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authentic french baguette recipe
My favorite homemade baguette recipe that uses simple ingredients with a long chilled overnight rising period to develop flavor. This recipe make 3 baguettes that are crispy on the outside, perfectly chewy on the inside, and full of complex flavor.
- 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons cool water (370 grams)
- 1 tablespoon honey (25 grams)
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast (3 grams)
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur Flour brand flour (500 grams)
- 2 teaspoon fine sea salt (10 grams)
In a medium mixing bowl add the water and honey to the bowl and stir to combine.
Add the yeast, flour, and salt to the bowl and use a wooden spoon to mix well. The dough will be thick, just stir it as well as you can until the flour is incorporated. No need to mix a lot by hand at this point, just get it to come together.
Cover the bowl (use a lid, beeswax wrap, or some good cling wrap) and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 or so minutes stretch and fold the dough. When I say “stretch and fold”, here’s what you do: put your hand between the dough and the bowl on one side and grab the dough, gently pull it up to give it a good stretch (if the dough starts to break, stop pulling, your are just stretching the dough as far as it wants to stretch without breaking it) and then fold it back down into the middle of the bowl. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the process, working your way around the bowl. I normally think of the bowl as a square and stretch and pull the dough 4 times, once on each side of my square. It’ll take 15 or so seconds to do this.
Over the next 2-3 hours, every 30 to 45 minutes, do a stretch and fold with the dough. Be sure to cover the dough well after each session. Do around 4 stretch and fold sessions total (a little more won’t hurt anything).
See the bakers schedule in the post for more information on how and when I do this (I normally make my dough while I’m making dinner and stretch and fold throughout the evening).
After you have stretched and folded the dough, cover the dough well and place it in the fridge for the next 12-18 hours.
You have some flexibility about how long the dough is in the fridge, so feel free to make the baking schedule work with your schedule. I adjust the next days baking depending on when we want to eat the baguettes. If they are for lunch, I’ll get the dough out of the fridge 3 hours before we want to eat lunch. and, If I want them for dinner, I’ll get the dough out 3 hours before dinner. so, If do don’t have a set time you want to eat them, you can just do these next steps when you have about a three hour chunk of time to dedicate to it (not all hands-on time but you’ll need to be around for things).
Remove the dough from the fridge after it’s 12 to 18 hour rest, and remove it from the bowl.
Divide the dough into three even pieces.
Gently press each piece of dough into a rectangular shape about 1 inch thick. If the dough is very sticky feel free to lightly flour your surface. Cover the pressed out dough pieces with a clean dish towel and allow to rise for 1 hour.
After the dough has rest for an hour at room temperature, it’s time to shape your loaves. Working with one piece of dough, stretch the dough gently so that it makes a rectangle that is roughly 11 inches by 8 inches. Fold one third of the dough to the middle of the rectangle, fold the other side of the rectangle into the middle of the dough (like you are folding a letter) and then pinch the dough together along the seem to make a log (I have step by step photos of this in the blog post).
Use both of your hands to gently roll the dough out into a 15 inch long log, tapering the ends just a bit with your hands.
Place the prepared dough log into your baguette pan.
Repeat with remaining dough.
Cover the dough in the pan with a clean dish towel and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the dough is light and puffy (it won’t be quite doubled in size).
While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. When you turn the oven on to preheat, add a small dish of water to the oven. I like to use a bread pan that has about 2 inches of water in it. and, I put it off to one side of the oven so that my baguette pan can fit next to it. so, I like to let the oven and water preheat for at least 30 minutes so that it has time to get good and hot.
When the bread has finished rising in the baguette pan, use a razor blade or lame to cut 3 diagonal slashes ½ inch deep diagonally across each loaf OR cut one long ½ inch deep slash down the center of each loaf (I like the center slit personally).
Place the bread in the hot oven, being careful when you open the oven as it is hot and steamy.
Close the oven door and reduce the heat to 450 degrees F. right away.
Let the baguettes cook until they are deep golden brown, 24-28 minutes (I like 25 minutes on the dot). They are going to be very golden!
