French Baguettes / French bread

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Ingredients

  • Water, room temperature, 14 oz
  • Fresh yeast, 3/4 oz. (or 3 tsp active dry yeast)
  • Bread flour, 24 oz.
  • Salt, 1/2 oz
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Add yeast to water, stir slowly to dissolve, about 5 minutes.
  2. Sift the salt and bread flour onto parchment paper.
  3. Add your sifted flour/salt to the yeast/water one third at a time, using a wooden spoon and then your hands to work it in.  Once the flour is mixed in, turn it out on a floured surface and knead gently for 1 minute to incorporate.
  4. Using a mixer on the 2nd speed with the dough hook, knead dough for 3 minutes. Rest for 2 minutes, then again for 3 minutes.  If you’re kneading by hand, knead for 10 full minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.  It should pass the “window”
    test: tear off a 1 ounce piece of dough and gently stretch it into a 2 inch square- the glutens should hold the strands together and not break apart in the middle of your “window”.  If they break apart, keep kneading.
  5. Place dough in very loose plastic wrap and let rise overnight in the refrigerator, or place it in a lightly oiled deep bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap, in a warm spot in the kitchen until it doubles, about 90 minutes.
  6. Separate dough into 3 11-12 ounce portions.  With each of the 3 portions, roll into a ball, pinching the bottom of the ball together and let it rest for 3 minutes with the pinched bottom facing down.  Then using both hands on a lightly floured surface, roll into a long caterpillar shape about 20 inches long, keeping the pinched seam down.  Place your 3 long rolls into the oven (without the heat running) and let them rise again.  Your unheated oven should be about 80 degrees.  If the air is really dry, spritz some water in the over before adding the bread.  The bread needs a moist warm area to “proof.”  The loaves will rise and soften and look a little like marshmallows after about 10-12 minutes.
  7. Take the loaves out, then preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  8. Using scissors or a sharp knife, make 5 diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf, evenly spaced.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg thoroughly, and brush the tops and sides of each loaf.
  9. Bake until golden brown in the center of the oven, about 30  minutes.  To ensure proper texture, put a baking dish filled with water in the oven as it preheats, then remove to bake the bread.
  10. Note: with no preservatives these baguettes will only stay fresh for 1-2 days max.

Preparation time: 2 hours

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 3 baguettes

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