I just bought herbs to plant in my garden. Unlike my girlfriend Anne Phyfe who lives in Seattle and has a hedge of rosemary in her yard, all year round, I have to replant mine every spring and hope for enough to get me through the season. After I planted the rosemary my hands were perfumed with that fresh herbaceous scent. I was moved to cut off some of the new delicate stems and bake it into the baguette that was rising on the counter. The result was a crust that had the light smell and taste of rosemary.
Start by sprinkling the surface with flour so it won’t stick to your hands. Take a peach sized piece of dough from your bucket (Master dough with or without herbs (page 25-31), European Peasant dough (page 46), really anything but the enriched doughs will work).
Pull up the amount you want and cut with a pair of kitchen scissors or a serrated knife.
Sprinkle with more flour so the cut edges won’t be too sticky,
quickly form into a loose ball. This should take about 30 seconds.
To get a really nice shaped baguette we start by gently stretching the dough slightly into an oval.
Next you want to fold the dough in thirds, like a letter. Bring in one side and gently press it into the center.
Bring up the other side and pinch the seem closed. This will help you to get a tapered end on your baguette.
Stretch the dough very gently into a log. You don’t want to compress the air out of the dough. If it resists your pulling on it then let it rest for just a moment to relax the glutens.
Continue to work the dough until you have a nice thin baguette. It is okay if you let the dough rest a few minutes and then come back to it to give it a gently stretch. No need to fight the dough.
Once your dough is the length and thickness you want, this will depend on the size of the ball of dough you started with and how thick you want your bread. Mine are about 15″. Lay the baguette on the edge of your cutting board, or whatever surface you intend to use to get the bread in the oven. Doing the following steps on a piece of parchment will reduce the chances of the dough sticking as you put it in the oven.
Once the dough has risen for 20-60 minutes then brush the surface of the dough with either water or a cornstarch wash (page 51). Slash the dough on a slight diagonal starting at one end of the dough.
Depending on the size of the loaf you will make two or three slashes.
Add sprigs of very fresh rosemary to the slashes and bake as recommended in our book, on a baking stone, or try the newfangled perforated baguette pans. The rosemary holds up well to the intense oven temperatures. Other, more delicate herbs would just burn and not be as attractive.