Ingredients for 2 loaves:
1 teaspooon Rapid Rise or SAF yeast
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup water
2 ½ cups bread flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup water
Starter: Stir yeast into the flour in a small bowl. Measure and add the temperatures of the air and flour. Subtract the total from 240 degrees and add water at that temperature to the dry mix. Stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight.
Dough: Combine flour and salt in the workbowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the starter and water (use temperature arrived at using the method above). Mix until the flour is completely moist. Turn off the machine and rest the dough for 5 minutes. Switch the paddle with a dough hook and knead for 2 minutes until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and clings to the hook. Add flour sparingly if the dough sticks to the bottom or sides.
Rising: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to be sure the dough is firm and springy. Shape into a ball and place the dough into a bowl to rise. Cover and wait for the bread to double in size. Punch down the dough, turn it out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough in half, cover with plastic and rest for 5 minutes.
Shaping: Flatten each piece of dough into a rectangle, fold in half along the long side and pinch the seam closed. Turn the seam up, make an impression the length of the dough in the middle, fold it over and pinch closed again. This time turn the seam under, tuck under and move to a baguette mold or place the loaves on floured toweling, pulled up around the dough for support. Allow the loaves to rise for 30 minutes, until noticeably puffed.
Baking: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slash the risen baguettes with long parallel strokes. Mist heavily, place in the oven and turn the oven down to 425. Bake for 20 minutes until the internal temperature of the loaves reaches 200 degrees. Cool loaves on a rack.
VARIATION: WHOLE WHEAT WALNUT BREAD
Starter: Same ingredients and procedure as master recipe.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups bread flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons walnut oil
3/4 cup water
1 cup raw walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Dough: Combine and stir flours and salt. Add the starter, oil and water. Machine mix as described in the Master Recipe. Flatten the freshly kneaded dough on a floured work surface. Sprinkle on the walnuts, roll up the dough, fold and knead briefly to distribute the nuts throughout. Place in a bowl, cover and let rise until doubled.
Shaping and Baking: Follow directions for the Master Recipe.