My big sister, Lauren, has actually been smaller than me since I was about 2 years old. I think on a good day, standing very straight she is 5 feet tall. She is as cute as Thumbalina and I often wish I could keep her in a matchbox in my kitchen. She is my best friend and has inspired so much of my culinary passion. I miss her often, but mostly during the holidays because it is so much fun to create a holiday spread combining her side dishes, desserts and starters with mine! And, since she is my sister, there is always a little healty competition as we try to out-do one another in the kitchen.
Not only is Lauren an excellent cook, she also happens to be one of the most thoughtful and creative gift-givers I have ever known. She has a way of knowing what I need even before I do. Such was the case with the baguette pan she gave me about 6 years ago. I didn’t even know that I would need a special pan to bake baguettes. I hadn’t even considered making my own baguettes and now, I wouldn’t consider buying them.
French Bread is something I really enjoy making. It requires some technique, which makes it feel special and exciting. Every time I pull those golden brown loaves out of the oven I feel like more of a woman…like a little delicate French woman mixed with a big loving Italian Mama (since I always make it when I am cooking sauce and meatballs) and it feels so good.
So, I dedicate this post to my sister, Lauren. I wish you were here to have a fresh baked baguette with sauce and meatballs and wake up to French Toast and Espresso in the morning!
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- ½ cup lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
- 3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups 90°F water
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for glaze
- Combine yeast, ½ cup warm water, and sugar in a measuring cup. Stir until dissolved, and let sit 5 minutes, until bubbles appear.
- Put all of the flour and salt into the work bowl of a mixer with dough hook. Put on medium speed to lighten the mix.
- With the machine running, add yeast mixture, then 90°F water as fast as the flour will absorb it. Continue on a low speed until the dough pulls together to form a ball. Watch the bowl where the side meets the bottom; if there are still granules of unincorporated flour, the dough is too dry. Add in water 1 tablespoon at a time until the ball forms. If dough clings to sides of bowl, it’s too wet; gradually add more flour while mixing.
- The formation of the ball marks the beginning of the kneading process - allow to knead for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Put dough into an oiled bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with slightly damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Turn dough out, and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a loaf about 12 inches long.
- Place dough into well-greased baguette pans. Cover dough with a warm and damp kitchen towel (I use the lint-free linens and they work very well for this), and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
- About 10 minutes before baking bread, preheat oven to 425°F. Place a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of the oven.
- Just before baking, slash loaves diagonally with a sharp blade, about ¼-inch deep. Brush lightly with egg glaze.
- Now this is where it gets fun! This is the part that makes you say, "Oh wow! That's how they get that crunchy crust on French Bread!" and "Wow! I feel so cute and French right now!"
- Place 1 cup of ice cubes in the hot pan on the bottom shelf of the oven. Quickly place loaves on shelf above and close door to preserve the steam you’ve created.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until the loaves are beautiful golden brown. Immediately remove baguettes from pans and cool on a rack.