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french baguette recipe
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Prep Time: 30 hours

Total: 30 hours, 18 minutes

Servings: 4


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Step 1

To make the pre-fermented dough, mix together all-purpose and bread flours, salt, and yeast. Next, add the water and stir together until a rough dough forms. I like to use a clean hand to finish the mixing, as I find a spoon becomes clumsy.

Step 2

Once you have a dough (it will be very rough and shaggy), turn it out onto a floured counter and begin to knead it. If it is too sticky and leaves wet dough all over your hands work in a bit more flour until it is a workable, but soft dough. If it’s too dry, add a teaspoon or two of water at a time to create a supple, soft dough. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, for about 10 minutes. If you place a probe thermometer in the dough, it should read between 77° and 80°F. It will feel neither warm nor cold when you touch it.

Step 3

Place the dough in a clean bowl that gives it space to rise then cover it with plastic wrap or place it in a clean plastic bag. Allow it to sit in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled. This should take 1-1 1/2 hours but could take less or more time depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Step 4

Remove the risen dough and knead it to deflate. Reshape it into a ball, place it back in the bowl and recover, then refrigerate it overnight. The next day, remove it about an hour before you wish to make your baguette dough to bring it to room temperature.

Step 5

Begin your baguette dough at least 6 hours before you want to bake them. You can also refrigerate the finished dough for up to 24 hours after the rises and before shaping your loaves.

Step 6

Stir together the 490 grams of all-purpose flour, 455 grams of bread flour, 30 grams of whole wheat flour, and 1 1/4 tsp. instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.

Step 7

Add in the 26.3 oz. of water and stir it in with a large, sturdy spoon until you have a rough, shaggy dough.

Step 8

Set the dough aside for 20 minutes–this rest is called the autolyze. It helps the yeast begin to work and the flavor to begin to develop.

Step 9

After the autolyze is complete, cut 1 lb. of the pre-fermented into about 12 small pieces and put about half of them over the dough. Sprinkle the salt over them, and fold the edges of the dough around it to cover the pre-ferment. Repeat with the rest of the pre-ferment pieces and salt.

Step 10

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead it. Your dough should be soft, supple, and tacky, but not sticky. If it is too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time to achieve the desired texture. If it’s too wet, work in more all-purpose flour a little bit at a time until the dough can be worked easily.

Step 11

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. See the note on kneading under the notes for how to know when the dough is well-kneaded and ready to rise.

Step 12

Set the kneaded dough in a bowl that’s large enough to allow it to double. Place it in a plastic bag (I like to use a large, new, clean trash bag since I can reuse it after I’m finished with the bread) or cover it with a clean cloth.

Step 13

Allow it to rise for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has puffed slightly. Knead it for a few seconds, reshape it into a ball, and place it back into the bowl.

Step 14

Re-cover the dough and allow it to rise for another 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Step 15

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. You should have about 4 1/2 lbs. of dough. Divide it into four equal portions, each about 1 lb. 2 oz. Your baguettes are now ready to shape.

Step 16

I’ve included pictures above to help guide you through the shaping process–take a minute to check them out!

Step 17

To shape a baguette, create a long rectangle with one portion of the dough. Pinch together the edges of the dough, then use the edge of your hand to press down the seam. Bring around the edges of the dough and pinch them together again, then press it down with the edge of your hand. Repeat this process again.

Step 18

Gently pull and stretch the baguette to make it approximately 18″ long. You can also wrap your hand around it and carefully slide and stretch the dough until it’s the appropriate length. If it keeps springing back after you’ve stretched it, allow the dough to sit for about 10 minutes (this helps the gluten relax), then try again. Tuck the ends of the loaf under and pinch them in place for a rounded end.

Step 19

Set the fully shaped loaves on parchment sheets sprinkled with flour, then place them on a baking sheet and into the same clean plastic bag to rise. You can allow them to rise at room temperature for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until the baguettes look puffy and soft. Alternatively, place the shaped loaves in the refrigerator overnight and allow them to have a long, slow rise. This creates a more blistery, crackly crust and gives your baguettes a deeper finished flavor and color.

Step 20

Start by preheating your oven to 500°F with a rack in the center. If you have unglazed ceramic tiles or a break or pizza stone, place it in the oven to help even out the heating in the oven and replicate the effect of a brick oven. Also, place a metal pan on a lower oven rack. You’ll add water to this when you place the baguettes in the oven, creating a steamier atmosphere which, in turn, creates a crustier loaf.

Step 21

Set out a two cup measuring cup of cold or ice water and have a spray bottle of cold water handy.

Step 22

When the oven has preheated, use a very sharp chef’s knife or bread lame to create three angled slashes down to top of the baguette. Hold your blade at approximately a 45° angle to help create an “ear” on the slashes.

Step 23

Working quickly, Open the oven and place the baguettes inside on the centered rack. Pour the cold water the pan and shut the door quickly.

Step 24

Allow the loaf to bake for 2 minutes, then open the door and quickly spray the walls and loaves with cold water. Bake for another minute, then repeat the spraying.

Step 25

After spraying the loaves a second time, turn the temperature down to 450°F and bake for approximately 15 more minutes, turning the baguettes half way through to help them bake evenly.

Step 26

Remove them from the oven when the crusts are a deep golden brown

Step 27

Enjoy your delicious French baguettes!