Thursday, February 5, 2015

Light Wheat Baguettes

I’ve been using enough whole grain flour in baking over the last few years that the taste of anything made with all white flour stands out as unique, sometimes even blandly so. Other times, like in the case of a good white bread, it tastes almost indulgent, like cake. (Of course then there’s actual cake, and I haven’t quite felt the need to put whole grain flours in all of those. We each have our weaknesses.)

And so, even after the deliciousness of these Multigrain Baguettes that I first tried about a million years ago, I never really got around to making a whole-grain-touched baguette my go-to version. But, you know, I actually started feeling kind of guilty about not putting at least some whole wheat flour in this Baguette recipe, at least to see how it would work.

It works out nicely, as it turns out. In fact, I think I love it! I wanted this loaf to be slightly crusty, but soft on the inside, not a sandwich bread, but a sort of side loaf to accompany pasta dishes, soups, and big salads, and to make into crostini or just garlic bread when a day old or more. Since my usual sandwich loaf, does well with one-third of the flour being whole wheat flour, that’s the ratio I tried for the baguettes. No big surprise, I suppose, but it really does work well in the baguettes, too.

These loaves behave quite similarly to their all-white cousins at meal time, and I didn’t even really notice an increase in coarseness or dryness over the white loaves when they became “leftovers.” The wheat flavor, which I like very much, is gently present and reminds you that there’s at least a tad bit of whole grain in there after all. Since this 2-white-to-1-whole ratio works so well here (and in the multigrain version), I think you could replace the whole wheat with barley, oat or rye flour if you like. You’ll neither have to give up on whole grains nor on your side of baguette. At least I don’t plan to. Besides, that extra pinch of healthiness leaves room for butter, right?

Light Wheat Baguettes

I use a special pan to bake long loaves, one that is shaped like two (or three) cradles side by side. You could bake your loaves on a sheet pan.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope, if you buy it that way)
1 ¼ cups warm water (100 to 110 F), divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
egg wash (beaten egg mixed with a little water or milk, optional, but nice)

1. Combine the yeast and ¼ cup water in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer (or in another large bowl). Let the yeast mixture stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast appears foamy.

2. Add the remaining water, the whole wheat flour and 1 cup bread flour to the yeast mixture. Stir, using the paddle attachment if using a mixer, until a soft, batter-like dough forms. Cover with a towel and let stand 30 minutes.

3. Sprinkle the salt over the rested batter, which should have nearly doubled in volume. Add ½ cup of the remaining bread flour and mix together using the dough hook for the mixer. Continue kneading in as much of the remaining flour as you can to create a smooth, elastic dough. The final result will be a slightly tacky dough, and should take about 10 minutes of kneading.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a ball. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the dough ball in it. Spray the top of the dough and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the dough. Cover the bowl with a towel. Let rise about 1 hour, or until double in size.

5. Gently deflate the risen dough. Reform into a new ball. Cover with the towel and let rest about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a baking sheet or baguette baking pan by spraying with nonstick cooking spray, or lining with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Preheat the oven to 450 F.

6. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal pieces. Working with one portion at a time, roll each portion on a floured surface into a long, narrow loaf. Place the loaves on the prepared pan. Cover with the towel and let rise 20 minutes. The loaves will not double in size.

7. Uncover the dough and slash in several places along the length of each loaf with a sharp knife, being careful not to deflate the dough as you do so. Brush each loaf with egg wash if desired. Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 10-15 servings.

Other recipes like this one: Baguette, Multigrain Baguette

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