There is nothing more I love to smell than bread baking in the oven. And over the years I’ve gotten the hang of baking bread. Over the last couple of years I’ve started trying my hand at freeform bread and making baguettes was definitely a highlight for me.
I’ve made these baguettes a lot, modifying the original recipe to get it to where it’s absolutely perfect for my family and I.
This is a slow process, although the actual hands on time is very little. As I work from home I can make this during the day and have fresh bread for dinner that night. The best part – it’s so much better than the stuff I can get in the grocery store. (There’s no French bakeries anywhere near where I live and the thought of driving through the city into downtown, and trying to find parking just to get 1 baguette, this just seems nonsensical to me).
The night before, just before I go to bed I make the starter for this. It’s super simple, takes no time at all. Measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour (if you happen to have bread flour you can use that as well, I sometimes have bread flour and sometimes I don’t, just depends on how much bread I’ve been baking). To this add 1/4 tsp. instant yeast and 3/4 cup cold water. Mix this together really well, cover with plastic wrap and cover in a towel and place somewhere where there is not a draft. I usually just shove this inside the stove (turned off obviously).
Now I use instant yeast, mostly because I find this to be more convenient, but if you want to use active dry yeast it’s up to you. Then use 1/4 cup warm water to help dissolve and bloom the yeast and 1/2 cup cold water mixed with the flour.
The next morning I check to make sure the start has risen and bubbled up. If it doesn’t look like this something went wrong. Just throw it away and try again.
In the bowl of my stand mixer I place 3 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp instant yeast and 2 tsp of salt, as well as all of the starter (make sure you scrape the bowl clean and get it all), as well as 1 3/4 cup of warm water (at least 100 to 105 degrees F).
Mix this together with a wood spoon to create a shaggy dough. Then place on the stand mixer and mix on speed 2 (Kitchenaid) for 5 minutes. The dough will not be smooth after the 5 minutes but that’s okay. While the dough is kneading prepare your proofing bowl. Spray with oil really well and place the dough into the bowl and turn to coat so that the dough doesn’t dry out. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise for 1 hour. (This is the first rise).
After the first hour it won’t look like it has risen that much, but it’s okay, just give the dough a quick flip over, cover back up and let rise for another hour.
After the second hour you should notice that it has risen quite a bit. It’s starting to look good. Give it another flip and cover back up again and let rise for another hour.
After the third rise it’s time to divide and then shape the baguettes. First off divide the dough into 4 equal pieces of dough. (If you want to weigh the dough go ahead, I just eyeball this). Cover the dough once you have divided it up and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes just to relax. Then to shape the baguettes take one piece of the dough and press it out into a rectangle. Fold it over, sort of like a letter, long side to long side and pinch the seam together with your knuckles. Flatten this out slightly and fold over once more, pinching the seam together with your knuckles. Then with your fingers slowly start to roll the dough into a long baguette (like you did when you were a kid making snakes with playdough).
Once you have the baguettes shaped, place them onto parchment paper. Then, to make sure the baguettes rise upward and not outward, pull up on the parchment paper in between the baguettes and also, use rolled up towels on each end.
These then are left to rise for another 1 1/2 hours. At about the 1 hour mark is when I start to pre-heat my oven to 450 degrees F. If you are lucky and have a baking stone make sure you put it in the oven before you turn it on. I don’t (at least not yet). But I do have a rimless dark baking sheet which I use as my baking stone. This stays in the oven and gets nice and hot and is great to bake bread on (and pizza). I also don’t have a peel, but I have two of these rimless baking sheets, so one is used as a baking stone and the other as a peel.
Once your read to bake the baguettes, my oven is not big enough for all 4 at one time, so I bake them 2 at a time. In a spray bottle, fill it with hot water. Spray (mist) the baguettes all over and then quickly using a very sharp knife, make 3 diagonal cuts in the top of the baguettes. Then very quickly transfer the baguettes into the oven and quickly before you close the door, mist (about 15 to 20 times) the oven floor with the hot water and close the door. This creates a lot of steam in the oven. The baguettes bake for 30 minutes. If you like them darker, go up to 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.
These aren’t like the baguettes you would get from a real French bakery, but considering they come from your own oven, I’d say they are even better.
Baguettes (makes 4)
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup flour (all-purpose or bread)
All of the starter
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup warm water (100 to 105 degrees F)
3 1/2 cups flour (all purpose or bread)
- The night before mix together all ingredients for the starter, cover and let rest over night in a warm draft free place.
- The next morning, in the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp yeast, 2 tsp salt, all of the starter (if there is some remaining in the bowl, pour your warm water into the bowl to clean it and pour this into the mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix this into a shaggy dough.
- Mix the dough, using the dough hook, on speed 2 for 5 minutes. Remove dough and place din prepared bowl (greased), cover and let rise for 1 hour.
- After the first hour, uncover the dough and flip it over. Cover it back up and let rise another hour. Repeat once more for a total of 3 hours rising.
- After the third hour, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes to relax. Then shape the baguettes. (see above for shaping)
- Once shaped, place on parchment paper and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
- After 1 hour into the rising, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F.
- Once ready for the oven, quickly mist the loaves with warm water and make 3 diagonal slashes in the top of the dough and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes to 35 minutes.
- Remove to a cooling rack.