Post by Alison Hein.
Cold, dark, rainy days like we’ve been having lately aren’t good for either photographs or bread baking. L They are, however, wonderful for fresh-baked bread eating! I have been obsessed with these pavot (poppy baguettes) since first biting into one many years ago in France. I use about ¼ cup of poppy seeds to completely cover the tops of the loaves. If you’re not as obsessed as I am, feel free to minimize, or even skip (gasp!) the pavot entirely.
Baby your dough as it rises by finding a warm, non-drafty spot in your kitchen. (Sometimes a small distance away from a pre-heated oven is just the right spot.) Don’t bang any pots or slam any doors either, and at the end of your patient waiting period, you will be rewarded with the dreary day joy of slicing into a fresh, yeasty loaf of handmade and well-tended deliciousness. Try it like they do in Europe – slather a slice with some soft, unsalted butter, then sprinkle on salt to your liking for a breakfast in bed that will cheer you and warm your heart on a dreary day.
2 cups tepid water
1 tablespoon (2 packets) dry yeast
2 tablespoons oil
¼ cup sugar
1 egg, plus one egg white
1½ teaspoons fleur de sel (or sea salt)
5 cups white flour
1 tablespoon semolina flour
Oil for rising
Flour for kneading, shaping and dusting loaves
¼ cup poppy seeds
Add water to large food processor, or large bowl. Gently sprinkle yeast on top to cover surface. Set aside until yeast begins to activate, about 10 minutes.
Add oil, sugar, egg, fleur de sel, and one cup flour to food processor or bowl. Gently pulse on food processor dough setting or stir until mixed in. Add remaining flour, about a cup at a time, until mixed in. If using food processor, gently pulse until dough is compressed and begins to pull away from side of bowl. Be careful not to over mix or dough will become tough. If making bread by hand, turn out onto floured board and knead gently for about five minutes. Add about ½ teaspoon oil to large bowl. Place dough in bowl. Turn and flip so oiled side faces up. Cover with light tea towel and set in warm, non-drafty place to rise. Let dough rise for about one hour, until doubled in size.
Punch down dough. Turn onto floured board and shape into 3 equal-sized baguettes. Sprinkle large baking tray with semolina flour. Place loaves on tray, cover with light tea towel and set in warm, non-drafty place to rise. Let loaves rise for about one hour, until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 425° about 15 minutes before dough is finished rising. Lightly brush loaves with egg white, then sprinkle poppy seeds on top to cover. Carefully make a few diagonal slashes on each loaf, using a razor blade or very sharp knife (I keep a craft knife on hand for this purpose).
Place loaves in oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes until browned. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
Makes 3 baguettes.