Cheese flavoured baguettes – what could be better?! A ficelle is a long thing baguette and these are perfect with aperitifs, cocktails, for a snack, with a bowl of soup or as a sandwich. Utterly delicious and properly French…
Makes eight ficelles
Active time: 20 minutes
Bulk fermentation: 1½ hours
Resting: 15 minutes
Proofing: 1 hour
Cooking: 15 minutes
1¾ tsp (0.3 oz./9 g) salt
Scant 1½ cups (12.5 oz./350 g) water
4 cups + 2 tbsp (1 lb. 2 oz./500 g) bread or white whole wheat flour (T65–T80)
5 tbsp (2.5 oz./75 g) butter, at room temperature
3.5 oz. (100 g) refreshed levain (see here for how to make/refresh levain/leaven)
0.2 oz. (5 g) fresh yeast
7 oz. (200 g) Mimolette jeune (young) cheese, roughly grated and divided
Place the salt, water, flour, butter, and levain, in this order, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Crumble in the fresh yeast and knead for 3 minutes on speed 1, followed by 5–7 minutes on speed 2. At the end of the kneading time, add 5.25 oz. (150 g) of the grated Mimolette and knead briefly until evenly distributed.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1½ hours. Fold the dough three times during the rise time: once after 30 minutes, once after 1 hour, and once after 1½ hours (bulk fermentation*).
Line two inverted baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide it into eight equal pieces using a bench scraper. Shape each piece into a ball, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes (resting*). Shape the pieces of dough into ficelles (thin baguettes) and place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheets, four per sheet. Cover and let rise for 1 hour (proofing*).
Toward the end of the rising time, place a rack at the lowest oven position and place another rack directly above it. Place an empty heavy-duty baking sheet, oven-safe skillet, or drip pan on the lower rack, and a baking stone or heavy-duty baking sheet on the upper rack, and preheat the oven to 480°F (250°C/Gas Mark 9). Bring 1 cup (250 ml) of water to a simmer.
When the dough passes the poke test* (see below), brush the ficelles with a little water and sprinkle with the remaining Mimolette. Taking great care, slide one batch of ficelles with the parchment paper underneath onto the baking stone. Carefully pour the simmering water into the baking sheet, skillet, or drip pan to create steam and quickly close the oven door.
Bake for 10 minutes at 480°F (250°C/Gas Mark 9), then lower the oven temperature to 430°F (220°C/Gas Mark 7) and continue to bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the first batch of ficelles from the oven and place on a rack to cool, then repeat with the second batch.
If the proofing time is too short, the dough won’t build up enough CO2 to rise correctly during baking. Conversely, if the proofing time is too long, the gluten network weakens and the bread may fall during baking. Even professional bakers use the poke test to evaluate the dough’s resistance and determine when it is ready for the oven. Gently press your finger about ½ in. (1 cm) into the dough. If the dough is ready to bake, it will spring back slowly but retain a small indentation where you poked it. If no indentation forms, the dough is not ready; leave it to proof a little longer. If the indentation doesn’t spring back at all, it’s too late—the dough is over-proofed.
Extract from Upper Crust: Homemade Bread the French Way, by renowned food writer Marie-Laure Fréchet. Published by Flammarion and available at Amazon, online and high street bookstores (where it can be ordered if it’s not in stock ISBN 9782081517073). Step by step techniques to turn you into a successful bread maker, 100 recipes include delicious desserts and savoury specialities which feature bread. Plus French bread history and fascinating facts…