It's been more than a decade since we lived in France, and all these years I've been in clinical baguette withdrawal. There is just nothing like a fresh baguette. I know there are places in the States where a good baguette can be had, but somehow I have never come across one of them. I've tried local bakeries, grocery stores, bake-at-home frozen numbers, but to no avail. Every baguette recipe I've made has come out, well, about like the rest of the bread I make (which isn't to say it's not yummy -- but the crust is just . . . wrong. You know?) Once in a great while, a restaurant bread has come close, but our restaurant outings are few and far between. I need something more consistent. Like, twice a week, say.
Last fall I picked up a book at the library (Local Breads, to be exact) that seemed promising, and started reading. I know people who are cookbook readers, but it has never really made much sense to me. I am confused no longer. The next day I ordered a copy from Amazon.
This book is a gem -- cover to cover. I felt like I had just unearthed the baking rosetta stone. Unfortunately, a move and a baby interrupted my reading (I was still deep in the pre-recipe portion of the book) and six months later it was the fourteen year-old who pulled the book off the counter, dog-eared the "Parisian Daily Bread," and began begging. Two days later, a real, honest to goodness french baguette popped right out of my very own oven.
Spongy on the inside, chewy crunchy on the outside. And the taste? Oh my. Suffice it to say that the three loaves this recipe makes were gone in about two minutes.
So while this is not a quick bread (it takes about 3 hours, start to finish, but you only have to spend about five minutes of each hour actually doing anything -- the rest of the time the dough is just rising in various incarnations: ball, folded rectangle, loaf), it is well worth the effort. If you're going to be in the house one day, and plan to wander through the kitchen a couple of times, try this bread.
[If you can't get your hands on the book, here is another recipe that is close enough to be tightly related.]