Making bread can be tricky. I’ve seen so many recipe variations out there that it can be overwhelming! Many recipes call for soakers, spongers, waiting days for dough to rise, punching the dough down multiple times, putting dough in the fridge and so many other possibilities. But I usually try to find something that is fairly quick and easy. All I can say is if you have any problems, try again and be willing to make variations in the recipe! Some of the instructions will come with caveats or possible modifications. Check back over time as I may try different things and make it better. I can’t predict what every variation might turn out like as I’ve only tried a few.
If you don’t have vital wheat gluten you can try it without. I need to try some more variations and see what works best, it’s supposed to help with the texture as whole wheat flour has a harder time developing gluten. I also read it’s not really necessary depending on how fine the flour particles are. So we’ll see.
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar (any sweetener should do)
1 cup warm water (~110 deg. F). I use warm water from my tap (filtered/softened well water).
2 cups of whole wheat flour (I use Speerville Organic). Before measuring stir up the flour to loosen as it can get compacted.
1 tsp salt (this is optional if you eat the bread with other things like jam, without salt the bread itself is a little bland if not toasted)
1/2 tbsp of vital wheat gluten, optional and depends on whole wheat flour used.
Put water in bowl and add yeast and sugar, stir a couple times to mix. Let sit for 10 minutes. Yeast should bloom, you’ll see it go across the top of the water. If it doesn’t the yeast might be dead or the water was too hot/cold.
Put the flour, vital wheat gluten (if using) and salt in a bowl, mix thoroughly with a spoon (I eventually dive in with my hands once a ball starts to form). Add the flour mixture slowly to the water/yeast mixture and mix until it starts to forms a ball. It will be a bit sticky (was for me in a humid climate). If you’ve added all the flour and it’s still really sticky add some more flour slowly as you mix with your hands. The flour/water ratio can vary depending on brand of flour. The dough should have a little stickiness but still be workable. Knead the dough for a few minutes. I did this is the bowl as I added flour. I aim for a play-dough like feel. Cover the bowl in a damp cloth and let the dough rise for an hour (or more if you have time). I found it stop rising after a certain point so it didn’t seem worth waiting any longer.
Take the dough out and lay on a 11×17″ baking tray lined with a silpat non-stick baking sheet. If you have parchment paper you can use that. Roll the dough out with your hands so that it forms a long thin baguette shape, almost touch the ends of baking tray. Score the baguette using a sharp knife – basically make 1/2 inch deep cuts that are roughly 6 inch long slices in the bread at a slight angle to the bread lengthwise, a few inches apart (see above photo, my scoring technique still needs work!)
When ready to bake the bread, preheat oven to 425F, covering the dough with the damp cloth again until ready to bake. Put an oven-safe baking dish with 1 cup of water on the bottom rack of the oven. The steam will create a good crust on the bread. When the oven is heated put the dough in the oven on the non-stick baking tray (I use silpat sheet). Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven) until a good crust is formed and when sticking a knife in the bread it should come out with no dough on it. When the bread looks cooked I turn off the oven and leave it in there to cool with the oven door open which can increase the crispiness. You can spray water on the dough halfway through baking as well which helps form a thick crust, which is the best part of this baguette! Toasting this makes it even better either in a toaster or in the oven.
You can double this recipe to make a loaf of crusty bread as well, if you have a loaf tin which I need to get now!