Baguettes and épis de blé are both made from a simple dough, but épis de blé are shaped to resemble sheaves of wheat. A great baguette relies on good baker's flour (not to be confused with baker's mix or Italian bread flour, which is finer), while a long fermentation of the dough imparts flavour. Baking at a high temperature renders a nice crust, but it's essential to place ice cubes in the oven so the steam slows the process. Place the bread higher in the oven and keep the door closed while baking for the best result.
- 1½ tsp dried yeast
- 450 gm baker’s flour (see note) (3 cups)
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 1Whisk yeast and 200ml lukewarm water in a jug to dissolve yeast, then set aside until it starts to foam (5-10 minutes).
- 2Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, add yeast mixture and another 130ml water, and mix with a fork until dough just comes together, ensuring all the flour is incorporated (you may need to use your fingertips). It should still be quite sticky. Cover and set aside in a warm place until dough increass 2½ times in volume (1½-2 hours). Knock back dough and prove again (1 hour).
- 3Preheat oven to 240C. Turn dough onto a lightly floured bench and divide into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a 30cm-long log shape, rolling from the centre outwards and tapering the ends. Transfer to a heavy baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with a tea towel and rest in a warm place until doubled in size.
- 4Dust loaves with flour then, using a razor blade or scalpel, slash diagonally at regular intervals along the length of the loaf for baguettes. For épis de blé, use scissors to make 3-4 angular cuts three-quarters of the way into the centre along each side at alternate intervals, then, while the dough is still on the scissors, pull each cut section to the side at opposite angles to create “ears”. Place tray on top shelf of oven, place a tray containing a few ice cubes at the base of the oven and bake until a golden crust forms (12-18 minutes). Remove from oven, cool and serve the same day.
Note This recipe makes 3 x 30cm loaves. Look for a strong wheat baker's flour, sold in 5kg bags at select supermarkets. It's not to be confused with bread mix, which contains additives.