A Hot Open Faced Ham and Cheese Sandwich on a Freshly Made Baguette.
I was in the mood for a tartine, the French term for an open faced sandwich. I especially love the classic ham and cheese rendition. But most importantly, at least to me, is that the bread be excellent. I wanted a baguette with an open light crumb and a crackly crisp shell. Having previously made this one from King Arthur that perfectly fit the bill, I didn’t even consider another recipe.
It begins with a poolish (starter), which is simply a combination of a little flour, yeast, and water. It needs to sit overnight in order to develop flavor. Additional ingredients are added the next day and the dough goes through 2 rises before being shaped and left to rise again before baking. The shaping technique is extremely easy and very effective. There are a couple of other things that contribute to the superb outcome of this bread.
The first is the common technique of placing boiling water into a pan in the hot oven. The initial burst of steam enables the bread to remain moist and rise easily. The second is the cooling method. When the bread is finished baking, the oven is turned off and the door is cracked open about 2 inches. The bread is left to cool to room temperature while remaining in the cooling oven. This produces a baguette whose crust remains cracklingly crisp, even after sitting for a few hours.
Replicating good baguettes at home was a goal of mine for a long time, but I didn’t achieve it until I made this recipe. King Arthur nails this one perfectly. Plus, in the link I will provide there is another link to a blog post by PJ Hamel, who takes you through each step of this recipe with accompanying photos. She is one of my favorite baking authorities.
For the tartines, I cut open the bread, brushed on a little olive oil, spread on whole grain mustard, layered on ham and cheese, and popped it under the broiler. I then added a dollop of some mango/ghost pepper/bacon preserves I’d made the day before and scattered on some fresh watercress. I’ll post the preserves recipe soon, but you could use any good fruit jam, or you could simply eliminate it and the tartines would still be delicious. These sandwiches really hit the spot and I had a couple baguettes left over to pop in the freezer for future bread cravings.
Here is the link to King Arthur’s Classic Baguettes recipe: