Tuesday, June 14, 2011


For the amount of stinky cheese I consume, its about time I learned how to make a baguette. Couch tour is officially underway in our house (Phish live streams) and a good cheese plate is the perfect couch tour food because you can drink and nibble all through the show.

I used the basic bread dough recipe from Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. If you don't have this book, go get it and you will use it way more than you think. Ruhlman has a serious gift for taking intimidating recipes and breaking them down into super simple steps. This is the third bread I've made of his and they all always turn out perfect. You will be surprised how easy and delicious it is. It also makes your house smell awesome, which is an added bonus.

Couch tour is better than no tour at all! Cheers!

Basic Bread Dough
Recipe from Ratio by Michael Ruhlman

20 ounces bread flour (about 4 cups)
12 ounces water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active or instant yeast

Combine the flour, water, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water to allow it to dissolve. Fit the bowl into the mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed until the dough has come together. Replace the paddle with a dough hook. (The whole procedure can be done with a dough hook, but the paddle brings the ingredients together rapidly. This dough can be kneaded by hand as well.) Continue mixing until your dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. To test your dough, pull off a chunk and stretch it into a square. If it's elastic enough to allow you to achieve a translucent sheet of dough, it's ready. If it tears before you can do this, continue mixing, either in the mixer or by hand, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Remove the mixing bowl from the machine, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise to about twice its size. (Mine took about 40 minutes.) Push a finger into the dough. The dough should give some resistance, but not spring back. If it springs back, let it rest longer. If you let your dough rise for too long, it will feel flabby and loose when you press a finger into it and will be less eager to rise when you bake it.

If baking it the same day, preheat your oven to 450 (preferably 45 minutes before baking). If you intend to use steam, put a cast-iron pan in the oven and add 1 cup water when ready to bake.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead to expel excess gas and redistribute the yeast. Cover with a dish towel and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Shape the dough into a boule by pushing the dough back and forth on the counter in a circular motion until you have a round smooth ball; or shape it into a ciabatta by pulling it lengthwise so that it's about a foot long and an inch thick. For a baguette, stretch the dough into a rectangle roughly 12 by 6 inches; fold the top edge of the dough over on itself and pound the heel of your hand to pinch this edge down, fold it again, pounding the heel of your palm down to seal it, and continue until it is a roll; then roll by hand and stretch the baguette out as you do so to tighten its interior structure. Cover the dough with a dish towel and allow to rise, or proof, for about an hour. Or cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a day. If baking the next day, allow the bead to rise at room temperature for at least 11/2 hours before baking.

When ready to bake a boule, slice an X or # into the top of the dough to help it expand; for ciabatta, stipple dough with your fingers and, if you wish, coat with olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. For a baguette, make long diagonal scores. (By the way, I baked my baguette on a baking sheet.) Bake for 10 minutes at 450, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 and continue baking until done, 45 to 50 minutes for a boule or baguette, 30 minutes for ciabatta.