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This is a wonderful method for making baguettes which I learned in bread class. This is an adaptation of Prof. Calvel's method and works beautifully if you have the patience and will be in the kitchen anyway for the afternoon. The result is rich brown crusty bread with a superior flavor and lovely crumb. I sometimes make small roll-sized baguettes which are great for sandwiches. This will make 3 full-sized baguettes, but if your oven is not very large, you may need to shape the dough into four baguettes. The instructions may seem long, but it is not a hard process and well worth the effort.
- Pour water into mixing bowl; disperse yeast and salt into the water and then add the flour.
- Mix all the ingredients on the first speed for a very few minutes--until the dough comes together and is hydrated. It will, however, be more batter-ish than dough-ish and will be very wet--resist the urge to add more flour, cover and let it rest for 20 minutes.
- Dust your bench and scrape the dough out onto the bench. Fold it "assertively" first pulling the left side to the center then the right, then the side near you and finally the side opposite. Try not to work much more flour into the dough. Once folded, replace it in the bowl, seam side down, cover it and let it sit for 20 minutes.(I find a bench scraper indispensible for this).
- After the second 20 minute period had elapsed, repeat the folding process, and then return the dough to the bowl and let it rest, covered, for yet another 20 minutes.
- Now repeat the folding process for the third time. Then replace the dough in the bowl again and let it rise, covered, for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 460 or 470 degrees F. If you are using baking stones, place them in the oven to heat.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 14 ounce (400 gram) portions. If your oven is not large, you may want to make smaller portions as the long baguettes may be a tight fit.
- Shape the portions lightly into blunt cylinders and allow to rest, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Shape into baguettes, taking care to avoid tightening the dough.
- Allow to rest for the final proofing of 40 to 50 minutes.
- Slash each loaf diagonally 5 - 7 times.
- Steam the oven (spray with a mister or throw some ice on a pan in the bottom of the oven).
- Place the loaves in the oven, give another quick steam and bake for about 25 minutes until richly colored and well crusted. The loaves should be a lovely rich brown.