Remove the baguettes from the oven and allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving warm.
Baguettes are also delicious at room temperature but we have found that we like them eaten fresh they day they are made.
Uneaten baguettes can be stored wrapped in a clean towel and make excellent bread for sandwiches. They also reheat well by wrapping them in foil and letting them warm in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
What Is a Baguette?
A national symbol of France, the baguette is a long, thin loaf of bread made from white wheat flour. It has a crispy, golden-brown crust and a chewy interior marked by very large holes and an open crumb structure (caused by the steam that’s added at the beginning of baking). According to French law, baguettes must be made with just four ingredients: wheat, water, yeast (starter), and salt.
The baguette was likely developed during the nineteenth century, when longer breads and white flour became more popular and both Viennese steam-oven baking and compressed yeast were introduced to Paris. The word baguette, which means wand or stick, was not used to refer to the French bread until the mid-20th century.
The essential pieces of equipment to make a great-tasting baguette are an oven and a baking stone. You want a large and, importantly, thick baking stone. It won’t crack easily and will promote a much better oven spring for your baguettes. Like this heavy duty baking stone. Even better, go to your local pottery supply store and get a Cordierite kiln shelf. They are thicker and can withstand spills with aplomb. You can also get one cut to your specifications.
Another piece of equipment that is extremely helpful is the Baker’s Couche that you will need for proofing. I used to get away without one for a long time but they are so effective and convenient, and in very inexpensive nowadays.
A bread lame is another tool you will be glad you have. It’s essential for scoring baguettes. I can use a serrated bread knife to make pretty good scores, but a lame will be much easier for novice bakers.
Finally, you will need a large pizza shovel or something similar to load baguettes in the oven. I find that the easiest way to do it is to place the baguettes on a large piece of parchment paper, score then slide on the baking stone.
Tips to make the best French baguette
The focus of this book is making a tremendous long stick with “French” style from just only 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. And the result will give you the “lean dough” baguette with a real craft of artisan bread-making skills. But how to make your French baguette stands out from the crowd? You can consider some factors as following, and please keep in mind “practice makes perfect.”
Consider time and temperature as ingredients: people think they are not relevant to each other. But many bakers and I agree in making artisan bread, time and temperature have an inverse relationship. For example, the higher temperature (do not excess 35C (95F)) means that the proving time will be shorter. The good traditional French baguette is the balanced flavor between the complex and light taste as the dough temperature will affect the replication rate of yeast. At this point, I can suggest the ideal temperature for artisan bread is about 25C (77F).
Tips to make the best French baguette
Understanding how to apply turns or folds: mixing the dough by hands always the favorite choice for almost the professional bakers. In the commercial bakery, they may use a large mixer and knead the dough only at a slow speed. Performing several times folding during the bulk fermentation to strengthen the dough and organize the gluten’s structure. The number of foldings will vary depending on how wet and slack the dough is. In this traditional French baguette recipe, we won’t use the high water ratio, so 2 folds should be enough to cover it.
Proof and Bake till perfection: It is also crucial to decide at the perfect point when the dough needs to be baked. You can check by pressing your finger into the dough about 1/3 inch to check as usual. If it springs back immediately, it means the dough is not ready and needs more proof; otherwise, if the indentation bounces back just halfway and slowly, it means the dough is prepared for the oven.
What you need to make authentic baguettes with poolish?
To make this baguette recipe, you’ll need the following equipment:
- A couche or tea towel
- Mixing bowls
- A metal and plastic dough scraper
- A lid or some plastic wrap (something to cover the bowl)
- Scales, if you don’t have a decent set you might want to try these scales from Myweigh
- A baking stone
- A baguette peel
Step-By-Step Method For This Recipe
1) Prepare the poolish
Add the fresh or instant yeast for the poolish to the water and whisk. Once the yeast is dissolved, add the flour and lightly mix to distribute for around 1 minute. Leave the biga for 12-16 hours to develop.
