Friday, August 2, 2013

Quick French Bread

I know we are late to the game but we finally got a stand mixer! I really didn't want one for a long time to be honest. I felt like it would take up too much room on our counter and that we really didn't need one. I was however frustrated to see how many recipes (especially bread recipes) assumed I had a stand mixer. Well when I saw one on sale for a really great price at Target I broke down and got one and it has revolutionized my bread making. I had previously stuck to knead varieties because it was too much work to knead and keep an eye on my baby at the same time. Well no more! I love that this machine does the kneading for me and I feel like the quality of the bread is soooo much better than the kind you get from a bread machine and is just as easy.

I have been on a quest for the perfect French bread recipe that is just the right mixture of chewy, crusty and airy so I have been trying lots of new ones (with the help of my stand mixer of course). While this is not quite what I was looking for ( I found it not quick crispy enough in the crust department and a little too dense in the middle) it is still a very solid recipe and great for sandwiches! I got this recipe from Hungry Hungry Highness, like I said it is very solid and a great easy recipe for beginners plus it is quick to make (by bread making standards anyway).

Quick French Bread

Yields: 2 baguettes

1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (split)
2 tbsp honey
3 1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
5 ice cubes

1. Combine honey with 1/2 cup warm water. Add the yeast and stir with your finger. Let it sit and activate for 5 minutes.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a mixer. Add the water with the yeast and mix with the dough hook. Mix with the mixer for 1 minute, or until combined.

3. Pour out of mixer bowl onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 2-6 minutes, or until elastic. Do the fingerprint test. If you can press your finger very lightly into the dough and the dough pops back out slowly, it is elastic enough. Put it back in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 25-30 minutes or until doubled in size.

4. Punch down dough and divide in half. Shape into 2 baguettes by trifolding the dough (like you fold a letter). Pinch the seam closed and repeat the process twice until it's about 14 inches in length. Fold the ends round. Set in a baguette pan or a lined cookie sheet (baking stone would probably work well too). Cover with a dish cloth and let rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Set an old (non-glass) baking dish on the bottom oven rack.

6. When the rising is done and the oven is ready, quickly put the baguettes in the oven and throw the ice cubes into the old baking dish in the bottom. It should steam.

7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

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