Freshly Baked Baguettes

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When I was young, my mother would buy a freshly baked baguette almost every Saturday, before her and my father would go out that night. Mom used to fill the baguette with salad and mayonnaise. It was the best lunch ever, and I used to eagerly anticipate it all week. The smell of the freshly baked, comforting baguettes, filled with the freshest of salads. There was nothing quite like it and there still isn’t. Sometimes a box of cream cakes would even accompany the baguette. But they are a whole other story, for an entirely different day.

A few days ago, I needed a freshly baked baguette in my life. Instead of going out and purchasing one, I decided to use the ingredients that sit squarely in my cupboard waiting to be brought to life. After measuring out and combining the ingredients, I kneaded dough like my life depended on it. I shaped the dough into four medium baguettes. A large one would have been delightful and in keeping with tradition, but sadly I do not possess the necessary oven space, so medium sized baguettes had to suffice.

Once baked, I couldn’t possibly wait for the crusty, doughy, heavenly baguettes to cool. I generously slathered one in butter and devoured it, appreciating all of its goodness, all the while inhaling the beautiful aroma of freshly baked bread. Mmmmm.

Ingredients (Makes 4 medium baguettes):

  • 500g strong white bread flour, extra for dusting
  • a pinch of salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 370ml cool water
  • olive oil, for kneading

Method:

  1. Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl (yeast and salt should be on separate sides). Add three-quarters of the water and begin to mix with your hand. As the dough begins to come together, slowly incorporate the remainder of the water. Knead for approximately 10 minutes, or until you have achieved an elastic, glossy dough.
  2. Tip the dough into a large, greased plastic bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for approximately 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  3. Coat the work surface with a drop of olive oil, carefully tipping the dough out onto it. Handling the dough gently, divide into four even-sized pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and then roll out into a sausage shape. Beginning in the middle, roll out each sausage with your hands.
  4. Place the baguettes on a non-stick baking tray. Cover the tray with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour, until the baguettes have doubled in size. The dough should spring back lightly if prodded. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220C/200F and place a roasting tin in the bottom.
  5. Once the baguettes have risen and are light, dust lightly with flour and slash each one three times with a sharp knife along its length on the diagonal. Fill the roasting tray with hot water in order to create steam (ensures a crisp crust on the baguettes) and place the baguettes in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the baguettes are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, or serve warm.

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