It is a challenge to make real baguettes at home, but with this recipe, you will get pretty close to an artisan bakery version of this iconic French bread. The ingredients are pure simplicity: flour, water, salt, and yeast. It’s the baker’s technique that turns them into a masterpiece.
Be patient and don’t expect perfection the first time around. The long, slow rise and the stretching and folding are necessary for the dough to develop the complex flavor and the characteristic chewy, airy crumb.
The more you practice your baguette – baking technique, the better the baguette you’ll make.
If the long rise doesn’t quite fit into your schedule, increase the yeast in the dough to 1 1/2 teaspoons (instead of 1 teaspoon) and let the dough rest and rise for 45 minutes. Gently deflate, stretch and fold in the bowl before letting it rise for an additional 45 minutes, until it’s obviously puffy.
Mastering the Art of French Bread Making. Part 3. Baguette.Course: Breakfast, BrunchCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Advanced
These homemade baguettes are as close to an artisan bakery version as you’re going to find.
- Poolish (starter)
120 g all-purpose flour
113 g water, cool
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast.
420 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
255 g water, lukewarm
2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
all of the poolish
- Prepare the starter: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir everything together to make a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic food wrap and let rest at room temperature (about 73 F / 22 C) for about 14 hours; best if overnight. The starter should expand and become bubbly.
- Make the dough: Combine and knead all ingredients – either by hand or with a mixer, fitted with hooks – to make a soft, somewhat smooth dough; the surface may be still a bit rough. If you are using a mixer, knead at a medium-low speed. The finished dough should stick a little to the bottom of the mixing bowl. Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-sized bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rest and rise for 3 hours.
- Stretch and fold: During those 3 hours, stretch and fold your dough after 1 hour, and again after 2 hours. To stretch and fold the dough first dip your hand in water. It will prevent the dough from sticking to your hand. Gently deflate the dough, then push your hand deep under the dough, pull the dough to you, and fold it over the rest of the dough. Repeat the process from all sides until the whole dough is folded and lies round and tight in the bowl. After each stretching and folding cover the bowl again, set it aside, and let the dough rest.
- Shape the baguettes: Transfer the dough onto a lightly greased surface. Gently deflate it and using a bench scraper divide it into 3 equal pieces. Round each piece of dough into a rough ball by pulling the edges into the center. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes or for up to 1 hour.
Working with one piece at a time, flatten the dough slightly then fold it nearly (but not quite) in half, sealing the edges with the heel of your hand.
Turn the dough around 180° and repeat: fold, then seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Repeat this whole process again; the dough should have started to elongate itself.
With the seam side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a log, about 16 inches long. Gently pinch and stretch the corners to create the baguette’s typical “pointy” end.
Place the logs seam-side down onto a large, parchment-lined baking sheet or into the folds of a heavily floured cotton dish towel or couche. Cover them with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to proof until they’re slightly puffy (like a marshmallow), lighter in color, but won’t be anywhere doubled in size. This should take about 45 minutes to an hour at room temperature.
While your baguettes are proofing, preheat your oven to 450F / 230C with a cast iron pan on the floor of the oven, or on the lowest rack. If you’re using a baking stone, place it on a middle rack. Have about 2 cups of boiling hot water at hand.
If your baguettes have risen in a dish towel or couche, gently roll them (seam side down) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you plan on baking them on a baking stone, roll them onto a piece of parchment, and lift the parchment onto a baker’s peel.
Using a baker’s lame or a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three to five long lengthwise slashes in each baguette.
- Bake: Load the baguettes into the oven. If you’re baking on a stone, use a baker’s peel to transfer the baguettes (together with the parchment) onto the hot stone. Carefully pour the boiling water into the cast iron pan, and quickly shut the oven door. The steam created by the boiling water will help the baguettes rise, and give them that typical crust.
Bake the baguettes — whether on a baking sheet, or on a stone — for 24 to 28 minutes, or until they’re a very deep golden brown (it often depends on how powerful your oven is). Remove them from the oven and cool them on a rack. Or – for the extra crispy baguettes – turn off the oven, crack it open about 2 inches, and allow the baguettes to cool completely in the oven until both baguettes and oven are at room temperature.
- To make demi baguettes: Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Shape each piece as you would for a classic baguette, rolling them into loaves, 7 to 8 inches long.
- Store any leftover baguettes in a paper bag overnight. Freeze for longer storage; thaw and reheat before serving.
- If the long rise doesn’t quite fit into your schedule, increase the yeast in the dough to 1 1/2 teaspoons (instead of 1 teaspoon) and let the dough rest and rise for 45 minutes. Gently deflate, stretch and fold in the bowl before letting it rise for an additional 45 minutes, until it’s obviously puffy.