While it did not even ask for time to proof yeast, I went ahead with that step first. And my oh my, 4 ingredients is all this baguette needs (apart from brushing with milk before putting in oven and butter after removing from oven).
Meanwhile, here's a french bread I had tried a couple of years ago using Joy of Cooking white bread recipe and I had that with some hummus: Eggless White Bread using Milk
French Bread Recipe
Adapted from: Joy of Cooking
Yields: 2 baguettes
1 package (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
½ cup water, warm
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 cup water, room temp
Milk and butter for brushing
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar and leave at a warm place for 10 minutes until frothy.
2. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer with dough hook) mix flour + salt. Add frothy yeast mixture + room temp water and mix with a wooden spoon. When it comes together like a dough knead it until soft and elastic [not sticky], about 10 minutes (or mix on speed 1-2 of stand mixer, stop to scrape sides of the bowl and continue for 5-6 minutes until smooth).
3. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth or coat the dough with oil and place in the cling-wrapped bowl in warm place for about 2 hours until doubled in bulk. In winters it could take 2.5 hours and in peak hot summers it could take 1.5 hours.
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in two or four pieces depending on the width and length of the baguette you want. I divided dough in half to make one big baguette. The remaining dough was wrapped and placed in refrigerator.
5. On a lightly floured surface pat the dough into rectangles, roll the dough into a log. Continue rolling and shaping until you have a long thin/thick loaf as desired. Place loaves on baking sheet (greased or lined with parchment, dusted with cornmeal will give your loaves a wonderful crusty base) with at least 4 inch spacing because loaves will expand.
6. Cover baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for half an hour to one hour for loaves to almost double again. 15 minutes before you’re ready, preheat the oven to 400F and place a baking pan with about 1 cup hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.
7. Using a sharp knife or scissors “score” the dough at 45 degree angle. Do not slit all the way. When the oven is preheated, brush the loaves gently with milk and place the baking sheet on center rack and bake for 10 mins @ 450F then reduce heat and bake about 30 mins @ 350F. Bake until the crust is golden-brown and the bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped. 10 minutes before the bread finishes baking brush the loaves with melted butter, and once again after loaves are done and out of the oven.
8. Let the baguettes cool on rack completely before slicing into them. Store cling-wrapped at room temperature, slice as and when required.
I did not want my baguette overly brown and it was the perfect light brown color I wanted (brushing with milk and butter helps achieve this too when you can't use eggwash), it had a wonderful texture, nice crust (the pan filled with water on bottom rack helps achieve this), and tasted great. Perfect to slather some butter or jam over it, or to toast the slices for some easy peasy bruschetta.
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