Sunday, October 5, 2008


I lived in France for seven months back in 2005. As an avowed francophile, I adore the country, but I will say this: being vegan there was hard! Luckily, one thing I never had to worry about was that staple of the French diet - the daily baguette. It occurred to me, though, that I've never tried to make my own.

My first attempt, as you can see in the photo, didn't quite turn out right. That's because, while the recipe called for bread flour, I couldn't find an organic version and thought substituting pastry flour might work just fine. I don't recommend doing so: it seems that, to really produce an authentic baguette, bread flour is what you want. However, I still produced something pretty much like a baguette, and here's how:

First dissolve one packet of yeast (about 2 and 1/4 tsps.) in 1 and 1/4 cups warm water (check that the temperature is between 100 and 110 degrees). Let stand 5 minutes. Add 2 and 3/4 cups of bread flour to the yeast mixture, stirring until a soft dough forms. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

This process, called an autolyse, is apparently the French baker's secret to a light and airy baguette with a crunchy crust. Letting the flour, yeast and water rest for fifteen minutes means the flour absorbs waters so it is less sticky as you knead, which ends up producing that light baguette texture.

After fifteen minutes, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle evenly with one teaspoon of salt, then knead for 6 minutes (press down with your palm, fold over, quarter turn, repeat). Place in a bowl, cover and let rise for 40 minutes until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and let it rest for five minutes, then divide in half. Working with one portion at a time, shape into a 12-inch rope, slightly tapered at the ends. Place the two loaves on a baking sheet sprinkled with a teaspoon of cornmeal. Lightly coat the tops with cooking spray and let rise another 20 minutes.

During the second rise, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Apparently this high baking temp is yet another trade secret of the French baker.

Uncover the dough and cut 3 (1/4 inch deep) slits in each loaf. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Each loaf will have 12 slices of 60 calories each. Bon appetit!

flour $2.99

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance