A few years ago Ania got me a copy of this pretty inspiring book called The French Don’t Diet Plan by Dr. Will Clower. She had been working for a literary agency one summer and got copies of cool books every now and then, and she and I read this one together. It dismantles the “French paradox”– i.e. the observation that the French have a low incidence of heart disease, despite ::GASP:: smoking, drinking, and eating high-fat foods– and reveals it to be a lot more sensible than the media hype suggests. Essentially, as we should know by now, it’s all about portion control (duh!), and by allowing ourselves full-fat options our bodies are satisfied sooner so we won’t go back for seconds. This all makes perfect sense if you actually listen to your body. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans seem pretty incapable of eating just until they are full, so I wouldn’t recommend this approach to everyone (and I’m sticking to my skim milk thankyouverymuch).
But here comes the inspiring part: the selection of simple recipes in the back of the book. Never before had I even considered making my own bread, but after trying this recipe I realized there was a whole world of baking possibilities that were within my grasp!
Ever since then, this baguette recipe has been my go-to whenever I want to make bread relatively quickly, since the author does a really nice job of specifying what you can do the night before in order to have fresh bread for dinner on a given weeknight. This recipe yields two loaves, which is also great if you want to freeze a loaf for another day (just wrap it in plastic, then foil, either after baking or even before… just be sure to defrost a few hours if you do plan on baking it post-freeze). I love this bread with salads, dipped in olive oil sprinkled with salt, or slathered in baba ganoush.
Yields 2 loaves
Adapted from The French Don’t Diet Plan
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Directions (see end of recipe for timing options)
1. In a small bowl combine the yeast with 1/4 cup of warm water. Stir to dissolve and let it sit a few minutes to activate.
2. In a separate, larger bowl, combine flour, salt, and the remaining water. Add yeasty water and mix with a wooden spoon until you form a ball.
3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth.
4. Place dough in a bowl that has been lightly oiled to prevent sticking, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour, or until doubled.
5. Press down risen dough, and form two long, thin baguette loaves. Place on a baking sheet and cover. Allow to sit and rise for another hour or two.
6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Before setting the loaves in the oven, run a moistened hand over each. Bake for 30 minutes.
7. Once baked, allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack, then enjoy this crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside, easy to make bread.
a) All in one day: In the morning follow steps 1 & 2, then place the bowl in the fridge. This will allow the dough to rise while you’re out at work or school. Once home, form loaves and let sit for an hour, then bake.
b) Planning ahead: The night before, follow steps 1 & 2, and allow dough to rise overnight. In the morning form the loaves, then place in the oven in the evening.