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Herbed French Bread Baguettes
The wonderful smells of French herbs and baking bread that fill the house is reward enough for your efforts. Actually eating this delicious bread is an added bonus! This recipe makes two baguettes.
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warmed water. Beat the egg and 1 teaspoon of water together in a small bowl.
Using a mixer equipped with a dough hook, mix on low speed the flour, salt, herbs, garlic until well combined, about 30 seconds. Still on low to medium speed, gradually add the yeast and then the cold water until the dough comes together in a moist ball (there may still be some dough in the bottom of the mixer) 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove the dough ball and on a clean work surface knead the dough by hand for about 2 minutes. If the dough is sticky, dust with a small amount flour while kneading.
Place the dough ball into a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease the entire outside of the dough. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside to rise (see note). Allow the dough to rise until it has roughly doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours.
Remove the dough to a clean, lightly floured work surface and punch down several times to force the air from the dough and flatten the ball. Divide the ball into two pieces and, with your hands, roll into two long, cigar shaped rolls, about 12" long.
Place the two rolls of dough onto a greased (cooking spray is fine) baking sheet. With a sharp knife make 3-4 diagonal slashed across the rolls, brush with the egg wash, cover with plastic wrap (spray the side of the wrap that will lay against the dough - this makes it mush easier to remove) and set aside to continue rising. The rolls should roughly double in size. This may take 30 minutes to an hour so keep an eye on the dough and don't allow it to rise too long.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Uncover the dough rolls and brush once more with the egg wash. Bake in the oven about 15 minutes until the crust is a golden brown.
The dough will rise best in a warm, moist place with temperatures in the 70s. During this first stage of rising I place 2 cups of water in the microwave, bring it to a boil, and set the covered dough bowl in the microwave with the water. This provides the right temperature and humidity.
For the second stage of rising it is usually impractical to put the baking sheet into the microwave so I place it on a counter adjacent to the preheating oven. Don't place it on top of the oven as this would be too warm.
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