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Ultimate Sourdough Baquettes

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Servings: Makes 6 thin baguettes or 3 thick baguettes
Crisp and light, with a crackly brown crust, these baguettes earn their name from whatever you sprinkle them with prior to baking.

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 cups sourdough starter, about the consistency of thick pancake batter
5 to 6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons instant yeast
4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
1 egg yolk lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for glaze

Italian seasoning
Sesame seeds
Artisan bread topping

In a large bowl, combine the water, starter, and 3 cups of the flour, mixing till smooth. Stir in the salt, sugar, yeast and gluten, then an additional 2 cups of flour. Stir till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, adding only enough additional flour as necessary; a slack (sticky) dough makes a light loaf.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes, by hand on a lightly greased work surface or in an electric mixer. Let it rest for several minutes, then knead for an additional 5 minutes. Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into six pieces (for thin baguettes) or three pieces (for thicker Italian loaves). Shape each piece into an 18-inch long loaf, and place the loaves, at least 4 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets, or in lightly greased baguette pans. Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let them rise for 1 hour, or until they're nice and puffy.

Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C). Gently brush the loaves with the egg yolk glaze, and sprinkle them generously with Italian seasoning and sesame seeds, or Parmesan cheese, garlic slices, or anything else you think would turn a baguette into an Ultimate Baguette. Spray the loaves with olive oil spray, and bake them for about 20 minutes, or until they're a light golden brown. Remove the loaves from the oven, and turn your oven to "broil." Return the loaves to the top rack of the oven and CAREFULLY broil them till they're a deep golden brown. Remove the loaves from the oven, and cool them on a wire rack.

To make these baguettes using a bread machine, cut the recipe in half and program your machine for Dough or Manual. When the machine has completed its cycle, divide the dough into three pieces, and shape and bake as directed above.

Makes 6 thin baguettes or 3 thick baguettes.

Source: King Arthur Flour
Date: May 22, 2003

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