Baking bread is probably the last thing most college students plan on doing during the average day. It seems complicated, boring and time-consuming.
But that’s far from the truth.
This recipe for delicious French baguettes only uses four common ingredients and takes under three hours from start to finish.
They’re vegetarian, vegan and great for impressing company or as a small gift or token of appreciation (if you can muster it up to give one away).
First, we start by mixing the yeast and warm water. This activates the yeast, making it ready to interact with your other ingredients.
Let it sit for about 10 minutes and then begin to add in the flour.
Add it slowly, so you can monitor the consistency of the dough.
Ideally, you want just enough flour to be completely soaked up by the water and yeast mixture. It will form into a springy, sticky wad.
Once it starts losing its stickiness or springiness, you’ve added too much flour.
If this happens, you can add a little water at a time until it’s the correct consistency – however, since this water has not been mixed with the yeast, it lowers the potential of the dough to rise.
Put the dough in a large, covered container, place it somewhere dark and let it sit again, this time for 15 minutes. The yeast will start to work, and you will see it increase in size.
Now comes the fun part – kneading.
Kneading is an art of its own. It thoroughly amalgamates the dough and creates elasticity and spring to the finished product, according to The Prepared Pantry.
To knead, you need a flat surface, such as a stone countertop or a finished wooden table.
Thoroughly clean the surface, as the dough will pick up even the smallest particles and incorporate them into your bread.
You can use a little flour on the clean surface to ensure the dough doesn’t stick, and then place your dough on the counter or tabletop.
Remove any jewelry or watches on your hands and wrists, place your palm into the dough, and push through it, diagonally away from you.
Then, use your fingers to pull the dough back toward you, and repeat in the opposite direction with your other hand.
Push through dough, pull it back. You’ll develop a rhythm after a while, and it can be a very meditative process.
Once you’ve kneaded for about 10 minutes, lightly coat your large container with olive oil, put the dough in, cover it, and let it rise for 45 minutes.
After that, take out the dough, place it on your clean surface and stretch it out into a rectangle. Fold in each side to the center, and then fold in the top and bottom.
Return it to the covered container for another 45 minutes.
Congratulations, your dough is prepared!
Now, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Now, cut the dough into thirds, and roll each piece into a cylinder. Use this time to fondly remember kindergarten, and roll them out as you would clay or Play-Doh.
Halfway through this process, place an upside–down sheet pan on the upper shelf of the oven, and a small, all-metal pot on the bottom.
If you only have one shelf in your oven like me, place the small pot on the floor of the oven, but make sure it doesn’t touch any of the oven elements.
The upside-down sheet pan will act as a pizza stone and give your dough a crispy bottom.
The pot will be used when you put your dough in the oven, as you will concurrently pour a cup of ice into it. This will create steam to facilitate a beautiful crust on your bread.
Once you have your dough tubes rolled out, arrange them on parchment paper and then use clean scissors to cut 1/4-inch-deep diagonal lines into your bread.
As the bread bakes, it will open up on these lines, instead of breaking open at the sides. Also, it’s fun and looks very professional.
Then, slide your soon-to-be baguettes onto the hot sheet pan and quickly pour the ice into the pot.
Let it bake for 20 minutes, and then check on the bread. It should look delicious.
If the crust is a light, golden brown, take it out and let it cool.
Or, immediately eat one, like I did.
Time: 3 hours
Yield: 3 baguettes
• 1 1/2 cups of water
• 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
• 3 cups all purpose flour
• 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 cup ice cubes