Stuffed baguettes are wonderful breads if you making this as a meal. All you need is some soup on the side and you are done. This baguette combines the most delicious combo, tomato, mozzarella and basil. I just love how they taste when combined together. Also there is no cooking or treating the stuffing before it goes inside the bread.
I also learned a wonderful technique to keep the bread moist on the inside while creating a lovely crust. This is the first time I am using this technique and it worked great. The recipe is from the book, ‘A Passion For Bread’ by Lionel Vatinet. This is a great book to have if you are looking for different techniques to making a perfect loaf of bread.
This bread tastes great at room temperature and hence it is one of my favorite. I do not have to wait until dinner to bake this. I baked it in the early afternoon and slightly warmed it in the oven before serving. The warming before serving was also purely by choice and the bread did not need it.
I used electric mixer to mix and knead the dough. This can be done by hands as well and I will mention the steps that need to be done as we go along in the recipe.
Preparation time – 20 minutes plus about 2 -3 hours for fermenting the dough
Cooking time – About 25 minutes per loaf
Difficulty level – medium
Ingredients – Makes 2 loaves
For the Baguette –
- White bread flour (unbleached) – 3 ½ cups / 454 gms (substitute APF)
- Salt – 1 ½ tsp / 9 gms
- Instant yeast – 1 ½ tsp / 5 gms
- Warm water – 1 ¼ cups plus 2 tbsp
For the stuffing –
- Roma tomatoes – 2 (thinly sliced)
- Fresh basil leaves – a generous handful (julienned)
- Mozzarella or Asiago cheese – 1/3 cup (shredded and at room temperature)
- Salt and pepper – to taste
To make the dough –
- Measure the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make sure that the yeast and the salt do not touch each other when adding it to the flour. Combine them only when ready to mix.
- Warm the water to make the dough. The water temperature should be about 70 F when using the mixer to knead the dough and about 82-84 F if using hands to knead the dough. I used the mixer and hence used the water at about 70 F.
- Add half the water to the bowl of the mixer. Then mix the dry ingredients and add it to the mixer bowl. Start the mixer on low and add the remaining water. Adding half the water to the bowl at first before the dry ingredients ensures that the dough does not stick to the bowl. Mix until the dough is soft and slightly wet (about 2-3 minutes). Make sure that you scrape the sides of the bowl frequently.
- Once the dough is soft, continue kneading the dough in the lowest speed for about 5 minutes. At the end of the 5 minutes the dough should be quite pliable. This dough is on the wetter side, but it should feel soft and pliable in your hands. Make sure that you scrape the bowl as you go since that ensures even mixing of the ingredients.
- Now increase the speed of the mixer to low-medium and continue to knead for an additional 2-4 minutes. Check the dough to see if it passes the window pane test. Window pane test is a test done to see if the dough has developed enough gluten. Take a small amount of dough in your hand and stretch it out to form a thin membrane. If the membrane lets you stretch without breaking and forms a translucent film, then you know that the dough is kneaded enough. After few attempts at making the dough, you will be familiarized with the texture of the dough and will know it even without the test.
- Dust a deep large bowl with flour and place the kneaded dough into the bowl. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap and let it rise in a draft free place until the dough doubles in volume. This takes about 1 hour.
- Line 2 baking sheets or one large baking sheet with parchment.
- Lightly flour the work surface and scrape the fermented dough on the surface. Lightly flour your hand (the dough will be sticky) and press down the dough with your palm to form a 9 x 12 rectangle. Make sure you lift the dough at times to make sure it is not sticking to the work surface.
- Now cut the rectangle into 2 equal parts.
- Working with one half at a time, press it out with your palm to form a 6 x 9 inches rectangle.
- Place the longer side of the rectangle facing you. Now place half of the sliced tomatoes in the centre of the rectangle. Make sure that the tomatoes slightly overlap each other.
- Now sprinkle the half the basil leaves and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Top with half of the shredded cheese evenly.
- Using both hands pick up the dough from the side that is closest to you and fold over the stuffing. Using the heel of the palm, press down firmly to seal the edges.
- Now lift the far side of the dough and fold it over the sealed first half and then seal it again. Press the seam to the work surface and firmly seal it so that the filling does not come out during the second rise and baking.
- Transfer the shaped dough carefully onto the prepared baking sheet and repeat the same with the second half of the dough.
- Let this rise for about 1 hour more.
- Halfway through the second rise, place a baking stone in the lowest rack of the oven and remove the top rack out of the oven. We are going to be covering the loaf when baking with a stainless steel bowl (or an aluminum tray). Preheat the oven with the baking stone to 450 F.
- Using the stainless steel bowl to cover the bread when baking is a very effective method to achieving a crisp crust and a soft inside.
- Carefully remove the loaf from the second rise and using a sharp knife make 3 quick 1 inch cuts on the surface of the loaf.
- Dust the baking stone with some corn meal (I used semolina) and quickly slide the loaf onto the stone.
- Cover it quickly with a large stainless steel bowl and close the oven. I used the bowl for the first loaf and then used an aluminum pan for the second loaf as it was slightly longer and the bowl did not work.
- Bake for 10 minutes with the loaf covered with the bowl and then carefully remove the bowl.
- Continue to bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until the bread is evenly browned on the top and the cheese is melting. The bread should sound hollow when tapped.
- Transfer the bread carefully on to the cooling rack and cool completely for at least an hour before slicing.
- Repeat the same procedure and bake the second loaf of bread. Keep the second loaf in the refrigerator after the second rise until it is ready to bake.
- You could warm the sliced bread in the oven before serving, but it is not essential. It tastes great at room temperature.
- I served the baguettes for dinner with some tomato soup!