French Bread/Baguette (I did it! I baked my own Bread!!) Posted by: | April 18, 2010
 

Today marks an important day in the history of my entire life. I have officially baked my own bread. And not just that. I baked my favorite bread: Baguette. Bread is one of the my favorite food of all time (besides Pretzels – i have yet to make that as well!). I was told that I was a bread addict even before I could speak! During my days in Germany, having fresh loaves of bread or baguette for snacks or meals was always a norm. But ever since I moved back to Asia, I lost touch with that fragrant bakery smell of freshly baked bread and pretzels. The prepackaged, mass produced bread like Gardenia toasts just ain’t the same. And the neighborhood bakeries only make sweet or buttery soft bread loafs, which is far from the savory taste of a fresh baguette. Now I’ve been harbouring the idea of baking bread for a long time, but never had the tool and confidence to. Now that I’m equipped with an awesome Food Processor (yes, here I go again about my processor haha), and some newly gained confidence with baking, I decided it is TIME. Time to make my own bread. And who better to teach me that than Mark Bittman. The master of all cooking. Bear with me in the recipe as there is a lot to note about bread-making, though it is actually fairly relaxing and requires very little on-hand time. And remember, there is NOTHING like home-made bread. So all the effort is truly worth it.

This method of bread making uses food processor, which is a revolutionary way towards bread-making. It turns the process of making dough from a tedious chore into a task that takes less than a minute. However, if you like the calmness you get from kneading dough, then go ahead and make it the traditional way like peasants.

French Bread/Baguette (Adapted from “How To Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

INGREDIENTS (makes one big loaf or 3 – 4 small baguettes)

  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

METHOD:

1. Put the flour in the food processor. Add salt and yeast and turn the machine on to mix (using the bread dough blade). While it is running, pour about a cup of water (some say you must use warm water but I simply used water directly from the tap) through the feed tube. Process until the dough forms a ball, adding a tablespoon more water at a time until it becomes smooth. If the dough begins to stick on the side of the processor bowl, that means you’ve added too much water. In that case, just add about 1/4 cup of flour and continue blitzing. You should not stop until you have a moist, slightly shaggy but well-defined ball. See picture below for better reference.

2. Put the dough ball into a large bowl and cover with cling wrap. Now this is the most important part to making bread: letting the dough rise. The recipe says you can let it sit for at least an hour at room temperature. However, after an hour, my dough has only risen by about 20%, while we should look for a dough that rises to about double its size. I suppose this was due to the fact I added cold water instead of warm water, hence slowing down the yeast at work. So I let the dough sit for another 3 hours. By then it had risen to almost double its size. It is also a fact that slower rising allows flavor to develop better. Hence, you can even put the dough into the fridge and let it rise up to 12hours, or leaving the dough in room temperature from morning until early afternoon. So I opted for the flavorful “slow-rise” approach. And oh boy, the quality and difference in taste is really obvious. So if you have some time on your hands, don’t rush through the rising process. Also, you know what they say: “A watched dough will never rise”. In the first 2hours I kept coming back to the dough to check and couldn’t tell if it was rising or not. It stressed me out so much that I almost thought my dough was a gone-case. All that negative stress could have been avoided if I had just left the dough alone.

2. Dust a little flour onto a wooden surface or tabletop. Shape the dough into a baguette: a) Press the dough into a rectangle. b) Fold each long side of the rectangle up into the middle. c) Roll into a log and use your fingers to press the resulting seam together tightly. Once done, put the baguette in a towel or tablecloth, cover with a towel and let it rise for another 2 hours at room temperature (or 12 hours refrigerated).

3. Preheat oven to 200 deg C. When you are ready to bake, slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife. Slide your bread onto an oiled baking tray and put into the oven. Turn the heat down to 190 deg C once the bread is in. Bake for about 20 min until the crust is golden brown or internal temperature of bread is at least 100 deg C (It’s good to have an instant thermometer for bread making or chicken roasting). When the bread is done, it also makes a hollow sound when you tap it. Let it cool on a wire rack before you start tearing it apart!

Now is the moment I’ve been waiting for all day. Cutting through that beautiful, aromatic crispy crust!

It tastes amazing. And like nothing you would get from supermarkets. Crispy crust, soft, white and savory insides. Truly perfection. And what better way to inaugurate my first piece of baguette than having a quick spread of Nutella?

I love how the bread smell fills up my room while I’m eating it. This is definitely the world I wanna live in! I saw my entire childhood flashing by my eyes as I took slow bites of the fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. I can’t wait to bake bread again. For my parents especially, as they have been missing good bread just as much as I have. Tomorrow night I shall make bruschettta with Tomatoes and Basil out of these lovely bread slices! Can’t wait!

 

4 Responses to “French Bread/Baguette (I did it! I baked my own Bread!!)”

  1. Brownie Monster says:

    Sorry we couldn’t make it to your place to taste that splendid looking bread but congrats on your accomplishment! But its a SIN to put Nutella on fresh baguette. The French would have you drawn and quartered for that. XD

    • Chi Anh says:

      It’s ok. I can foresee myself making bread for a picnic again soon :) Fresh Bruschetta anyone? And the nutella was inspired by “Nutella Express” :P

  2. Theresa Wong says:

    you can also ferment your dough by using the microwave oven. Place a glass of water, stir 1st then place in the microwave oven, let it boil for 3 mins, once is ready, immediately place your dough together with the boiled water inside the oven. Closed the door so that the moisture will help to speed up the rising of the dough.

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