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Crusty Baguettes

Create tasty out of this world sandwiches with these crusty crust baguettes!

These are delicious baguettes and easy to make! This recipe makes a couple large loaves or 4-5 smaller loaves. Plus, you get to take out your aggressions while you knead. If you don't like crusty crusts, just skip by this recipe. This recipe has a number of steps to keep track of, but they are definitely worth the extra attention.


I've always loved the smell of bread baking at Mom's house. When we would run in the house after getting home from school, the wonderful aroma would envelope the entire kitchen and even reach the upstairs bedrooms. While I'm kneading the dough I'm thinking about how Mom would make 5 loaves of fresh white bread every couple of weeks. It tasted so much better than the bread available in the stores at the time. And, when it was warm, just a little room temperature butter spread on top of a thick slice made for a delicious after school snack. It was just enough to hold a hungry kid over until suppertime. The next morning, toasted homemade bread made a tasty base for crunch peanut butter along with a big glass of cold milk at breakfast.


Now, back to the baguettes. I love Mom's homemade bread but these baguettes go a step further, giving me more of that crusty crust, and they make delicious sandwiches! This baguette recipe begins with a starter. You don't need to already have the starter on hand. Begin with making the starter.


The Starter - make this the night before:

1/2-3/4 C water, cool

1/16 t Yeast, active dry or instant

1 C Flour, white


- Mix all items together in a medium bowl to make a soft dough. I normally begin with 1/2 C water and then add the rest if I need it.

- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit 12-14 hours or overnight.

- The starter should be bubbly and larger in size than when you began.


Make the Dough:

1 1/2 t Yeast, active dry or instant

1 C + 2 T Water, lukewarm

All of your starter from above

3 1/2 C Flour, white

2 t salt


- Mix all together thoroughly.- Knead with an electric mixer for 4 minutes at medium speed or by hand until the dough feels good and is a smooth dough, but it should be a little tacky.

- Put dough in a bowl lightly spread with extra virgin olive oil and let rest 45 minutes.

- Punch dough down and knead just a little bit.

- Let rise an additional 45 minutes until it's soft and puffy.

- Punch down again and divide into 3-5 loaves, depending on if you want large or smaller loaves.

- Knead each loaf ball a little and form into balls. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let them rest 15 - 60 minutes.

- Flatten each ball, fold almost in half, sealing edges. Turn each ball 180 degrees and repeat two more times. They should end up being longer in one direction than the other direction, so they are somewhat oblong.

- With seam side down, roll each ball into an 8"- 16" log, depending on whether you are making large or small loaves. Taper the ends.

- Place the logs, seam side down, on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Be sure to set them a few inches apart. You might need another cookie sheet.

- Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until they are somewhat puffy. They will not rise double in size like regular bread does.

- Let rise 45 minutes.

- Preheat the oven to 450F degrees, placing an empty cast iron pan in the lower rack. I always bake bread in my larger lower oven - I've found that the smaller oven (shorter in height) does not bake bread evenly.

- Boil 1 1/2 C of water in the microwave or on the stove top and pour into the cast iron pan just before you put the baguettes in to bake. The steam from the hot water will help the baguettes rise and bake them with a shiny, crunchy crust.

Place the raised baguettes on parchment lined pan(s) for baking. With a sharp or serrated knife, slash 3 lines diagonally on the top of each baguette.

- Bake the loaves for 24-30 minutes until golden brown. I set the timer for the lesser amount of time, check them and then add more minutes if they are not golden brown. One time I baked them for 25 minutes and another time I had to bake them for the full 30 minutes.

- Cool on a rack. Or, for a little bit crispier crust, turn off the oven, open the oven about 1/2 way and let them cool completely in the oven for a few minutes. (To be on the save side, make sure any pets and kids are not able to access the oven area if the oven door is open. I also place a stool in front of the oven door so I don't accidently walk into the oven door. )


Flavor options:

- Brush the ready to bake baguettes with an egg wash (beaten egg and a little water), then sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds.

- Brush with egg whites and sprinkle with parmesan cheese AFTER baking for about 20 minutes. Then, bake for the rest of the time needed. But, watch them closely so the cheese does not burn. (I personally like Cry Baby Craig's Cheesy Pow Pow, but watch it closely so it does not burn!)

- Mix diced garlic or 1-3 different hand shredded cheeses in the dough before baking. Do not use store bought shredded cheese since there is normally an anti-stick agent in those bags of cheese. Freshly shredded by you cheeses work much better.

Serving options:

- Turn your baguettes into delicious sub-like sandwiches by loading them up with with sliced cheeses, deli meats, tomatoes, spicy pickled peppers and special sauces. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place on a platter. Put a heavy cast iron on top with jars from the fridge on top to weight them down. Within an hour the juices have melded together to make a delicious sandwich!

- Make smaller baguettes for individual servings. Flavor them differently according to the taste of each guest.

- Slice the baguettes, spread with extra virgin olive oil and toast in the oven to make bruschetta. Then top with your favorite red sauce, olive spread or avocado spread.


Storage:

- Leave the baguettes in a paper or cellophane (not plastic) overnight so they don't get soggy.

- Freeze for up to a month in a sealable plastic bag. I double bag them in order to avoid freezer burn.














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