October 1, 2012

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French bread couldn't be simpler.

Yet many people struggle.

The skill lies in knowing how to form the dough so that it will emerge from the oven in a perfect, rounded baguette shape.

The crunchy crust also requires a bit of extra know-how.

I've spent some time (and many attempts) perfecting my French bread technique, so you don't have to.

Here's how to make delicious French bread in your own kitchen.

You will need:

200g strong, plain flour
5g instant dried yeast
1 tsp salt
150ml hand-hot water

Mix the ingredients in a large bowl, adding the water gradually so you can control the consistency of the mixture. You're aiming for a firm, sticky dough.

Leave the dough to ferment and rise for about an hour.

Next, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it becomes smooth and stretchy.

Ensure that it is not too sticky to work with. It should be 'clean' and not stick to your hands or the work-top. If it is too sticky, knead in some extra flour.

Now comes the shaping

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a large oval shape, about a centimetre thick.

Then, starting from the edge furthest away from you, roll the dough, Swiss-roll style, until you have a long thin cylinder shape.

Press the edges together firmly to seal the seam.

Leave the dough to rest for a few minutes.

Nearly there

Prepare a baking tray, by covering it with a non-stick baking sheet.

It's time to elongate the dough.

Use the palms of your hands to roll the dough over the work surface so that the baguette stretches.

When it is as long as your baking tray, lift the baguette onto the tray and pleat the baking sheet on either side so that it supports the dough. This helps the dough to rise upwards, rather than spreading outwards.

Leave the dough to rise again for about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200oC.

When the dough has risen, use a sharp knife to make three diagonal score-marks, about half a centimetre deep, along the baguette.

Move the pleats of the baking sheet so that they don't stick to the bread as it is baking.

Spray the bread with water (you can use a clean plant spray for this) before placing it in the oven. This will give your bread its crunchy crust.

After three minutes, open the oven and re-spray the bread. Repeat this for a final time after a further three minutes.

Bake the bread for another 15 minutes to complete the cooking.

Transfer the bread to a cooling rack for a few minutes before eating it.

There are more great bread recipes on my site.
I'm Rachel, from Freshly Baked. I help people to bake delicious bread with minimum hassle.

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