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When the weather is hot, no one wants to stay in the kitchen long. However, those of us who truly enjoy baking bread want our own creations all year long. We soon learn that we must work faster during the summer months, leaving the rest of the year for the more involved recipes with longer, slower rising times.
This French-style bread is made in the food processor for speed, but can be made by hand. It is shaped into baguettes, which bake much faster than regular loaves of bread. It is a basic loaf which lends itself to variations. You might try adding 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs, or chopped sun-dried tomatoes and olives (either green or black or a combination of both for interesting color), or 1 cup of shredded Parmesan. Add any of these with the flour. You can substitute 2 cups of another type of flour for an equal amount of the unbleached flour -- whole wheat or rye are great. Use your imagination; if an idea sounds good, try it!
2 packages (2 scant tablespoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm (110°F to 115°F) water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 cups (approx.) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups 90°F water
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for glaze
Note: Make sure your food processor will accommodate the amount of flour in the recipe. If it does not, cut the recipe in half.
Combine yeast, 1/2 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 food processor. Using the plastic (dough) blade, pulse four times to lighten and mix.
With the machine running, add yeast mixture, then 90°F water as fast as the flour will absorb it. Stop the machine as soon as all the liquid has been added.
Check the dough by pulsing it 7 or 8 times. It should pull together to form a ball. Watch the processor bowl where the side meets the bottom; if there are still granules of unincorporated flour, the dough is too dry. Pulse in water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough pulls together to form a ball. If dough clings to sides of bowl, it's too wet; gradually add more flour while pulsing.
The formation of the ball marks the beginning of the kneading process. Turn machine on and let "knead" for 60 seconds -- do not let it knead any longer! If you have to use a metal blade, only "knead" 45 seconds and finish kneading by hand for 3 to 4 minutes.
Put dough into an oiled bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Turn dough out, and divide in four pieces. Roll each piece into an oval about 15 x 8 inches. Starting on the long side, roll dough into a 15-inch cylinder. Pinch edges to body of dough, tapering ends evenly.
Place dough seam-side down into well-greased baguette pans. Cover dough with a towel, 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 1/4-inch deep. Brush lightly with egg glaze. 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, or until internal temperature of bread reaches 190°F. Immediately remove baguettes from pans and cool on a rack to prevent crust from becoming soggy. Yield: 4 baguettes.
Nutrition information per serving (2-inch slice, 24 g): 43 cal, 0 g fat, 2 g protein, 9 g complex carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 5 mg cholesterol, 73 mg sodium, 20 mg potassium, 1 mg iron, 22 mg calcium, 15 mg phosphorus.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 6, July-August 1992 issue.