I’ve updated my bread making method slightly and wrote a new recipe/post for making a great baguette. I now suggest using the recipe found on my Baguette Bread Making post instead of this recipe.
Since I acquired a KitchenAid stand mixer, I’ve been experimenting with bread making. Not so much loaf bread, rather more artisan breads. It’s amazing how a food with so few ingredients can be so good. Yet, the process of making it has so many little nuances and variations… To date all of my breads have turned out as edible, but some closer to the mark of “restaurant quality” than others.
There are countless recipes on the internet and cook books and yet each is slightly different in how to best put it together. So why am I adding yet another one? Well to be honest, my main motivation is to simply document what works for me so that I can repeat it. But if others want to use my recipe as well I’m happy to have helped.
1 1/2 cups warm tap water
1 1/2 Tbs. active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar OR 2 Tbs. honey
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
- Run warm water into the KitchenAid bowl to warm the metal. This will ensure a good environment for the yeast to activate.
- Pour 1/2 cup of tap water to the KitchenAid bowl. Hot water from your tap works just fine (unless your hot water heater is set higher than the average household)
- Stir into the water either 2 Tablespoons of honey or 2 teaspoons of white sugar
- Stir into the water 2 teaspoons of salt
- Stir into the water 1 1/2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
- Let this sit for 5 minutes – the yeast should activate and the yeast will foam
- Attach the dough hook to the KitchenAid mixer and start the mixer on low
- Add in the bread flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, until 3 1/2 of coups of flower has been added
- Slowly pour in 1 cup of warm tap water.
- Continue mixing the dough on low until the dough comes together. This could take 5 – 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes or so the dough ball doesn’t pull it self completely from the bottom of the bowl, I’ll start to add more flour 1/4 cup at a time up to 4 cups. Technically, if the dough is rather sticky and not a fully manageable ball it still will work out and for some breads this is recommended. This mixing process should take about 5 – 10 minutes.
- When you feel the ball has come together nicely, turn the mixer off and poke your dough. If all is good, the dough should spring right back to a nearly smooth dough ball again. This is a sign that the gluten has formed and your dough is ready. This is also where you could do a “window pane” test, but I don’t like using that method personally. If the dough isn’t ready, run the mixer a while longer. Keep in mind the mixer is taking the place of hand kneading the dough. Sometimes the dough clings to the hook so well that it is just “going along for the ride” and not really getting kneaded (or beat up). So you may have to stop the mixer and remove the dough from the hook. This will force it to get ‘beat up’ a bit more.
- Coat a large bowl with oil. I prefer olive oil applied with a paper towel over cooking sprays.
- Once your dough passes the finger-pressing test, remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a ball shape – it doesn’t need to be perfect. But try to smooth out some of the edges. If the dough is still sticky coat your hands in flower first.
- Cover the bowl. I prefer cling wrap – the air tight seal works well and if the bowl isn’t big enough can shift as needed. A towel could work as well. Place the bough in a room temperature or warm spot free of drafts. Let the dough sit for at least 30 minutes – the dough should at least double in size.
- At this point you have two options – bake the dough or refrigerate the dough over
– If refrigerating, uncover the bowl, and punch down the dough a bit (yes, physically punch the dough). Then recover and place in the refrigerator. When you are ready to bake, take the dough out at least 1 hour in advance to let it come back to room temperature. This will make it easier to handle and bake better. I’d suggest taking it out of the bowl as well to allow it to get to temperature easier.
– If you’ll be baking it right away, pre-heat your oven to 450° with the pizza stone on the middle rack. I’d suggest pre-heating for 30 minutes, which may be longer than your oven needs, but it will allow the stone to get to temperature.
- Cut the dough ball into two pieces. Stretch each piece out to a flat rectangle shape about 12 inches long and 2-4 inches wide. Roll the dough up and try to pinch/press the seam shut. Tuck the ends under and try to seal the seams. You should now have the long baguette shape.
- Let your two baguettes sit for about 15 minutes to all them to rise and firm up one last time before baking.
- Using a sharp serrated bread knife, cut some 1/2 inch deep marks across the top of the dough. You could do one long cut down the middle, or I do 3 or 4 angled cuts across the dough. This adds some nice style.
- Toss some flour onto the pizza stone to prevent sticking, then carefully slide or move the baguettes onto the pizza stone.
- Bake for about 15 minutes. I start checking them around 11 minutes to ensure I don’t over cook. The dough should turn a nice golden brown, and if you knock on it you’ll hear a bit of a hollow sound and the dough should be hard on the outside.
- Now for the best part – take the dough out of the oven and enjoy!
Some other notes
My early bread making was with a gas oven. Then I moved and I now have an electric oven that tops out at 500 F. To be honest, I don’t know that one does the job differently than another aside from my gas oven had some warmer slots and thus you’d have to place the loaves just right to not burn a portion of the bread.
I’ve made some loaves on cookie sheets, but since my lovely wife gave me a pizza stone as a present, I won’t bake bread on anything else! The pizza stone is such a perfect cooking surface for breads. I’ve seen varying rules for how long to preheat the stone and I’ve tested all of them. To be honest, I found that preheating the oven with the stone in it. the wait maybe 10 more minutes and you are all set. I have. Seen a difference if I were to do the 1 hour preheating that some suggest. I should note though that my pizza stone isn’t as thick as some of the larger baking stones I’ve seen pictures of. I’m sure a thicker stone would require more pre-heat time so use your best judgment and test it out.
I’ve seen some recipes say that if you put a pan of water under your bread while baking, it’ll create a steam effect in the oven and that will accomplish two things:
- Add a glossier sheen to your breads crust
- Make the crust harder while the insider is softer
The idea is the blast of steam will cook the outer crust quicker. I’ve tired this method once and didn’t find any difference. In fairness, I did leave out one step – using a mist bottle to spray water on the walls of your oven every 30 seconds for the first 2 minutes of baking.