French Baguettes

Tough times we are in right now. The stores are cleaned out of everything….including bread. But who would have guessed, my SKIPPER would come to the rescue on SV Night Town. He spends little time in the galley, and I’m honestly ok with that. I don’t really like him nosing around in my lockers for fear he’ll find heavy or breakable, non-essential galley items that have no reason to be on a sailboat. But today I’m making an exception. The world is in a crisis and he wants to bake bread. I good with that!

Be forewarned: This takes minimal amount of ingredients but maximum amount of rising time and patience.

Classic French Baguette

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Poolish (the starter)

1/2 cup cool water
A couple pinches of active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 cup flour

Dough

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
The Poolish (starter)

To make the starter: Mix everything together to make a soft dough and place in a bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours or over night. The starter should expand and become bubbly. It will flatten out over the 14 hours and even dry out a little on top. That’s ok.

Next make the dough.  Mix and knead everything together. Most landlubber bakers use a stand mixer with a dough hook. But not so galley pirates. We mix by hand, the way it used to be done.

And mix… and knead… and mix… and knead. My Skipper recommends kneading for 12 minutes if you do it by hand.

Grease a metal bowl or pan and place the dough in the pan. The dough need to rise in a somewhat warm place; about 80º is perfect. Being on a sailboat in March the best place to put the rising dough is on the oven top with the oven lit. That’s where we always place our bread to rise. But be cautious! Today our oven was too hot and the dough warmed up a bit too much. Any warmer and the hot temperature will kill the yeast and it will not rise any more.

Let rise for 45 minutes.

Then punch the dough down a bit and fold its edges into the center, then turn it over in the bowl before letting it rise for an additional 45 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Gently deflate it, and divide it into three equal pieces. Flatten each piece of dough slightly then fold it almost in half, sealing the edges with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough around, and repeat: fold, then flatten. Repeat this whole process again for each of the three pieces of dough. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rest for a minimum of 15 minutes or up to an hour.

Roll each piece of dough into a 15″ “baguette” roll. Place the three rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise for another 45 minutes.

If your galley oven was already lit to warm the galley and assist in the dough rising, you can now crank the temperature up to as high as your oven will go. 450º is what you are aiming for. Place a cast iron pan on the floor of your stove. Once your stove heats up you will carefully fill the pan with water.

Once your 3 baguettes have risen place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Score the baguettes at a 45º angle with a very sharp knife.

Place the baguettes in the hot oven for 25-30 minutes. If your oven is not hot enough, increase the time for another 10-15 minutes until they start to brown. If they still do not brown, carefully light the broiler and broil…moving the baguettes around by moving the parchment paper for not more than 5 minutes or until golden.

Turn off the oven and let them rest there for another 15 minutes before serving.

Whew! A lot or time spent but well worth it. If you have time to kill and no place to go, baking baguettes is the perfect project! Enjoy with a little Rosé from Provence…remembering simple times not long ago and toast to the better future ahead!

 

6 thoughts on “French Baguettes

  1. Perfect timing for this recipe-had one of my rare bread failures last weekend and instead of French Baguettes I made incredibly dense rolls 😕. Bad Yeast. Will try this ploush technique tm!!

    • I hear ya! My worst bread disaster was the Rosemary Olives Bread when I ran out of propane half way through baking! It became Rosemary Olive Focaccia after I got my propane tank filled!

  2. You know, it made me feel better just to think about baking bread!! And the pictures of Doug baking and kneading dough and the thought of the smell… all very comforting! Thank you! I may be inspired to bake something… and you know, that’s saying a lot from me!!! HA! Hope you guys are well.

    • So glad you liked it! It took for F-“$! ever to do. Almost killed the yeast on first rise setting on a too warm oven in a too cold boat!! But the sun was perfect when we finally pulled the bread out…all a foods blogger really wants!

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