor, so be patient. Let me break the recipe down for you and give you a couple of hints. This recipe makes 3 loaves.
The night before you want fresh baguettes, combine in a bowl to make the starter:
- 1/2 cup cool water
- 1/16 teaspoon active dry Active Yeast (Hey, KAF, what’s 1/16 of a tsp.?? I decided it was a pinch.)
- 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest on the counter for 14 hours (SO PLAN AHEAD!)
After the 14 hours have passed, place in the mixer bowl:
- 1 teaspoon active Dry Yeast
- 1-1/4 cups lukewarm water*
- all of the above starter
- 3-1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
- 1-1/2 tsp. salt
Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. My Kitchenaid seemed to be having a little problem, because this is a stiff dough. So, I opted to hand knead it on the counter for 3 of the 5 minutes. Place this dough in a greased bowl, and allow to rest in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, punch it down, cover it back up and continue to rise for 2 more hours. (I KNOW, this sounds like a long process…and it is, but it is so worth it! So, hang in there!)
After a total of 3 hours, dump the dough out onto the counter and divide it into 3 pieces, shaped like ovals about 6″ wide and 10″ long. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Now, 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 repeat the fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15″ log. Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans.
Cover them with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they’ve become very puffy, about 1-1/2 hours.
Towards 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 (I used a brush); 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. (I tried both ways.)
The bottom of one of my loaves got too brown – no worries, just use the fine edge of a grater and grate off the overly browned/burned edge!