This whole cooking thing
Honestly? This whole cooking thing really started out as a baking thing.
But not your average cupcake, muffins, and brownies baking thing. Those things come easily enough in a box. Not that I’ve ever used a boxed mix. The Omnivore might have, though, and he’s the one that craves the baked goods. So shame on him.
Nope. It was the challenge of baking fresh bread that got me cooking in my kitchen. Fresh, yeasted, bread. Yeah. Not the simplest endeavor, I know. But that’s how I roll. I just throw myself in deep into the challenge.
A few chipped teeth, root canals, hefty door stoppers, and some serious paper weights later…
I think I can finally manage to satisfy my Yankee-husband’s cravings for some good Northern-esque bread (the Omnivore, ehrm, says Southerners can’t make bread. I just think he doesn’t like our biscuits. In any case, he’s lucky that I’m a Southerner up for a challenge!).
Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pesto Swirled French Baguettes
I’m in love with this concept because the bread truly requires no condiment. No butter. No cheesy spread. No nonsense.
I started with my no-fuss french bread recipe made in the food processor. Then I whipped up a batch of my favorite basil pesto recipe, although this parsley pesto sauce would work as well. And because this recipe allows for more than one baguette, and I had a lonely roasted red pepper sitting in the refrigerator, I pureed it with some spices to create a red pepper filling
For the bread
Food Processor French Baguettes (King Arthur Flour)
2 packages (2 scant tablespoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm (110°F to 115°F) water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 cups (approx.) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups 90°F water
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for glaze
For the pestos
Classic Pesto (adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance)
1/4 cup toasted nuts (I have used pecans, walnuts, and pine nuts with great success)3 cups packed basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (the original recipe says optional, I think it is essential, substitute grated parmesan or romano cheese if you must)
2 tsp lemon juice (this is the KEY ingredient!)
Pulse in food processor to desired consistency.
Red Pepper Puree
4 oz roasted red pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 garlic clove
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Pulse in food processor. Drain through a fine-meshed sieve or through a coffee filter.
Note: Make sure your food processor will accommodate the amount of flour in the recipe. If it does not, cut the recipe in half. I cut the recipe in half because I only wanted 2 baguettes.
Combine yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and sugar in a measuring cup. Stir until dissolved, and let sit 5 minutes, until bubbles appear.
Put all of the flour and salt into the work bowl of a food processor. Using the plastic (dough) blade, pulse four times to lighten and mix.
With the machine running, add yeast mixture, then 90°F water as fast as the flour will absorb it. Stop the machine as soon as all the liquid has been added.
Check the dough by pulsing it 7 or 8 times. It should pull together to form a ball. Watch the processor bowl where the side meets the bottom; if there are still granules of unincorporated flour, the dough is too dry. Pulse in water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough pulls together to form a ball. If dough clings to sides of bowl, it’s too wet; gradually add more flour while pulsing.
The formation of the ball marks the beginning of the kneading process. Turn machine on and let “knead” for 60 seconds — do not let it knead any longer! If you have to use a metal blade, only “knead” 45 seconds and finish kneading by hand for 3 to 4 minutes.
Put dough into an oiled bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Turn dough out, and divide in four pieces. Roll each piece into an oval about 15 x 8 inches. Spread each sauce onto the oval, leaving a margin of untouched dough around the edge.
Starting on the long side, roll dough into a 15-inch cylinder. Pinch edges to body of dough, tapering ends evenly.
Place dough seam-side down into well-greased baguette pans (You can use sheet pans if you want). Cover dough with a towel, and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
About 10 minutes before baking bread, preheat oven to 425°F. Place a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of the oven.
Just before baking, slash loaves diagonally with a sharp blade, about 1/4-inch deep. Brush lightly with egg glaze. Place 1 cup of ice cubes in the hot pan on the bottom shelf of the oven. Quickly place loaves on shelf above and close door to preserve the steam you’ve created.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until internal temperature of bread reaches 190°F. Immediately remove baguettes from pans and cool on a rack to prevent crust from becoming soggy. Yield: 4 baguettes.