Here's a recipe for our daily bread. It's not artisan, it's a yeasted straight-dough. It's got a wicked crust, tender interior and it's done in 3 hours. I usually program the mixing and first rise to be done by the dough cycle of my bread machine, but here, I present it using hand kneading.
There will be a separately published faq for this recipe. A repository of observations justifying just about everything. It's a special preparation and I repeat it often. This is the best I have to date. This recipe is basically Julia Child's baguette recipe from The Way to Cook with 3 critical changes:
i. The yeast is rapid rise; any brand seems to be just fine but it has to be fresh. I guarantee this by using individual packets. I've had good luck with: Fleischman's bread machine yeast, RedStar Instant Active Dry Yeast, a rapid rise SAF type and even Kroger makes a rapid rise yeast. They all seem to work with equal efficacy.
ii. I use 2.5-3 grams of shortening per 500 grams of dough; I currently use Crisco (it's a cheat but the results are worth it).
iii. I use a baguette pan as the cooking surface, NO clay tiles.
The baguette in 18 simple steps in under 3 hours.
1. Whisk unbleached white flour (300 grams or 2 cups + 3 T), salt (5 grams kosher or 1.5 t), rapid rise yeast (1.5 level teaspoons), vegetable shortening (ca. 3 grams, 1/2 t).
2. Add water (200 grams or 3/4 C + 1T, ca. 110-deg-F) mix with a spoon and let sit for 10 minutes, kind of a mini autolyse, it'll make kneading easier.
3. Plop dough on counter and knead at least 7 minutes.
4. This is the dough after 2 minutes kneading.
5. This is the dough after 7 minutes kneading, rounded.
6. Place the ball of dough in a container to rise for 1 hour 15 minutes. I use a 2.4 L (10 C) plastic container with a hole punched into the top. This allows the gas to escape.
7. This is the risen dough after the first rise. Do not coat the dough with anything!
8. Plop out the dough on the counter, round it and cover with a moistened lint-free towel for 20 minutes and NOW, preheat the oven to 450-deg-F.
9. We're going to convert it to a baguette form in the next 5 steps. First squash it into an oblong shape and press a groove into the middle.
10. Fold the bottom half to the middle.
11. Fold the lower half onto the upper half, should be a tight roll.
12. Repeat steps 9-10.
13. Repeat step 11, finish elongated baguette shape by rolling gently on the counter. I don't care what Rinehart says, it should be tight and dense.
14. Place the loaf into the baguette pan, it's 16-17 inches long.
15. Cover the rising baguette with a moistened, lint-free towel and let rise for 20-25 minutes.
16. Dust the loaf lightly with flour, it facilitates a clean slash. With a visciously sharp implement, slash the loaf several times along the top nearly paralell to the length of the baguette (I never bothered with a lame; I use a chef's knife).
17. Bake in the lower third of the oven and upon adding it spray the oven floor and/or sides with a squirt bottle of water for steam. Use at least 50 mL of water (ca. 2 ounces).
18. Remove from oven in 25-30 minutes, should be golden on the outside. Do not cut it for at least 15 minutes. As it cools it should crackle. It's awesome.
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