This light, airy baguette has a wonderful crisp golden crust. To get the right result, you need a relatively wet dough, which is why I recommend using a mixer. Most home ovens can’t fit the length of a traditional baguette, so smaller ones are the order of the day.
Lightly oil a 2–3 litre square plastic container. (It’s important to use a square tub as it helps shape the dough.)
Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add three-quarters of the water and begin mixing on a slow speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water, then continue to mix on a medium speed for 5–7 minutes, until you have a glossy, elastic dough.
Tip the dough into the prepared tub. Cover with a tea towel and leave until at least doubled in size – about 1 hour.
Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment or silicone paper.
Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then carefully tip the dough onto it. Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you keep as much air in the dough as possible. This helps to create the irregular, airy texture of a really good baguette. The dough will be wet to the touch but still lively.
Divide the dough into 4 or 5 pieces. Shape each piece into an oblong by flattening the dough out slightly and folding the sides into the middle. Then roll each up into a sausage – the top should be smooth with a join running along the length of the base. Now, beginning in the middle, roll out each sausage with your hands. Don’t force it out by pressing heavily. Concentrate on the backwards and forwards movement andgently use the weight of your arms to roll out the dough to the length of your oven trays.
Place 2 or 3 baguettes on each baking tray. Put each tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for about 1 hour, until the dough is at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 220°C and put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up.
When your baguettes are risen and light, dust them lightly with flour. Then slash each one 3 times along its length on the diagonal, using a razor blade or very sharp knife. Fill the roasting tray with hot water to create steam and put the bread into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the baguettes are golden brown and have a slight sheen. Cool on a wire rack.
This recipe is from Paul Hollywood's cookbook How to Bake.
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