Beating the baguette and the summer of 2012

I know I’m not the only one to consider this the best summer yet – perfect in so many ways: Team Sky brought home the Tour de France yellow jersey, the Sky Velo contras smashed the Alps and the Pyrenees, London showed the world what a fantastic place it can be, the shorts grew ever more fun, interesting and inspiring and Puggers kept us all busy winning awards. I think it’s fair to say that the summer of 2012 is going to be, as my hard-fi friends would say, hard to beat.

And to top it all, after months of half-arsed attempts, I finally managed to beat the baguette (and not in a rude way). It’s not completely the right recipe, because I don’t do the whole overnight starter thing, but I think it’s pretty good and well worth a try:

As usual, I’m not great on quantities, but I’m not sure it’s hugely important as long as you get the right consistency. Take about 400g of organic plain flour, add a couple of good teaspoons of salt and a little more dry ready-to-use yeast. Then add enough cold water (yes cold – the whole warm water thing is fallacy) and few good glugs of olive oil to make a fairly wet dough – firm enough to be able to work and knead it, but wet enough that it’s still sticky (this is the thing I always got wrong – I always made the dough too dry).

Knead the dough for 10 minutes and then stick it in a bowl covered in cling film and put it somewhere warm for an hour (I don’t have an airing cupboard so I stick it in the oven at the lowest possible temperature). Take it out and then divide into four and roll out onto floured baking trays. Cover them again in cling-film and put then on the top of the oven. Turn on the oven and start getting it up to about 250c – the warmth of the oven as it heats will help them rise again. After about 15 minutes, they should have already risen a little. Knock them back, and roll them out again (They should be about 2-3cm in diameter, no more) and re-flour the baking trays before laying them out, scoring them diagonally across the loaf with a bread knife and covering with cling-film again. Now put a baking tray half full of boiling water into the oven to get a good head of steam going. After 30 mins, put the bread in the oven and just before you close the door, chuck in half a glass of boiling water – preferably not on top of the bread. After about10 minutes, chuck another glass of boiling water into the bottom of the oven – all that steam is what will make the bread beautifully crusty.

After 20 minutes, remove the tray of water and let the bread cook for a final 5 minutes (although best give it a quick check in case it’s already done). Tale it out once it’s ready and let it cool for about 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Eat them, all of them.
Yes, all four loaves (we did)

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