When I was in high school, I spent two summers in France and ate a demi-baguette for lunch every day. The bread there was so good, you didn’t even need to put anything on it — although cheese or nutella never hurt anyone.
However, with rare exceptions, the bread in New York just doesn’t compare. I have tried every bakery within about 10 blocks of my apartment, without finding a single one that I’m satisfied with. When I lived in the West Village, I used to go to Amy’s Bread at least twice a a week, which was wonderful. But so far, no luck in my new neighborhood.
The obvious solution is to learn to bake my own bread, so I figured I would give it a try. And, surprisingly, it’s not actually that difficult! It kind of takes a long time, but overall, this recipe is pretty good. Not quite as good as I remember true french baguettes to be, but pretty darn good on its own.
I used regular yeast (not rapid rise yeast) in this recipe, and it worked pretty well, albeit slowly. Supposedly you need very different techniques for making bread using instant and non-instant yeast, but I’ve found they can be used pretty interchangably. Instant yeast can be proofed, although it doesn’t need to, and I’ve used warm water in just about all my bread recipes, even if some types of yeast do better with cold water. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this — it might not speak well of my bread baking technique! But it always tastes great in the end, whatever mistakes get made along the way.
A few bread-baking tips:
- Add yeast to warm, but not hot, water, with a tiny amount of sugar, and wait. If it bubbles, your yeast is good.
- Do NOT add salt to the water mixture. Blend it with the flour, and add it that way.
- Bake the bread with an extra tin of water in the oven for thicker, crustier loaf.
And the final, most important tip: Eat it hot out of the oven. I was supposed to be saving it for tonight, but I couldn’t resist! Just look at that crust!
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of warm water (110 to 120 degrees)
1 package of yeast (11 grams)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Dissolve yeast in sugar and water. Let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.
3. Mix flour and salt. Add water mixture to the flour and knead until blended.
4. Place the dough in a greased bowl, coating all sides of dough. Cover bowl with saran wrap, and let rise somewhere warm for 60 minutes, or until dough has doubled in size.
5. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough flat into a 12″x18″ rectangle. Cut dough in half to form two 12″x9″ rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, creating a 12″ log. 6. Place each roll 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches. Cover with saran wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes, or until doubled again.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tops of loaves are just starting to brown.
Makes 2 12″ loaves, or about 24 slices.