FRENCH COUNTRY BREAD AND BAGUETTES
4 cups bread flour
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water (115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
oil for bowl
In a bowl, mix together the flour and the salt.
In another bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and half of the flour/salt mixture. Using your hands, mix until it forms a dough. Then, cover with a dish cloth and let sit at room temperature for 3 hours. It should triple in size.
Gently incorporate the rest of the flour/salt, using your hands.
Place on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. It should be supple and elastic when you stop kneading.
Lightly oil a bowl. Place dough in bowl. Cover with a dish towel. Let sit for 1 hour. It should double in size.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Knead again. Then cut dough into 3 parts and form each part into a long baguette. Place on a baking sheet. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
Place a bowl of water in the oven. Bake baguettes for about 25 minutes (maybe less). Remove the bowl of water after 15 minutes of baking.
Baguettes are particularly crusty and light because they are cooked at extremely high temperatures and are vaporized. Even though domestic ovens can't go as high a real French bakery ovens, you can still make an excellent baguette, by remembering to put a bowl of water in the oven. And, of course by baking at a very high temperature.