A few years ago we had a local bakery that made the most adorable little baguettes and mini-rounds. Sadly, the bakery went out of business, but not before I perfected this copycat recipe.
This recipe makes 6 – 12 rounds, each one the perfect size for 2 – 3 people. If you aren’t going to eat them all in a day or so, go ahead and freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months. I made quite a few rounds before the holidays, stored them in a zip-top freezer bag, and popped them in the freezer. When it came time to pack gift bags, I put one round in each bag. The rounds thawed by the time the gift was opened, and they were just as soft and chewy as when first baked.
Baking sourdough bread is not nearly as difficult as you may think. It does take a little bit of planning ahead, but after that it is no different than baking a straight dough bread. The real difference comes in flavor. Sourdough breads have a tangy flavor that just can’t be beat. Sourdough breads also stay fresh longer than sweet dough breads or straight dough breads.
You can find more information about the nature of sourdough in general in my previous post on Best-Ever Oatmeal Sourdough Bread. Make your own sourdough starter by using the method I prefer, found on my website Make Your Own Sourdough Starter. Or follow the methods found in earlier Mother Earth News articles, including Creating Homemade Sourdough Bread From a Starter Mix, and a previous blog post, A Beginner’s Guide to Sourdough. It’s hard to completely fail with sourdough, so use the method that appeals most to you.
Making Sourdough Bread Dough
Start by mixing the following ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl to your stand mixer.
2 cups ripe sourdough starter
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn flour*
1 tsp salt
*Corn flour is not the same thing as cornmeal. If you can't find corn flour (I purchase mine at the health food store), substitute rye, whole-wheat or another flour of your choice. Corn flour will give the loaves a sweet taste similar to a traditional baguette, but breads made with a little rye or Kamut, or whole-wheat will be tasty, too.
Mix well to combine. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, or using a stand mixer for 3-5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, 2 - 4 hours.
Gently fold to deflate. At this point the dough can be put in the refrigerator overnight to increase the "sourness." Or you can go ahead and finish the loaves right now.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured mat and let rest 10 minutes.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces.
Gently pat each piece into a rectangle.
Fold one long side towards the middle then fold the other long side towards the middle.
Now gently fold the rectangle again, enclosing the long open edge. It seems like the pieces are too small to do this, but they aren't! Fold the short ends towards the middle until they are just touching and gently shape the loaves until they are the desired size.
Tightly shape each dough piece into a smooth ball, with a flat, seamed bottom.
Let rise on parchment for 1 -2 hours. To keep the loaves rising up instead of spreading, I pinch the parchment and pull it up between each baguette or round, thus forcing the dough to rise up not out. Before baking quickly score the loaves with a razor blade or sharp knife.
Baking the Bread
Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes if baking on a cookie sheet, or bake at 425 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes if using a baking stone. The bread is done when the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees.
When done, remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting. This resting period is important to let the crumb set and leads to evenly cut slices.
Mini-baguettes and mini-rounds can be served with butter, dipped in olive oil, or used to make a sandwich big enough for two people. Leftovers, if there are any, can be toasted and served with soup.