Let me first start by stating the obvious. I haven’t written since April. APRIL! I seriously cannot believe how fast the months are flying by. Things in my life are changing at such a rapid pace, I can hardly keep up! There are many exciting things on the horizon and I simply cannot wait!!
Allow me to get you up to speed with what I’ve been doing in my reclusive, non-writing state. I was taught to loom knit on New Year’s Eve this year (err.. last year?) and since then I have grown quite addicted to it. I am either knitting, or thinking about knitting, the majority of my days. I am currently making some baby cocoons for a few dear friends that are pregnant. I just LOVE making baby stuff. It’s adorable and since it’s so small, it works up super quick. Loom knitting has definitely given me that creative, stress-relieving outlet I’ve longed for. Here are a handful of items I’ve made.
In addition to loom knitting like a fiend, I’ve been cooking and baking some amazing meals. Don’t worry, I have plenty of recipes and pictures to share! My most recent obsession is with bread, go figure. Do you know how incredibly EASY it is to make artisan French baguettes at home? I sure didn’t. But now I’m making them like a pro! I’ll never buy a store-bought baguette again!!
The process is time consuming, however, the actual hands on work is very minimal. You start with a pre-ferment, or starter. The French version is called a Poolish (named after the method of pre-fermentation brought by Polish bakers to France in the early 1900s), and that is what we will be using today. There are other types of pre-ferments, namely Biga (similar in form to Poolish but used in Italian baking) and the most common, sourdough. Let’s get started. :D
Perfect Poolish Baguettes
For the Poolish:
- 1 cup quality, filtered water
- 1 cup organic unbleached white flour (other types of flour can be substituted but let’s keep it simple for now)
- a pinch of yeast (seriously, just a pinch!)
For the Baguettes:
- 2.5 cups flour (organic white, wheat, or a combination. I usually use 2 cups whole-wheat and .5 cup white)
- 1/2 + 3 Tbs filtered water
- 1 1/4 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
- 1/2 + 1/8 tsp dry active yeast
The first thing you want to do is PLAN AHEAD. The pre-ferment must sit from 12-14 hours, so it’s best to plan things out. This is NOT a last minute bread. There is no way to speed this up. I like to make my Poolish the night before so it’s ready to get started in the AM. The rising time is also quite lengthy, so it’s best to start early!
Mix the ingredients for the Poolish and cover with cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Set it somewhere it will not be disturbed for 12-14 hours. When it’s at it’s peak, it should look like this:
You’ll see some nice bubbles all throughout the mixture, and when you stir it, you’ll see the glutenous strands grabbing onto your spoon. It’s pretty neat stuff.
After 12 hours, add the Poolish to a large mixing bowl. Pour in the water to loosen it up and then add the dry ingredients. Mix WELL. You do NOT knead this bread. (Also, the dough will be quite wet. This is good.) Once it’s fully mixed, allow to rise, covered with a towel, for 2 hours. (If you’re short on time, you *can* allow just 1 hour.) After it’s risen, you want to do what’s called the “Stretch and Fold” method. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently stretch from either side. Then, you want to fold the dough onto itself. Do this three times, then put the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow to rest for 30-45 minutes, then stretch and fold again. Do this a total of 5 times. (Again, if you are running short on time, you can omit a few of these. However, you will be compromising the quality of the final product. It will still be delicious, don’t get me wrong, but time and patience are what really make this bread shine!)
After the final stretch and fold, it’s time to shape your baguettes. I watched several YouTube videos until I felt confident in my baguette shaping ability. Here are a couple of my favorites that were extremely helpful. Notice, in the first vid, she also shows you the Stretch and Fold method.
Who needs culinary school when you have the internet? Seriously. :)
Shape into 2 baguettes and allow to rise about 20-30 minutes. (I do this on a piece of parchment paper on my baking stone.) Also, preheat the oven to 450 degree F during this time. When the bread has just about doubled, it’s time to score the baguettes. Again, using YouTube videos, I learned the proper way to score them. (Turns out, I’d been doing it ALL WRONG! Also, I really need a scoring blade.) Definitely check out this video if you are unfamiliar.
King Arthur also has another excellent video:
The next step is optional, but vastly increases the quality of your baguettes. About 10 minutes before adding the bread to your oven, place an oven proof bowl or baking dish onto the bottom rack. Fill with water to create steam while baking. Place the baguettes on the top rack and bake for 25 minutes, or until deeply browned. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Now slice and enjoy!
This bread is perfect for all your baguette needs. Bruschetta, molletes, banh mi, garlic bread.. or simply by itself with a bowl of homemade soup. Artisan French baguettes at home are the best. :)
*This post was shared on Wildcrafting Wednesday!