I’ve been a baguette fan for a long time, and even though I’ve discovered there are just too many variables/barriers preventing me from baking a truly French baguette, I keep trying. Baking a French traditional baguette is my quixotic challenge in baking.
French bread flour is definitely different – it is a harder type of wheat I think – and our ovens here in the US don’t always reach the temperatures required for crusty French-style breads. However, I have found a recipe from King Arthur Flour that comes darn close to the real thing, or at least I think so.
When we visit France, one of the things I look forward to is a stop for baguette. No matter how small the town, there is always a boulangerie turning out the most delectable, crusty loaves. Now that I think of it, we just may be overdue for an in-person taste test.
Ingredients for the Starter
- 1/2 cup cool water
- 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour (don’t substitute)
- 1/8 tsp instant yeast
Ingredients for the Dough
- All of the starter
- 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour (I substituted 1 cup KA Bread flour because I had it in the pantry)
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- Mix the starter ingredients until smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight. Don’t skip this step!
- The next day, mix the starter with the remaining ingredients, kneading until the dough is nice and springy but not totally smooth (or if you are like me, use your bread hook and heavy-duty mixer). Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour and again after 2 hours.
- Divide the dough in half (in our two-person household, I divide the dough into quarters). Shape each half into a rough oval. Wait 15 minutes and then fold each oval lengthwise, sealing the edge, and use cupped fingers to gently roll each piece into a long log. Place the loaves onto a lightly greased or parchment lined (my choice) pan, cover, and let them rise* until they are puffy, but not doubled – this takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rise, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Very gently use a sharp knife or razor to slash 3 diagonal 1/3-inch deep slashes in each loaf. Mist the loaves heavily with warm water (do not skip this).
- Bake baguettes for 22 to 28 minutes, til they’re golden brown. Take the baguettes of the pan and place them right back on the oven rack. Turn off the oven, crack the door open about 2 inches and let the baguettes cool completely in the oven.
- *For extra-crisp baguettes, King Arthur bakers suggest covering the shaped loves and let them rise for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate them overnight. The next day (Day 3!) take them out of the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature, covered for about 3 hours or until they are nice and puffy. Then bake as in Step 4.
I was lucky enough to spend a weekend at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts a few years ago and, to say it was life-changing is mildly descriptive to say to least. Since then, although I don’t always cook or eat as healthy as I should, I do like browsing through Kripalu’s kitchen recipes for ways to counteract some more unhealthy habits.
This green soup seemed a winner from the first read. Packet with veggie power, it is filling and cleansing – a great way to get back on the path toward making healthier eating choices. And should you find yourself near Western Massachusetts, be sure to treat yourself to some time a Kripalu Center.
(Take Ellen Casperson’s advice: feel free to use whatever proportion and variety of green vegetables you prefer)
- 2 cups water or homemade vegetable stock
- 4 cups broccoli crowns and stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 2 stalks fresh celery, chopped in 1 inch pieces
- 4 cups fresh spinach or other greens
- 2 cups water or homemade vegetable stock (added to get a consistency you like)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground tumeric
- Salt to taste
- Fresh lemon
- In a medium saucepan, combine water, vegetables, black pepper, and tumeric. Bring to a boil.
- Turn heat down to medium and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft (but not mushy). Take pan off heat and blend mixture until smooth using an immersion blender.
- You can add more water here to achieve a thick but not gloppy consistency. Add salt to taste.
- Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon
When the weekend rolls around, we like to slow things down and start our evening meal off with Cinq à Sept, our version of the French cocktail hour. And that means a little something to eat before dinner. I discovered this refreshing Spring dip from Michael Symon on Food Network’s website recently and it has quickly become a favorite before dinner treat.
- 2 cups fresh or frozen peas (frozen peas, way easier and usually in my freezer anyway)
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup fresh sheep’s milk ricotta (okay, cheated – bought low-fat store-brand ricotta)
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (don’t even think about that canned stuff!)
- 2 TBSP chopped fresh (yes, use the fresh) mint
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- Grilled bread for serving (whatever you substitute, make it crusty)
- Add the peas to a large pot of well-salted boiling water and boil the pease for about 30 seconds (here’s where I use my microwave). Remove peas to an ice bath.
- In a food processor, combine the ricotta, lemon zest, parmesan and mint. Drain the peas and add them to the food processor. Pulse just until the mixture comes together; you want to keep a little texture and not make it totally smooth. Season with salt.
- Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl, crack some pepper over the top and drizzle with olive oil. Serve the pea dip with grilled bread.
Today is Adrien’s birthday and, I will be cooking tonight’s celebratory meal. While I am a big fan of birthday cake, he is not. So we are having a very un-birthday like dessert: chocolate mousse.
The absolute best chocolate mousse we have ever eaten was served at a lovely Paris restaurant in the Marais just a few blocks from Places de Vosges, Chez Janou. There is nothing quite so delightful as ending a wonderful meal with a giant copper bowl of chocolate mousse, trust me. This recipe from Martha Stewart comes pretty close to perfection, however, and it is fairly uncomplicated. Chocolately and light, forget counting calories. This is an indulgently rich dessert worthy of someone’s birthday.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 TBSP sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (I substituted vanilla paste here)
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, 2 TBSP sugar, and 3/4 cup heavy cream. Cover over medium-low heat, stirring until mixture coats back of a spoon (3-4 minutes). Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat, whisk in melted chocolate and vanilla. Strain into a bowl. Chill until cool.
- With an electric mixer (I used my trusty stand mixer with the whisk attachment), beat remaining 1 1/4 cups heavy cream with remaining 2 TBSP sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cooled custard mixture, then GENTLY FOLD (!) in the rest of the whipped cream with a spatula.
- Spoon into serving dishes, chill covered at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. Or if you are dreaming of Chez Janou, put the mousse in a big serving bowl and enjoy the memories!