French Baguettes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 envelopes dry active yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Canola oil, for greasing bowl
  • Cornmeal, for dusting pan
  • 3 to 4 ice cubes
  • Serving suggestions: ricotta cheese and acacia honey

METHOD:

  1. Combine the honey, yeast and 1/2 cup warm water. Whisk to combine and let the mixture sit until the yeast begins to foam, 5 minutes.
  2. Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl with a dough hook and slowly add in the frothy yeast mixture. Gradually add 1 cup warm water and mix until the dough comes together into a ball that is not too sticky (you may not need all of the water). If the dough is too wet, add a little bit more flour. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and springs back to gently applied pressure, 2 to 6 minutes
  3. Form the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover, so it doesn’t dry out. Let rest in a warm environment until doubled in size, 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Shape into 2 baguettes by making a flat rectangle out of your dough, then folding the longer sides (top and bottom) towards the middle, like an envelope, and sealing the seam with your fingers.   Repeat the folding and sealing on these sides, stretching the rectangle lengthwise as you go, until it’s about 12 to 14 inches long and 2 inches wide. Fold the ends in once  and crimp into an oval to seal off into the traditional baguette shape. Flip the dough seam-side down and place on a sheet pan or baguette pan that has been dusted with cornmeal. Score the tops of the loaves, making deep diagonal slits 1/2-inch deep ( or 3/4 of the way through the height of the dough, not all the way through), cover with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm environment until they have doubled in size, 25 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and position your oven racks with one on the bottom and the other in the middle. Place an oven-safe (non-glass) bowl or pan on the bottom rack.
  6. When your bread has doubled for the second time, remove the towel and quickly and simultaneously, slide the sheet tray with the baguettes onto the middle rack while carefully throwing the ice cubes into the bowl on the bottom rack. The ice will create a burst of steam that will give you a nice crispy crust. Quickly shut the oven door so no steam escapes. Bake the baguettes until golden brown, 15 minutes.
  7. Cook’s Note: If you have a glass window on your oven, place a towel over it when throwing the ice in, hot glass can shatter if ice touches it.
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