Paul Hollywood does not know me from Adam but he has, in a small way, changed my life. I am now a woman who after a day at work thinks nothing of whipping up a couple of baguettes to have with tea. From being a total bread phobic* a couple of years ago to this - what a way I have come.
*To be clear, I was frightened of making bread, not eating it.
I suppose, to the purist, I still don't really make bread because I rely heavily on my Kitchen Aid and her dough hook and do very little kneading by hand. However, the fact that in his baguette recipe Paul Hollywood tells you, specifically, to do it that way (baguette dough is quite wet and sticky and difficult to work with) inspires me to think that it's OK. God, or Paul Hollywood or someone, invented dough hooks and standing mixers so that people like me could come home in the evening produce fresh baked, crusty bread on a whim.
The recipe below is from Paul Hollywood's "Bread" book but since it is published elsewhere online, I don't have too many qualms about putting it here as well. Also, I must admit that my version reduces the water a smidge from the original 180ml. It may only be a tablespoon's worth but I found it made a huge difference to the way in which the dough came together.
My other top tip, if you specifically want to make baguettes, is to invest in a baguette tray like this one. The first time I attempted baguettes the taste and texture were right but the shape was ridiculous - this is not easy dough to work with. But allowing the dough to do its second prove and bake in one of these trays solves that problem completely.
250g strong white bread flour, plus additional for dusting the surface
5g instant yeast
160ml cool water
2 tbsp olive oil, plus additional for greasing the bowl
You will also need: a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment fitted, a large bowl, clingfilm, a large plastic bag and a baguette baking tray
Weigh out the flour into the bowl of the mixer. Add the yeast to one side of the flour and the salt to the other.
Combine the water and the two tablespoons of oil into a jug.
Set the mixer off at its lowest speed and gradually pour in the water and oil mix. When all the liquid has been added it may appear quite wet and sticky. Have courage. Turn the mixer up a notch and, gradually, it should begin to come together. Once it has gathered into a ball around the hook, turn it up another level so it is now going at a decent, medium speed and allow to knead for about 7-8 minutes. After this time you should have a dough that, while still slightly sticky to the touch, is also silky and stretchy.
Oil a separate, large bowl and tip the dough into it, turning it a couple of times so that the entire surface of the ball has a light coating of oil. Cover with clingfilm and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size - I found that this took around 1.5 hours but it may be longer in cool weather.
Lightly flour a work surface and your baguette tray. Tip the dough on to the surface and use the heel of your hand to knock some of the air out of it. Then fold it over on itself a few times which will help the structure.
Divide the dough in two and, as if it were plasticine, roll each piece out into a rough sausage shape. Place the dough sausages in the baguette tray. Then place the whole in a large plastic bag and return to the warm place for the second prove - about another hour.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220 and place a roasting tray full of water in the bottom. This will create a steam that helps the bread develop its crisp crust.
Bake for 20-25 mins until golden brown and crisp. I find that I need to cover the tops with foil after about 15 mins in my oven to stop them over colouring. The internal temperature of baked bread is 190-200 degrees if you want to use a cooking thermometer to check if they are done.
Enjoy, mes petites!