Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mark Bittman's Food Processor Baguettes

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I had no hope at all for this very simple recipe for baguettes. I don't even know what possessed me to try it, except that my daughter Elizabeth had asked me for a bread recipe that used a food processor, and my daughter Sarah had asked me for Bittman's How to Cook Everything as a Christmas present. When I was leafing through the new, improved version of the cookbook, I ran across the recipe for "Easiest and Best French Bread." Oh, right, I thought. Toss four simple ingredients into a food processor, and then, when you think of it, give them a little shaping and bake. I'm sure that's going to make a good baguette.

I don't know why, but this easy-as-pie recipe turned out a better baguette than the Peter Reinhart version I made a few weeks ago where I laboriously sieved whole wheat flour to try to approximate "clear flour." It's not at all fair that something this easy should turn out so good, but there you are. It's a recipe that you should try anytime you feel like turning out a flavorful baguette but you don't want to start the process three days ahead of time.

The recipe consists of flour, water, salt, and yeast. Everything goes in a food processor for about 30 seconds. You gather up the dough--it's pretty wet--put it in a bowl and let it rise for a few hours.

Shape it into three loaves and put them into a French bread pan.

Let them rise again, slash them, and put them in the oven.

Take them out a half-hour later.

That's it! I don't know why one of the loaves looks so much more decorous than the other two--I guess the slashes weren't as deep.

I liked the way they looked when they came out of the oven. I liked the way they smelled. But I'd liked the way the poolish baguettes of a few weeks ago looked and smelled too, and then I was disappointed when I tasted them. But these tasted really good--so much better than I expected. I've considered the possibility that it was just my low expectations that made me so impressed with the way these loaves turned out. Since I expected nothing, any result above nothing would be good. But I don't think so. The outside is crusty but not hard, the inside is chewy and full of rich flavor. If I bought it at a bakery, I'd go back for more.
Everyone knows Mark Bittman is the one who popularized no-knead bread, the craze of a few years ago. But maybe it's this food processor baguette that really deserves the popularity.

Easiest and Best French Bread

--from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

3 1/2 cups (546 grams) bread flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 cups water (or more)

1. Process flour, salt, and yeast for a few seconds in food processor, using the metal blade. With the machine running, pour most of the water through the feed tube. Process about 30 seconds, or until dough becomes a sticky, shaggy ball. If it doesn't feel sticky, add more water.

2. Turn dough into large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for two to three hours at room temperature.

3. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter, and cut dough into three equal pieces. Shape each into long roll, and place in a lightly floured baguette pan. Cover with a towel, and let rise for another one to two hours. (On a cold day, you'll need the full rising time).

4. About a half-hour before baking, put baking stone in oven, and skillet or pan on lowest shelf. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. When ready to bake, slash loaves with sharp knife and sprinkle lightly with flour. Put about 1/2 cup of ice cubes on pan on lowest shelf of the oven, and quickly put baguette pan on top of baking stone.

5. Spray sides of oven after five minutes and again after ten minutes.

6. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


Cathy (breadexperience) said...

These baguettes look wonderful! If they taste as good as you say, then I think I'll try them. I just got a new food processor. Nothing wrong with easy in my book! Thanks for sharing!

Lois B said...

I'm giving this recipe a shot. My mother who makes wonderful baguettes does mathematical calculations with the room temperature (and maybe air pressure and station of the moon LOL); this is more to my liking!

breadbasketcase said...

No one was more surprised than I was when I bit into a baguette. I want to try Peter Reinhart's pain l'ancienne next to compare, but I was really impressed with how good these were given the ease of putting them together. Nothing wrong with easy in my book either, but usually a recipe that says "best and easiest" is wrong about at least one.

Lois B.,
Let me know what you think. I agree that you generally think that much calculation goes into making a good baguette. But this one can be made apparently at any room temperature or any station of the moon.

evil cake lady said...

wow! this sounds so easy that i am even inspired to try it. thanks bbc, and thanks to your daughters who helped you find the recipe. happy new year!

Jenn said...

WOW. Marie - looks like you've been busy baking away! Great looking baguettes!

faithy, the amateur baker said...

Marie!! I have been wanting to try making baguettes! You make it sound so easy..i am going to try like!

Anonymous said...

