By following a Simple Baker’s Formula, you can easily make a delicious, crusty baguette, epi or round of bread by hand.
To prepare your mise en place, follow a Simple Bakers Formula by measuring out the ingredients. Set aside.
*Note: Use a bread flour with at least 12% protein content. Depending on the humidity, you may require more or less bread flour as you form the dough.
Pour the water into a medium-sized, deep bowl and sprinkle the yeast over top. Add three-quarters of the flour. With a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients until just combined and then add the salt.
Do not knead at this point. Keep stirring, adding the remaining flour, if necessary. Depending on the humidity, you may need to add a bit more than the measured 2 cups. Add enough flour to create a clay-like mass. As you stir, the dough should clean the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto the counter top, removing any bits of flour and dough that are stuck to the bowl. Knead the dough for at least 5 to 8 minutes until it is smooth. Don’t be tempted to add too much flour.
Clean out the mixing bowl, if necessary and place the kneaded dough inside. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until it doubles in size (approximately 1 hour).
Once the dough doubles in size, punch it down to expel the gas. Cover the dough again and let it rest for about 5 minutes.
Once the dough has rested, it can be shaped. Watch Topic 5 of the Stages of Bread Making Lesson for specific instructions.
Once the dough has been shaped, place it onto a tray lined with cornmeal.
Place a small tray on the lowest rack and preheat your oven to 400° F (205° C).
Flour the dough quite heavily and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough proof at room temperature for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Perform the spring back test to ensure it has proofed enough before baking.
Once the dough has properly proofed, slash the dough with a serrated knife or lame.
Immediately transfer to the middle rack and pour the water into the small tray to create steam. Immediately close the oven door. Depending on the size and shape of the dough, bake it until the top and sides are golden brown. Once done the bottom should sound hollow. You can even test the temperature by inserting a thermometer from the bottom of the loaf into the center of the dough. The temperature should register between 200-210° F (95-99° C).
Once you remove the bread from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Wait at least 30 minutes before cutting into. Store for 1 to 2 days at room temperature in a paper bag or bread box.