The French Baguette and the Un-Massachusetts Roast Beef Sandwich

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The French Baguette and the Un-Massachusetts Roast Beef Sandwich

French baguettes have always been my nemesis, so when I was given an opportunity to choose a recipe to bake from a new cookbook, Baking By Hand: Make the Best Artisanal Breads and Pastries Better Without a Mixer, sight unseen, I chose to make the French baguette… the one bread I have not been able to do with much success… No pressure at all…..

The French Baguette

I’m not saying that I haven’t had success with flavor, it’s just been difficult getting “the look.” I really wanted to get to the next level.

Time to do this!

The French Baguette

I love reading books about baking bread. Weird? Nerdy? Yes, I know, but mention certain names such as Hamelman, Reinhart, Lepard, Silverton, Robertson, or Forkish, and you have my attention.

Andy and Jackie King, the bakers who wrote this book, clearly have the same passion.

At the end of this post, I am giving away a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. I know you will love it as much as I do. Their story is a pleasure to read, the photos are stunning, and the way the recipes are written captures the pleasure of baking great bread.

Along with the baguettes, this assignment involved creating a sandwich made with super-slow cooked roast beef. The roast beef is baked in a 200 degree F oven for up to four hours. What is amazing about this process is that the beef ends up being the same pink color from edge to edge. Slice it thinly, and you have the perfect roast beef for this sandwich. Who knew?

The French Baguette and the Un-Massachusetts Roast Beef Sandwich

The sandwich also calls for pickled red onions, oven-dried tomatoes, and extra sharp cheddar. All on a glorious (right?) baguette.

The French Baguette

I think one of the reasons the dough behaved so well is that the recipe calls for the pre-shaped baguettes to be chilled before the final shaping. This made the dough so much easier to work with.

I am so glad I chose this recipe for this review! I am really looking forward to baking my way through the book (Don’t forget to enter to win a copy).

To make the baguettes, you will need a baking stone, a couche (a heavy cloth which is floured in which to cradle your baguettes while they are proofing), a cast iron pan, a water mister, a pizza peel (you can substitute the back of a baking sheet), and a scale. I also used a couple of “flipping boards” (long skinny boards for lifting the baguettes) to transfer the baguettes from the couche to the peel. You will also need a lame or a very sharp knife to score the baguettes right before baking.

The following recipes are from Baking By Hand by Andy King and Jackie King (Page Street Publishing; August 2013). Posted with permission.

French Baguette

We (Andy & Jackie King) call this our “French” dough because we make baguettes
and epi out of it, which are synonymous with Parisian bakeries. The baguette is
easily our biggest-selling bread item at the bakery. It takes a bit of trying
to nail this one down, and it’s the bread that will expose the flaws in your
style (and equipment) more than any other. Like anything worth doing right, it
will try your patience and reward your tenacity. Keep in mind: This dough is
mixed significantly cooler than any of the others in the book. We also make a
little extra every time we make this dough, and keep it in a plastic bag in the
fridge or freezer. It makes nice pizza dough in a pinch, grilled bread in the
summer (just flatten and toss on the grill for a few minutes on each side) and
rolls when you need them. It’s handy!