I will try these too, Marie, I trust your judgement!
Happy New Year to you too! Jeannette

Melinda said...

Brilliant! They look the ticket and I am in no doubt about the taste if they passed your harsh taste test!
I quite like the look of the gnarly one!

doughadear said...

Your baguettes always look so incredible, as if you had bought them at the poshest bread bakery ever! I'm so glad these were as good as they look. I know that pre-ferments and a long cool rising period does wonders for bread, but isn't it nice when you find a super simple recipe that produces great tasting bread!

doughadear said...

P.S. The pain l'ancienne had been on my mind for a while. I'm interested to see how yours turns out when you make it.

breadbasketcase said...

I'll pass along the thanks to my daughters--in one way or another, they generally help me in everything I do.

I have to come back to bread, especially after a challenging cake. It's so relaxing, and you can make it any time you've got flour, water, yeast, and salt on hand, which is pretty much always.

I expect to see these posted on your blog within 24 hours!

That makes me a little nervous--please don't throw stones through my windows if you don't like them! (Ha--I'm just enjoying the mental picture of your sneaking over the ocean at night to break windows. I think I'm safe).

These would be such a good project for Lazy Bakers because they really do allow you to be quite lazy.

Yes, it is--and if you wanted to experiment with a longer rise, you could simply put the dough in the refrigerator overnight.


Melinda said...


breadbasketcase said...

Oh, I don't know why that's there. Maybe I was waiting to see if something witty would occur to me. No such luck.

Marty said...

Thanks for this recipe. I made them yesterday and they were out of the oven by 4 PM. Great easy baguette. We had them with dinner and they were wonderful.

jini said...

lazy as i am, i would do these loaves. it almost sounds like cheating....i can deal with that too. :)

breadbasketcase said...

I'm so glad that you made them and liked them. I was getting concerned that I had talked them up too much and anyone who tried them would be disappointed.

It feels like cheating!

faithy, the amateur baker said...

Hi Marie! I wanted to bake the next day, but then i realised i didn't have a baguette pan so i went hunting around for one on new year's day and managed to buy it! :D Since i'll be busy this weekend with my sis-in-law in town, i will probably bake the baguette next weekend...i am all set to bake this! Will definitely post it when i am done with it..:) Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I want to know how they stack up against pain l'ancienne. I ruined my Peter Rheinhart experience by trying that recipe first. Not much comes close as far as I can determine.

I may have to get up off my fat duff and bake some. BG


apnea mom said...

I made this bread yesterday, thanks to your blog. It was so easy! I paired it with the easy Sherried Tomato Soup from the Pioneer Woman's blog. What a hearty, easy, and very tasty dinner.

Thanks for bringing this to your blog - easy and good really can co-exist!

breadbasketcase said...

I've heard such good things about pain l'ancienne that I want to try it soon.

Apnea Mom,
I'm so glad you liked it! That sounds like a great combination.

ButterYum said...

Looks fabulous Marie... hard to believe baguettes like that can be achieved at home! I just might have to give this recipe a try.


HanaĆ¢ said...

That looks fabulous, Marie. I love how the bread kinda "exploded" where you slashed it. I love my little lame that I bought from King Arthur Flour catalog.
Oh, and I have Bittman's book!! I totally have to make this!

Anonymous said...

I am about to bake my baguettes as per your instructions.

It would be helpful to know the LENGTH of the baguette pans you used, as they come different sizes.

elizabeth said...

Can I make these withoug a baguette pan, or will they turn out flat?

I make the Jim Lahey round no-knead loaf with sesame seeds in the dutch oven all the time, but haven't made a good baguette so far, this may be it! It has more salt than the no-knead recipe I'm using, so that may be the key to the good taste. Look forward to trying this. Thanks for posting.

elizabeth said...

Does this recipe call for 2 teaspoons kosher, table or sea salt?

breadbasketcase said...

Two teaspoons regular table salt--if you use a coarse salt, you could use more. I like to make baguettes with the baguette pan, but they turn out perfectly well without one--just a little flatter.

Food Processor said...

I don't even know what possessed me to try it, except that my daughter Elizabeth had asked me for a bread recipe that used a food processor, ...

Rachel Page said...

Those baguettes look just like the ones I usually see in bakeries! You're a fantastic baker!