Baking, Food, Recipes

French baguettes and my favourite sandwich

August 23, 2015

So this week’s Bake Off was bread. I have to admit that I kind of gave up watching the episode. Most of the showstopper ones are just barely manageable (although the cookie box last week was close), but bread sculptures? Yeah I couldn’t watch that.

Although I do think it’s comical how Paul’s lion loaf has gone viral.

But I did like the technical challenge of French baguettes. While the recipe is very simple, it’s technically probably the most difficult bread to get right.

Proper bread ovens have far hotter temperatures that conventional ovens and also let in steam to help get that perfect crust. So I watched with intent to see if anyone could actually manage it.

And a few did pretty well. So I thought I’d give it a try.

I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe and the dough came together very nicely. As mentioned on the show, it’s a pretty wet dough so I did what I could in my food processor first before kneading by hand, trying to add as little extra flour as possible.

After the first prove, I split the dough in half and put one away in the freezer. If you do ever want to keep dough aside, make sure you put it in the freezer rather than the fridge. The temperature of the freezer is the only thing that will stop the dough from over-proving.

So I set about making my first batch of baguettes. Following Paul’s recipe and from what I saw on the show, I made sure I added some steam to the oven. When they came out they were looking good, they felt firm to the touch and so it felt promising. But as they cooled they got softer and softer.

However, they tasted pretty good. I think the key to this was a made sure to measure the salt. That’s often one of the areas where people go wrong with bread, not seasoning it enough. So even though it seemed like a lot of salt I added it all and it really paid off.

So yesterday evening I took batch two out of the freezer, wanting to give it another go. I did a bit more homework, including watching Food Wishes and Laura in the Kitchen on YouTube try their hand at it and I made a few adjustments to my technique. And the second lot ended up not bad I’d say.

Firstly, instead of spliting the dough into two, I went for three so I could get thinner baguettes. After the second prove, the first batch puffed up too much so I rolled them pretty thin. I also put a heavier pan in the bottom of the oven. The tray I used before was probably too thin and so the water cooled the tray rather than the tray heating the water. I also decided to add more water at the start, and some half way through when I turned the baguettes. I did like John of Food Wishes suggestion of spraying water into the oven, but I didn’t have an empty spray bottle to hand.

So I didn’t want to copy Paul’s recipe. It’s very detailed and a great one to follow along if you are knew to bread making. Even if it doesn’t end up as a crispy baguette, it’s a great dough recipe to use for other bread or little rolls.

So I wanted to share one of my favourite sandwich recipes. I know it might be weird but I’m really not a sandwich fan. I’d much rather have a salad for lunch over sandwhich. But what I do love is a nice crusty baguette, packed with meats and cheeses. Perfection.

I had variations of this baguette several times while we where travelling in Europe. On driving days we would stop at little villages with bakeries or even at service stations, serving freshly made baguettes. They make the perfect addition to a weekend picnic.

Parma ham and cheese baguette
Serves 4
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  1. 2 medium sized baguettes
  2. 1 packet of Brie or extra mature cheddar
  3. 140 grams Parma ham, or other cured meat
  4. 1 bag rocket
  1. Now this one is complicated so pay attention!
  2. Cut the cheese into slices and arrange on the cut baguette. Top with rocket and Parma ham. I like to put the cheese on first as it helps to keep the rocket in place.
  3. Fold the top half back over and press down really firmly. Slice in half and wrap in paper to serve.
a girl and her home

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  • Rebecca Goodman

    I agree some of these years bake off challenges have been a bit extreme so far. Your baguettes look amazing well done! and you cant beat parma ham yum!

    • Laura @ a girl & her home

      Thanks! Agree, Parma has is the best! Yeah I always think the showstoppers are too extreme sometimes!

  • PatisserieMakesPerfect

    This looks so good Laura. Bread is my achilles heel and I really only make enriched doughs rather than proper bread. I think these look like really good baguettes and that sandwich filling is amazing. I agree, the showstoppers are becoming ridiculous. I don’t think I’d want to eat a bread sculpture, let alone make one!