Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
Last week, I hopped aboard four planes, innumerable taxis and a shiny bus to travel from city to city to city and back.
The purpose of the trip — work — was a great success. But when you spend an average of twelve hours in each place, most of it engaged in traveling, working, and/or sleeping (mostly just the or), there’s not a whole lot of time left for finding food.
So meals were sourced from whatever was open and close, and consumed with suitcases in tow. And while everything that crossed my plate or take-out bag was tasty, after seven straight meals eaten out, all you really want when you get home — aside from finding an extra day to catch up on all those lost hours of sleep — is something simple, un-deep-fried, and wholly homemade.
So on Saturday, I made a second attempt at the baguettes that had, last summer, burnt something fierce to my baking pan. And this time, having access to an oven unafraid of hovering at a consistent 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes (this is key!), they were a delicious success. Their crisp exterior infused with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt, their chewy interior intensely flavourful thanks to the slow rising time, they were the perfect starting point for a homemade sandwich.
I ate one half-baguette sandwiched topped with unsalted butter, crisp radishes, and fresh pepper and sea salt; the other, with avocado, tomato and arugula.
But, had I been a little lazier and less intent on eating veggies, I would have stuck with the original recipe and squashed whole olives, halved cherry tomatoes and whole garlic cloves into the tops of the unbaked baguettes and enjoyed them that way. And I would have been wholly happy either way. Homemade bread, having eaten out or not, is tastiness, plain and simple.
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen, where it was sourced from Jim Lahey’s My Bread
Makes 4 baguettes
2⅔ - 3 cups (400 grams) bread or all-purpose flour*
3/4 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp instant or active dry yeast
1½ cups cool water (55-65°F)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, table salt and yeast. Pour in water and mix with a wooden spoon until dough is soft and sticky. If bits of dry flour remain in the bowl, add water a tbsp at a time until the flour is incoprorated into dough. Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place until it’s doubled in size, 12-18 hours.
2. Once dough has doubled in size, use a spatula to scrape it out of bowl onto a well-floured sheet of wax paper. Dust your hands with flour, then turn the dough over itself a couple of times to shape into a ball. Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, seam-side down. Brush a bit of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle with a few big pinches of the coarse salt. Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place until ti’s doubled in size once more, 1-2 hours.
3. Half an hour before dough is done doubling in size, place rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a 13x18-inch baking sheet.
4. Once dough has doubled in size, cut it into four equal-sized pieces. With floured hands, gently stretch each piece of dough out to be roughly 1-inch across and 10-inches long and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough, leaving 1 inch of space between each baguette. Brush each baguette with remaining olive oil and sprinkle evenly with remaining salt. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until tops are golden. Remove baguettes from oven and let cool on pan for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.
*You want to make sure you’ve got the right amount of flour: too much, and the baguettes will be too tough; too little, and they’ll be sticky. The best way to ensure you get the right amount is to measure the flour by weight using a scale. If you don’t have a scale, I’ve found that 2⅔ measured using the scoop-and-level method (i.e., dip the measuring cup into the bag of flour and level it off) yields about 400 grams. If you do try this method, don’t add all of the 1.5 cups of water right off the bat — start with a bit less and add more, 1 tbsp at a time, until the flour is fully incorporated into the dough.