If using active dried yeast, halve the fresh yeast amount listed. Active dried yeast will need to be activated before use. To do this warm the water for the poolish, ideally to 37-43C (100-110F). Add the yeast to the bowl, whisk and leave for 10 minutes to bloom. Next, add the flour, combine and leave for 12-16 hours.
2) Begin the autolyse
The next day, once the poolish has fermented:
Add all the poolish, 1st water, flour and yeast to a bowl, gently mix until a fairly even structure is made. Leave to autolyse for 20-30 minutes.
3) Incorporate and slowly knead
Next, add the salt and set a 5 minute timer. Then with a plastic dough scraper make sweeping movements to combine the ingredients in the bowl. Once the dough forms a mass, knead slowly on a table, using a stretching motion. Continue this until the timer beeps, by now the dough should have an even consistency. Scrap the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover with a bag and place it in the fridge.
Alternatively use a dough mixer:
Add the salt, with the rest of the ingredients to a dough mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix at a slow speed for 6 minutes, then fast for 6 minutes. At this point, slow the speed and add the second water. Increase the speed once the water starts to absorb and continue to mix for another 2 minutes (or until the dough is an even consistency). Skip step 4.
4) Fast knead
After 10 minutes, take the dough out onto the table and set a 5 minute timer. Knead fast using the stretch, slap and fold technique for maximum efficiency. When the timer ends, place back in the bowl with the second water and push the dough into the water with your hand. When the dough starts to incorporate the water turn it back out onto the table and knead for another 2-3 minutes.
5) Leave to rest (bulk ferment)
Using a dough scraper, place the dough into a lightly floured bowl, cover and leave to rest for 20 minutes in the fridge.
6) Stretch and fold
Remove the dough from the bowl and complete a stretch and fold or lightly knead for 30 seconds. Cover the dough in the bowl again and leave in the kitchen side for another 20 minutes.
7) Stretch and fold again
Repeat the stretch and fold or light knead and rest again on the kitchen surface for 20 minutes.
8) Divide into baguettes
Lightly flour dust the surface and place the dough on top using a plastic dough scraper. Now, using a metal dough scraper, divide into 220g pieces and lightly shape into cylinders and leave to rest on the table for 20 minutes.
9) Shaping time!
Once relaxed, from the centre of the dough, roll out using both hands until the length of the baguette is formed. This should be about 30cm, you can taper the ends if you wish. As you shape each one, transfer onto a floured couche or tea towel.
10) Proof those little beauties
Once all the baguettes are shaped, cover with the couche and allow to proof for 1- 1 ½ hours. Get the oven with a baking stone preheated to 250C (480F).
11) Scoring – Practice makes perfect!
Use a long peel to remove the baguettes from the couche. Either cut and drop them in the oven one by one or transfer 3-4 to a board and then cut and slide them all into the oven on the baking stone. Cut by making 4-5 cuts through the middle, holding the knife/lame at a slight angle. Add plenty of steam as they go into the oven.
Bake for around 20 – 25 minutes, you may wish to drop the heat to 240C (465F) but my oven isn’t powerful enough to get to that temperature quickly anyway so I don’t bother. If the baguettes are looking pale, consider using the top heat function near the end of baking to help caramelise the crusts.
13) Remove and cool
Remove from the oven using a peel and allow to cool.
Storing and Freezing French Bread
There is nothing better than slicing into fresh warm bread, and baguettes are best eaten the day they are made while still warm.
- Storing: This french loaf is easy to store. Wrap it loosely and keep it at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. If the bread isn’t as crusty after a while you can place it in a warm oven (200 degrees) for 5 or 10 minutes, and it should come out good as new.
- Freeze: Make a double batch and then freeze some loaves for a later date. Wrap the completely cooled loaves in plastic wrap and then in foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let it thaw at room temperature. To bring back it’s crustiness place in a warm oven for 5-10 minutes till you bring back that crusty goodness you love. You can also slice the bread before freeze and place in a freezer safe bag and then remove just what you need. Toast the bread in a toaster for ultimate crunch and flavor.