White-Whole Wheat Baguettes: Lessons from Martha

>> Thursday, April 15, 2010

Well -- completely unintentionally -- it seems that this week, it's all about bread and time-consuming recipes on (never home)maker! I've been trying my hand at baking different kinds lately. How can I not share them all? This recipe is modified from one that appears in the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. In typical Martha fashion, nothing is easy or fast about it.

Baguettes in 20 easy steps. Yeah, right? Well, bear with me. (It's not BARE with me, right? I'm not asking you all to disrobe . . .) It's fun! You'll need to first make a starter (and this recipe marks the first time I've had to do just that).

So, let's get starter-ed . . .

What you'll need . . .
  • 1-1/2 scant cups of unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

Method . . .
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all ingredients to form a thin batter.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours (mine was more like 24).
  3. What results will have tripled in size, deflated, and have a "ripe, yeasty smell" (yum, right? hahaha).

For the dough:

What you'll need . . .
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • Vegetable oil (for bowl)
  • Cornmeal for dusting

Method . . .
  1. Add the flour, water, and salt to the starter. Attach the bowl to the mixer -- this time fitted with a dough hook -- and mix on low for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Raise the speed to medium and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic (3 minutes more).
  3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead for 1 minute.
  4. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap -- let rise about 1 hour.
  5. Return dough to lightly floured work surface. Pat into an oval shape. Be careful when handling dough to be gently with it -- you want to keep any air or bubbles in tact.
  6. Fold in the following way: Fold the bottom third up to the center, the top third down all the way, and the right and left sides in. Press down on the seal.
  7. Gather dough and flip over -- seam side down -- and pat to dislodge any excess flour.
  8. Return dough to mixing bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap to rise for 1 hour.
  9. Return the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Pat into a round this time and divide into two equal pieces.
  10. With your hands, gently shape each piece into a rough oval. Again, avoid deflating any air pockets, you want to keep those.
  11. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest undisturbed for half an hour.
  12. Sprinkle a wooden peel with some coarse cornmeal (I used fine cornmeal and when I put it in the oven -- all hell broke loose, smoke everywhere!). Set one piece of dough on a floured work surface and press to flatten just slightly. Then fold in the same fashion as you did before. Then roll the to-be-baguette until it is approx 16 inches long.
  13. Repeat with other piece of dough.
  14. Place both to-be-baguettes on the peep, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for another 30 minutes (you're almost to the good part -- just hang in!!!).
  15. While you wait, place a baking stone on the floor of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
  16. Use a sharp knife to slice four shallow slashes diagonally down each loaf. Then carefully slide each onto your baking stone -- maintaining their shape as much as possible.
  17. Bake until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Transfer immediately to a cooling rack.

Are you still with me? Yeah. This recipe is LONG. And HARD. That's what she said. But, really, it's worth the effort -- after all, baking bakery-style bread is fun and gives a great feeling of accomplishment.

Now, I don't quite know what happened, but the bottom of my loaves burned badly. I'm almost 100% sure it was because I used fine cornmeal. So, don't make the same mistake I did. This baguette is best straight from the oven. Or the same day it's made. If you must save it for a rainy day, it'll last in the freezer (wrapped in tin foil or plastic wrap) for up to three weeks.

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