French Baguette Recipe

French Baguette Recipe
Yields four 12 oz. baguettes

21 oz. water, lukewarm (100°F – 115°F)
2 tsp. active dry yeast
32 oz. bread flour
4 tsp. salt

1. Stir the yeast into the warm water and let proof until foamy, about 5 minutes
2. Mix together the flour and the salt
3. Add the proofed yeast and water to the flour mixture. Mix with a bowl scraper to combine the ingredients and determine if more flour or water is needed
4. Turn the dough onto your work surface and start kneading. Only add flour if absolutely necessary, as the dough will continue to absorb the water and become less sticky as you knead it. Knead the dough for 5 – 10 minutes until it is smooth and has developed some elasticity. It should still be soft, not feel tough or dry
5. Place the dough in a large lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise at room temperature until doubled and a finger poke leaves a depression. A fold and turn of the dough part way through this rise or a second rise will help gluten development and flavor
6. Deflate the dough to make it easier to portion evenly. Scale it into four 12 oz. portions
7. Pre-shape the dough by rounding or folding it in upon itself. Let the dough rest for 5 – 20 minutes depending on your time and the elasticity of the dough
8. Do the final shaping and cover with a plastic bin and let rise at room temperature until a light finger poke in the dough almost disappears. OR wrap in plastic and retard in the refrigerator overnight
9. Score the top of the loaves and put in a 500°F oven. If the dough was retarded, bake directly from the refrigerator – don’t proof it further. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the loaves are well colored and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom
10. Remove from oven. Let cool completely before slicing. Most bread is best when cooled to room temperature and consumed that day

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