Yesterday mid-morning I was rummaging through the fridge to see what I could cook for supper and the only meat that we had was half of a frozen snow crab left over from this past Spring. So I decided to make crab chowder with lots of onions, potatos, carrots, and of course, lots of butter and cream too. Then I thought how nice it would be if we had fresh out of the oven baguette to dip the chowder with!
This will be the second time I made whole wheat baguette after tweaking a few things from my first attempt. After much searching online, all the recipes I could find used some amount of white flour, except the recipe of one blogger who also had the same difficulty, so she decided to go it her own way to see if it works. She reported that the first time it did work out wonderfully, but subsequent attempts with the same recipe was not as successful. There were also mixed results from others who tried her recipe in the comments section, though I think most did turn out well, so I decided to give it a try too. I did substantially increase the amount of kneading time and rising time as I thought the low level of gluten in the whole wheat flour, as well as the low house temperature and humidity level required it. Here is the original recipe, it is a lovely blog with lots of wonderful meal ideas!
As a disclaimer, I’m not an expert in baking, I’ve hardly baked a thing my whole life until I got married! And I have read that bread making is affected by altitude, temperature, humidity, and a bunch of other factors so that if I were to bake more baguettes tomorrow from the same recipe, it might come out a little different. So treat what I write here as a general guideline for what has worked ok for me. I’ve never been one to follow recipes anyway, my eyes just glaze over, and besides, with so few ingredients, no matter how badly it turns out, it’ll still taste like bread. The difficult part is tweaking things so you get the texture and consistency you like.
1 1/4 cup very warm water (I don’t know what temperature, I just boiled some water then let it sit for a bit until it has completely stopped giving off steam but still hot)
2 3/4 tsp dry active yeast
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups organic whole wheat flour
Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Let stand about 5min. (The mixture sat there for about 8min as I got busy with something else)
Add salt and 1 1/2 cup of the flour, stir until everything is mixed well.
Add another 1 1/2 cup flour, use your hands to form a dough.
Knead for 15min.
Let stand for 3 hours, cover top of bowl with towel. (To facilitate better rising than my first attempt, also because the kitchen was hovering around 20C, I sat the bowl on top of a heated oat bag, pictured below)
The dough should be doubled in size, punch it down and knead again for 15min.
Let stand for another 2 hours.
Knead for about 5min, then divide dough in two and form them into baguette looking shapes. Put them on baking sheet that’s lightly oiled or sprinkled with flour.
Cut diagonal slits on top, then brush top with some water.
Let stand for about 20min while you preheat the oven to 400F with a small bowl of water. (The steam from the water is what makes the outside of the baguette crispy)
Bake for about 15min or golden. (I don’t think my oven is all that great and I don’t think the temperature is accurate either!)
Et voila, c’est tout!
After kneading the dough for a total of about 35min, waiting for five and a half hours, cracking the tough and stubborn snow crab legs and claws to get at its tasty morsels, and peeling and cutting out the questionable parts of the home-grown potatoes, supper was served at 7pm, and promptly finished around 7:20pm. Ah well.
This was the dough before I let it rise for the first 3 hours.
This is the oat bag I talked about. Its main purpose was for warmth on cold winter nights, but it was very useful in this application too! I heated it for 3min in the microwave, it needed to be reheated a couple of times throughout the rising time. You can use hot water bottles or whatever, but whimsical skiing cats are a nice touch.
This is after 3 hours of rising.
After some more kneading and letting it rise for another 2 hours, I kneaded the dough for a few minutes more, then formed them into the desired shape. Can’t wait to pop them in the oven!
Not the prettiest looking things but quite tasty, especially with the crab chowder! The husband enjoyed it very much.
I hope you will enjoy making your own 100% whole wheat baguettes as well! Waiting for hours to see what you end up with is half the fun! Do keep in mind that it’s not going to be as light and airy as white flour baguettes, but you’re getting all the healthiness of the wheat, not just the empty carbs. I also just learned that whole white flour is the same as whole wheat flour except it’s made from an albino strain of wheat. Perhaps next time I’ll try it with that, since it has the same benefits of whole wheat but the colouring of the baguette will be more like the pictures in my head of what a baguette should look like.