Okay, so if you know me at all, you know I love sweet things, right? Like chocolate. Or cake. Or chocolate cake. And vanilla pastry cream. And dulce de leche. And cookies. Aaaanyway, you get the point: I like sweet things. Howeeeeever, I’m hardly a dessert victim. I can easily pass on a brownie. Especially if I didn’t make it myself. Same with cookies. Bland supermarket cookies? No thank you! Greasy supermarket pound cake? Yikes! I’m not that desperate for sugar…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means a purist. Sometimes, only a Magnum Strawberry White will do, regardless of the fact that it’s loaded with artificial strawberry flavoring. And even though I’m a home baker who knows what real buttercream tastes like, I can still appreciate those little star-shaped cookies filled with… what, exactly?? If you’re not Dutch, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about, but let me tell you: they’re good!
But in general, I’m not a dessert victim. I can say no to certain sweet things!
Not so much with bread, though. When it comes to bread, fresh out of the oven, I’m completely and utterly defenseless. Whenever the Rocking Rebel and I buy bread (which is every few days), I immediately stuff it in the freezer before I get the urge to eat the entire thing at once! What can I say: I love carbs! And what do you do when you love carbs? You make homemade bread. And not just any kind of bread. No, you make the best, most gorgeous little French baguettes in the entire world!
I’m not even exaggerating! The Rocking Rebel refused to believe that I made these babies myself. He was convinced that I got them from the cute little bakery that’s just around the corner from our place. Which I took as a compliment, of course…
So what do I like about bread? Well, for starters it tastes and smells amazing! Everyone loves the smell of fresh bread. Then there’s the fact that you can eat an entire loaf without ever feeling full. I’ve tried the same thing with cake, but somehow cake isn’t good for munching. Bread is much easier to wolf down like a starving maniac. Plus, great bread is good on its own, but you can also put stuff on it, like cheese or peanut butter. I loooove lightly toasted whole grain bread with a thick layer of peanut butter. Or white toast with a thick layer of Nutella. And what about a fresh baguette with brie or smoked salmon and capers?
To. Die. For.
And I think summer is the perfect season for bread. Because summer means heat, and heat means long summer nights filled with delicious food. Like wine and pasta. Or beer and hamburgers hot off the barbecue. You can’t have a decent barbecue without bread… Everyone knows that!
Personally, I love small French baguettes like these on days that are particularly hot, when the Rocking Rebel and I are too lazy to cook and wish for nothing more than a cool beer, a hunk of bread, pickles, boiled eggs and whatever else we can find in the fridge!
Sometimes I think those are the best dinners. Especially when there’s Serrano ham and olives involved!
And these little baguettes really aren’t that difficult to make! You start by making an easy starter dough, which basically means throwing together yeast, all-purpose flour, a little sugar and water. You leave the starter to do its thing in the fridge before adding more flour, salt and water. Mix, mix, mix, knead, knead, knead and you’ll have a sticky wet dough that’s virtually impossible to handle. Don’t despair! As it turns out, water is what makes bread delicious. Not the yeast. Not the salt. The water! Remember that.
And – bonus, bonus – a slack dough (a wet dough that’s incredibly sticky and sloppy) will result in a bread that not only has great flavor, but also great texture. Just don’t try kneading this dough by hand. You’ll need a mixer! Take it from someone who has tried kneading it by hand. It’s messy… And I’m the kind of girl that doesn’t mind messy, so that’s saying something! If you own a stand mixer, use the flat beater to mix this dough. Or maybe the dough hook. If you only have an ordinary hand mixer – like yours truly – just use the dough hooks. If you have neither: first get yourself a cheap hand mixer.
Mine cost about as much as eight Snickers bars…
Seriously guys, these baguettes are sooooo good! With or without olives. Although everything is better with olives, right? Right? Well, maybe not… Olive ice cream? Olive chocolate? Eeuw…
But I like olives!
So here’s the recipe:
- a heaped ½ teaspoon of instant-dry yeast
- 300ml (or 1¼ cup) cold water
- 325g (or 2½ cup + 5 teaspoons) all-purpose flour
- the starter dough
- 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon of table salt
- 1¾ teaspoon instant-dry yeast
- 300ml (or 1¼ cup) cold water
- 500g (or 4 cups) all-purpose flour
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the yeast, water and flour. Stir until a sticky dough forms.
- Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 4 hours at room temperature (alternatively, you can put it in the fridge and leave the dough to rise overnight).
- In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar, salt and yeast in the water. Add the risen starter dough and the flour and mix to combine. Using a hand mixer with dough hooks or the flat beater of a stand mixer, knead the dough until very elastic, about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes of kneading, the dough should still be very sticky, so don't be tempted to add more flour!
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 90 minutes.
- Once the dough has risen nicely, divide the dough into 8 equal chunks. Generously dust your counter with flour and plop the chunks on top. Dust the dough chunks with more flour, then start shaping the dough: using your hands, press each chunk of dough down into a flat rectangle and roll each rectangle into a baguette shape.
- Place the baguettes seam-side down onto a baking sheet (or two baking sheets!) lined with baking parchment. Make sure to space the baguettes so they can rise. Using your hands, rub a generous amount of all-purpose flour into a tea towel and loosely place it flour-side in over the baguettes. Leave the baguettes to rise until they have doubled in size (mine took about 70 minutes!).
- In the meantime, preheat your oven to 240°C/460°F (standard oven setting) and place a heatproof bowl with about half a cup of water in the bottom of the oven. This will ensure the baguettes will get a crispy crust!
- Once the baguettes have doubled in size, brush them with water (I used my hands for this) and use a sharp knife to score the baguettes any way you like, then place the baguettes in the middle of the oven.
- As soon as the baguettes start to brown a bit, lower the oven temperature to 200°C/390°F (without opening the oven door). In total, bake the baguettes for about 30 minutes. You can test for doneness by carefully lifting one of the baguettes off the sheet and tapping the bottom. A hollow sounds means the baguettes are done!
- Serve warm (with some of that delicious Cinnamon-Brown Butter Spread) or allow to cool on a wire rack first.