• Yield: Six 8-oz/250-g baguettes and 1 lb/450 g left
• Desired Dough Temperature: 75˚F/20°C
• Mixing Time: 40 minutes
• Bulk Fermentation: ~2 hours
• Proofing Time: ~45 minutes
• Baking Time: ~25 minutes
• Cooling Time: ~15 minutes
Mix your poolish (see page 27).
7.5 oz/200 ml 75˚F/20°C water
7.5 oz/210 g white bread flour
1 lb 2.5 oz/525 ml 75˚F/20°C water
1 lb 13.75 oz/840 g white bread flour
3 ¼ tsp/23 g fine sea salt
In a large mixing bowl, combine your poolish and water, and
remember to keep that water at 75˚F/20°C to give your yeast a comfortable
atmosphere to grow, but not grow too fast. Then, dump your flour on top of the
liquid ingredients, and mix it by hand for about 30 seconds, until it comes
together in a shaggy mass. Don’t forget to scrape the bottom and sides of the
bowl regularly; you want all of that flour hydrated and don’t want to see any
dry spots. Set aside in a warm place, at least 80˚F/25°C, for 30 minutes. If
you’re having trouble finding your warm place, it’s time to use your trusty
heat lamp.
Sprinkle the salt and yeast on top of the dough and grab a
four-finger pinch of the dough and pull. It should stretch out like chunky
taffy rather than just tear off. Incorporate the salt and yeast into the dough,
continuously pushing the sides of the dough into the middle while turning the
bowl. After a minute of this, the dough should be pulling away from the sides
of the bowl and developing a bit of a sheen, and you shouldn’t feel any crunchy
salt crystals. Cover the bowl, and put it in your warm place for 30 minutes.
Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface and pressed
into the surface. give it your four-fold (see page 35). It should make a tight
little package and after every fold the dough’s volume should increase. It
should consistently feel warm and active. Roll the dough over and place it,
seam side down, back into the bowl. Repeat every 30 minutes (you’ll fold the
dough three times in total) until the dough is strong but puffy, warm to the
touch and holds a fingerprint when pressed into the surface. The whole process
will take about 2 hours.
Once your dough is ready to cut, turn it out onto your
floured work surface. Using your bench knife and scale, divide into six
8-ounce/250-g pieces. Gently preround the dough into cylinders (see page 39),
being careful not to compress the dough too much, and place seam side down on
your work surface. To make the shaping a bit easier, it’s advisable to let the
preshaped baguettes cool down before shaping. Place them on a sheet tray and
cover with a moist towel. Up to an hour in the refrigerator or on a cold porch
should do the trick. While they’re resting, set up your couche and your board
to receive baguettes.
Shape the dough into six 12-inch to 15-inch/30 to 40-cm
tapered baguettes (see page 40). Couche them snugly, seam side up, and place in
your warm spot for about 45 minutes.
While your dough is proofing, place your baking stone on the
lowest rack in your oven, and your cast-iron pan on the highest rack. Preheat
the oven to 450˚F/230°C. Check in on your bread periodically; if the surface
feels dried out, spray it with a bit of water to allow for maximum expansion.
If it feels cold, make it warmer. This may take up to 1 hour, depending on the
conditions of your kitchen. The loaf is ready to go in when it feels very airy
and holds a fingerprint when pressed into the surface.

Flip the loaves over onto your peel. It might
take a couple of batches to bake all your bread, depending on your oven size.
You want to make sure not to crowd the baguettes, so two or three at a time
should work just fine. Slash the baguettes with three or four traditional
baguette slashes. Now, grab three ice cubes from the freezer. Being careful to
not keep the oven door open too long and let the heat out, open the oven, slide
your loaf onto the stone, throw the three ice cubes into the cast-iron pan and
close the door. After 5 minutes, quickly open the door and spray the interior
of the oven with water. Continue baking until the loaf is evenly browned, about
25 minutes, and has a nice hollow thump when you tap it on the bottom. Let cool
for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Un-Massachusetts Roast Beef Sandwich

We (Andy & Jackie King) live
and work in what feels like the roast beef capital of the world—the North Shore
of Massachusetts. If you don’t believe me, try and drive for ten minutes up
here without passing a Kelly’s, Sammy’s, Nick’s, Bill and Bob’s, Alex’s, and
any other number of first-name drive-through roast beef joints. We pass by four
on the way home every day. So we tried our hand at a unique roast beef
sandwich, and although you can’t get it “with au jus,” as they say, it is Jackie’s
favorite of all the sandwiches we serve at the bakery. The key to getting that
pink through-and-through look to your beef is to cook it slow and low, and
we’ve supplied you with an easy recipe to do just that.

Red Onions

About 1 pint, enough for 10-12 sandwiches
2 large
red onions, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch strips
3 cups
white wine vinegar

Roast Beef

Enough beef for 10-12 sandwiches
1 top
round roast, about 5 lbs
Salt and
freshly ground black pepper


Makes enough for 10-12 sandwiches


1/3 of a
baguette (about 7 inches)
2 pieces
sliced sharp cheddar cheese
To make
the pickled onions, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, and pour over the
onions. Refrigerate for 24 hours or until the onions take on a neon-pink hue;
that’s how you know they’re ready. They’ll keep two weeks in refrigerator.
To make
the roast beef, heat the oven to 200˚F. Generously salt the exterior of the
roast beef, and add pepper to your taste. Place on a rack on a sheet pan, and
cook until the internal temperature reaches 125˚F. Let cool completely before
To make
the tomatoes, trim the stem end off the tomatoes, and slice 1/4 inch thick. Lay
the pieces flat on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Roast for 1 hour in the 200˚F oven, or until significantly dried but not
crispy. To store, arrange the tomatoes flat in an airtight container, cover
with olive oil, and refrigerate. They’ll keep for about a week.
To assemble the sandwich, layer the roast beef, cheddar
slices, tomatoes, and picked red onion onto the sliced baguette.

This post is part of a blog tour promoting the book, Baking by Hand by Andy & Jackie King. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, as well as a copy to give away. Good luck!

To see a gorgeous Banh Mi sandwich made with this baguette, visit this post on Asian in America.

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