I think one of the frustrations for the home baker like me is the fact that our ovens are usually too small to be able to bake those glorious long sticks of bread the French call baguettes, the short version always seems a bit apologetic. There is always a case for making as long and thin a loaf of bread as you can and in my case it's 38cm
I use commercial yeast for this bread, mostly because I prefer not to have the tougher crust my wild yeast produces. I do occasionally play around with a combination of both wild yeast and fast action. In order to maximise the flavour of dough using commercial yeast, I find I need to extend the whole fermentation process so I use a poolish, a mix made up of just under half the flour, half the yeast and all of the water, given a good 12 hours to ferment at room temperature before adding to the remaining flour, yeast and salt to make the dough.
To make these baguettes you will need:
For the poolish,
250g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
300g of water
For the main dough
All of the poolish
300g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
10g of salt
Begin by making up the poolish, mix the flour, water and yeast together well and place the mix in a large bowl, cover and leave overnight. In the morning add the remaining ingredients and knead for 5 to 10 minutes. Leave in a lightly oiled bowl, covered to double in size.
In this country we talk about knocking back the dough after the first period of proving, personally I never do this. I stretch the dough to de-gas a little but the idea of bashing out all the bubbles of carbon dioxide seems a bit odd. Divide the dough into three, flatten out carefully to form an oblong and roll up the dough into a sausage shape, closing a seam along the top. Place to one side while you shape up the remaining two portions. Beginning at the centre of the sausage shape, gently roll and squeeze out the shape to lengthen. I tend to do this in two goes with a short rest period in between. Having three to do makes this easy enough. The minute or two that the dough rests between each rolling will allow it to relax a little and make the process easier. When you are happy with the length of each loaf, place on a well floured cloth pleated up between each to form a bit of support. Leave to rise for an hour, heat the oven to 220C. Place 2 baking trays in the oven to heat up; place each baguette on a tray and slash 3 or 4 slashes along the length of each. If the baguettes have been shaped with a tight enough skin you should find the you don't need to do diagonal slashing as the oven bloom will cause them to become diagonal during baking.
To be honest I have made better baguettes than this, many times. The flavour is good but the texture is disappointing, perfectly edible but not what I know I can produce. Since you get what I actually cook on this blog however, I think it's right to publish this rather than wait for a more successful batch, after all we all have days when things don't go according to plan and I think I was in a rush to get these baked. Patience is a virtue!