bon pain

I made French baguettes yesterday. When we have our friends over for supper and prayer, I usually make French bread to go with whatever soup someone else brings (and use some of the dough to make communion bread). But I haven't put the recipe here in my journal yet.

1½ cups water
2 t dry yeast
2 t salt
white flour

Mix the water, yeast, and salt. Gradually stir in flour (probably about 3½ cups) until a soft dough is formed, then knead and continue to add flour until no longer sticky.

Let rise for two hours in a sealed container (or covered to prevent drying out). Next, divide dough in half and let sit for a half hour. Then flatten each portion into a rectangle. Fold the top third of each rectangle into the middle, then the bottom third into the middle, and press down to squeeze out any air. Then roll each into a snake, pinching the seam and tucking in the ends. Place the two loaves, seam down, on a greased cookie sheet, not close together (so the sides can brown evenly). Let rise for one more hour.

While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 450°F. Just before putting the bread in, use a razor blade to cut diagonal slices across each loaf. I place a kiln slab on the shelf below the bread to keep the bottoms from burning and to maintain an even temperature; a pizza stone would work also. When the bread goes in, also spray water into the oven to make steam. Spray again five minutes later. The steam is the secret to the distinctive thin, crisp crust. The bread also has no oil, which makes for a crispier crust (but it also dries out faster, so should be eaten fresh).

After twenty minutes at 450°F, reduce oven temperature to 400°F and bake for about another ten minutes. Check the bread near the end, especially the bottoms, to avoid burning. The crust should be hard, and crackle when squeezed.