Today was a perfect bread baking day. We had the first snow flurries of the season. And it isn’t even November. As soon as the bread came out of the oven we had to slice into it, smear on a little butter and munch away. I got the heel of the bread, my favorite. Known in Finnish as the “kantapää.” My grandfather had to have bread with every meal and in between meals. I remember my grandparents slathering very generous amounts of butter on their bread and then sprinkling it with salt. That was probably in the days before salted butter but even so. Must be where I acquired my love of salt. The baguette is French, not the bread of my childhood, but very simple and very good. There are only four ingredients. The most time consuming thing is letting the dough rise multiple times. Here we go.
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 2/3 cups water (Divided)
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
Sprinkle yeast into 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and stir to dissolve. Whisk together the flour and salt in a larger bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast. Use a wooden spoon and draw enough flour into the yeast/water to form a paste. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it froth for 20 minutes.
I have favorite cotton “bread” towels that I always use.
After the twenty minutes have passed mix in the remaining flour with a wooden spoon and add the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time, just until you have a nice soft, sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Try to avoid adding extra flour as you knead.
Put your nicely kneaded ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with your bread towel and let it rise in a warm place free of drafts for about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down, re-cover and let rise 45 more minutes.
Punch down, re-cover and let it rise about 45 more minutes until double in size. That’ll be the third rising.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape. Each should be about 12 inches long. Place them on a lightly floured baking sheet, re-cover and let them rise until doubled in size, about 50 minutes. Preheat oven to 475.
Cut several diagonal slashes in each loaf.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Slice and enjoy.
You can have your bread and eat it too.
A few posts back I roasted tomatoes and used them to make pasta sauce. Those same tomatoes with a little olive oil would be delicious on this bread. Or just dip a slice into some olive oil seasoned with fresh ground pepper and a little grated Parmesan. That will be especially good if you’re lucky enough to get the “kantapää.”