In my experience with baguettes, they can be a tough, dry, flavorless nosh. Possibly because I buy them at the grocery store and then promptly forget to use them for a day or two. At that point, baguette becomes baseball bat.
When we tucked into our gift baguette, it was enlightenment. The bread was dense, chewy but not challenging, slightly sweet, slightly salty. It barely needed butter. It barely needed anything. Except for someone to savor it. And, amazingly, we did for the 2 or 3 days we managed to ration out servings.
Needless to say, I begged for the recipe -- and was rewarded. With the recipe and another baguette. Life doesn't get much better than that.
Until I read the recipe. Then life did in fact get better. Because this is the ultimate low-maintenance bread recipe.
Four ingredients -- instant yeast, flour, salt and water.
Mix it up and leave it to its own devices for at least 12 hours -- and up to 20 hours. Note: This is 7 p.m. Friday night.
And this is 7 a.m. Saturday morning. Check out what 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast can do. The recipe says "swollen and bubbly all over the top" -- the term lunar surface actually comes to mind.
Next step: Take your bowl of primordial yeasty goo and plop it out on a floured surface. (This part's kind of scary. It kind of claws its way out of the bowl.) Pull the dough up and over itself a couple of times and that's it. Finis. Time to shape your loaves.
Your loaves sit for about 30 minutes while the oven heats to 475 degrees. (An aside: I recently invested in an oven thermometer and discovered my oven is off by about 5 degrees. Figures. So now I adjust accordingly.)
Now for best ever "secret." Stick a pie pan filled with about an inch of water on the bottom rack of the oven. This is my artsy shot.