For a long time, organic bread was not available in stores. When I first started seeing some of the organic breads in Whole Foods, they weighed a ton and felt hard as rocks. Plus the price was exorbitant! More recently, I have seen much better organic breads at Costco and Trader Joe’s, but the prices are still too high for me. We eat a lot of bread in my family, so it is out of our budget. So I have turned to making our own organic bread at home. I have two main recipes that I use. One for baguettes and one for sandwich bread/dinner rolls. Today I’m going to talk about the baguette recipe, mainly because that’s what I made yesterday and have pictures of for you.
I can already hear what you’re saying. “Who has time to make bread?” Well, you do! I used to think that too. I also thought it would be a lot harder than it really is. But if you have a few hours at home when you’re watching TV or spending time on your computer on Facebook or Pinterest, then you have time to make some bread. Yes, it takes hours, but the hands-on time is only a few minutes every hour or so. It works best if you have a stand-mixer, like a Kitchen Aid. I’m not one of those people who is into kneading dough all day. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what modern technology is for. If you don’t have a good stand mixer, I highly recommend it. I know it’s a big investment at first, but you’ll never regret it. I have had mine for more than a decade. And if you are ever going to get serious about cooking at home, you’ll need it. I also recommend a digital kitchen scale. I weigh everything. But I will try to do my best at converting the measurements to cups for you.
With that said, get out your mixer. Gather all of your ingredients. You’ll need:
- 13.5 oz. or about 3 Cups organic whole wheat flour
- 12 oz. or about 3 Cups organic all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons organic sugar
- 1 Tablespoon sea salt
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons instant dry yeast
- about 2 Cups lukewarm water
Add all of your ingredients except water to your mixer bowl. Try to keep the yeast from coming in direct contact with the salt. It will kill your yeast and your bread won’t rise. I usually add my flours, sugar and salt and then mix it up a bit before adding my yeast. Once that is done, start mixing on low/stir using the dough hook while adding your water in a steady stream. Once all the water is added, turn up the speed a bit to medium low or medium. All of the flour should come together in a dough ball, without any dry flour still hanging around anywhere in the bowl. Also, the dough should leave the sides of the bowl without having sticky stuff left on the side. You should mix it around 3 to 5 minutes. The perfect dough will be moist, but not stick to your hands when you pull it off of the dough hook. It should also be pliable and not hard. If it’s too sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the right consistency. If it’s too hard and not pliable, then add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency. It seems complicated at first, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time, and you’ll be able to throw together a bread dough in a flash.
Turn your oven on to the Warm setting. When it is finished heating, turn it off. While the dough is mixing, I get the biggest glass bowl I have in my house and grease it all around the inside with organic virgin coconut oil or organic butter. Once the dough is ready, pull it out of the mixer bowl, wrap it around into a ball and plop it into your greased bowl. Turn your dough ball so that it gets covered with the oil or butter on all sides. If your bowl has a lid, grease the inside of the lid too. Put the lid on or cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap. It’s best if your bowl is big enough that the dough won’t rise to meet whatever you have covering it. Now put your covered bowl of dough in the warm oven and close the door. Set a timer for an hour. Go do something for an hour.
If you get busy and let it go over an hour, it’s okay. Bread is a whole lot more forgiving than people think. So once your hour (or so) is up, take your bowl out of the oven. You’ll notice that your dough has swollen to at least twice it’s size. It should be rounded on top like a bulging belly. Here’s where you punch down the dough, which is just what it sounds like. Make a fist, and punch the dough right in the middle. It will deflate. Make sure you have a decent-sized, clean area on your counter or a table to work. Spread a handful or so of flour down on your workspace. Gather up your dough, wrap it into a ball and place it on your work area. If you have a small oven, like I do, then you will probably want to make four thin baguettes or two fat ones. It’s up to you. Cut the dough ball in half with a bench scraper or a big knife. If you’re going to make two fat baguettes, then you don’t have to cut anymore. Separate the two halves, putting one out of the way for the moment. Take one half and try to flatten it into a bit of a long rectangle. You will then take the long end and roll it over jellyroll style until you have a log. Then rock and roll it back and forth until you have a fat baguette that will fit on your pan. Make sure you line your pan with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Or you could grease the heck out of it with coconut oil. Butter won’t work here because it will burn with the high temperature for bread baking. If you are making four thinner baguettes, cut the log in half and then working with one at a time, rock and roll them under your palms until you have a baguette that fits your pan. Do this is with all of your dough. You should be able to fit one fat baguette per pan or two thinner baguettes per pan. Once again, warm up your oven just a bit and turn it off. Make 3 to 5 diagonal slashes on each baguette with a serrated knife or the sharpest knife you have in your kitchen. Once the oven is off, pop your baguettes in there and close the door. This time, set your timer for 30 minutes. Go do something.
At this point, you might want to check the placement of the racks in your oven. I have seven rack placement options in my oven. For bread baking, I place my fist rack on the fourth level and the second rack on the sixth level. After 30 minutes, take your baguettes out of the oven. Place them somewhere where they will not get a draft of air blowing on them. They still need to rise for another 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Set your timer for 30 minutes, while the oven is preheating, and go do something.
When your oven is preheated and the 30 minutes have passed, put your baguettes into the oven. If you are making the four thinner baguettes, lower your oven temperature to 400 degrees. If you are making the fat baguettes, leave it at 425. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes. Rotate and switch pan placement and bake for another 10 minutes. Now, if you want to, you can put a pan of ice on the floor of your oven when you put the loaves in, and you can also spray the walls of the oven with clean water every few seconds for the first two minutes of baking. That is supposed to help you get the traditional French baguette crust, but it never works for me. I do it anyway, hoping that one day it might, but I think that Florida humidity will win every time.
Once your loaves are ready, let them cool and then eat. They are great torn and dunked in soup. I love mine toasted with butter and homemade strawberry jam in the morning with a cup of coffee. For lunch, slice some bread open, top with fresh tomato slices and sharp cheddar cheese and melt under the broiler. Yum!! Even if you are new at making bread and your loaves don’t turn out pretty, they will still taste better than any store-bought bread, hands down!! Enjoy yours however you like to eat bread. See! It really wasn’t hard. I told you that you could do it!