On one uncomfortably hot day at the end of June, I baked bread and made two batches of cheese. No, I don't know why I must do these things, but do them I must. If you want to read about the cheesemaking part of it, take a look over here. If you want to read about the bread-baking part, stay right where you are.
This is another recipe from Bernard Clayton's book. I wanted to make some baguettes to go along with the cheeses I would be making and decided to try out this recipe.
According to the book, the recipe makes four baguettes, boules, or couronnes. I made 3 slightly smaller baguettes, and two different couronnes.
Here's what Mr. Clayton has to say about this recipe:
The great eighteenth-century French cook and founder of la grande cuisine, Antonin Careme, wrote of grand dishes for princes and kings, yet he created an ordinary loaf of bread that has been passed down from one generation of bakers to the next for more than 175 years.
Careme, who has been called the cook of kings and the king of cooks, wrote: "Cooks who travel with their gastronomically minded masters can, from now on, by following this method, procure fresh bread each day."
This excellent bread is made with hard-wheat bread flour to give the dough the ability to withstand the expansion it undergoes when it rises more than three times its original volume. Baking at high heat provides the oven-spring that makes possible the formation of a large cellular structure, the distinguishing characteristic of pain ordinaire.
Shall we begin? (My own notes are in italics.)
6 cups bread or unbleached flour, approximately
2 packages dry yeast
2 1/2 cups hot water 120-130 degrees F)
2 teaspoons each salt and water
Baking Sheet or Pans: 1 baking sheet, teflon or greased and sprinkled with cornmeal, or 4 baguette pans, greased. (I used a 3-loaf baguette pan lightly greased and dusted with cornmeal, and one baking sheet lined with parchment and sprinkled with cornmeal.)
By Hand or Mixer: (10 mins)
The early part of this preparation, beating a batter, can be done by an electric mixer. However, don't overload a light mixer with this thick batter. If by hand, stir vigorously for an equal length of time.
Measure 3 or 4 cups of flour into the mixing bowl and add the yeast and hot water. The mixer flat beater or whisk should run without undue strain. The batter will be smooth and pull away from the sides as the gluten develops. It may also try to climb up the beaters and into the motor. If it does, push it down with a rubber scraper. Mix for 10 minutes. When about finished, dissolve the salt in the water and add to the batter. Blend for 30 seconds or more. (I was a bit leery about the higher temp for the yeast, (usually it's 105-115) so I reverted to my usual method of dissolving the yeast in very warm water and then adding some of the flour to it.)
Kneading (10 mins.):
If the machine has a dough hook, continue with it and add additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough has formed under the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. If it is sticky and clings, add sprinkles of flour. Knead for 10 minutes.
If by hand, add additional flour to the beaten batter, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring first with a utensil and then working by hand. When the dough is shaggy but a solid mass, turn onto a work surface and begin kneading with an aggressive push-turn-fold motion. If the odugh is sticky, toss down sprinkles of flour. Break the kneading rhythm occasionally by throwing the dough down hard against the countertop - an excellent way to encourage the development of the dough.
(I did a bit of both - I used the machine until the dough had reached the shaggy mass point, and then I kneaded it by hand the rest of the way.)
Here, for your entertainment, is my "aggressive push-turn-fold" routine:
(I've skipped food processor instructions - if you want them, shoot me an email and I'll send them.)
First Rising (2 hours):
Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will more than treble in volume - and may even be pushing against the plastic covering.
(If prepared with a new fast-rising yeast and at the recommended higher temperatures, reduce the rising times by about half.)
Second Rising (1 1/2 hours):
Turn back the plastic wrap and turn the dough onto the work surface to knead briefly, about 3 minutes.
Return the dough to the bowl and re-cover with wax paper. Allow to rise to more than triple its volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Shaping (10 mins)
The dough will be light and puffy. Turn it onto the floured work surface and punch it down. Don't be surprised if it pushes back, for it is quite resilient.
Divide the dough into as many pieces as you wish loaves. One-quarter (10 oz) of this recipe will make a baguette 22" long and 3" to 4" in diameter.
(Since my baguette pans are shorter than 22", I reduced the amount of dough per baguette to 8 ounces. I shaped 3 baguettes and divided the remaining dough into two balls approximately 13 oz each.)
Allow pieces of dough to rest for 5 minutes before shaping.
For boules or round loaves, shape the pieces into balls. Place in cloth-lined baskets (bannetons) or position directly on the baking sheet. For baguettes, roll and lengthen each dough piece under your palms to 16" to 20" , and 3" to 4" in diameter. Place in a pan or on a baking sheet or in the folds of a long cloth (couche).
(The way I learned to make baguettes is slightly different. I rolled the dough out to about a foot in length, then flattened slightly, then rolled from the side nearest me to the other side, pinching the seam and then rolling out to just under the length of my baguette pan.)
This loaf's characteristic couronne or "crown" can be made in several ways. One is to flatten the piece of dough, press a hole through the center with your thumb, and enlarge the hole with your fingers. Another is to roll a long strand 18" to 24" and curl into a circle, overlapping and pushing together the ends. Yet a third way is to take 2 or 3 shorter lengths of dough and join them together in a circle, not overlapping top and bottom but pressing the ends together side by side into a univorm pattern - this one will be irregular but attractive.
(I made one couronne in the first manner suggested above. To me it looks like an enormous bagel.)
(For the other one, I felt rather creative, so I divided that piece of dough into thirds, rolled them out and then braided them together and shaped the braid into a circle. I should have planned a little better - the portion where the two ends of the braid are joined looks a little sloppy. Sorry about that!)
Third rising (1 hour)
Cover the loaves with a cloth, preferably of wool, to allow air to reach the loaves and to form a light crust. Leave at room temperature until the dough has risen to more than double its size, about 1 hour.
Before preheating the oven to 450 degrees F (very hot) 20 minutes before baking, place a broiler pan on the floor of the oven or bottom rack so it will be there later. Five minutes before baking, pour 1 cup hot water into the hot pan. Be careful of the burst of steam - it can burn. I use a long-handled cup to reach into the oven when I pour.
Baking/450 degrees F/25-30 mins.
Carefully move the loaves in baskets and in couches to the baking sheet. Make diagonal cuts down the lengths of the long loaves and tic-tac-toe designs on the boules.
Place on the middle shelf of the oven.
The loaves are done when a golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Turn one loaf over and if the bottom crust sounds hard and hollow when tapped, the loaf is done.
(If using a convection oven, reduce heat 50 degrees.)
Place on a rack to cool.
One of the exciting sounds in the kitchen is the crackle of French bread as it cools. Crackle away!
Spread with butter and enjoy with any dish.
(Or you can serve it with some freshly made ricotta...)