I’ve been a baguette fan for a long time, and even though I’ve discovered there are just too many variables/barriers preventing me from baking a truly French baguette, I keep trying. Baking a French traditional baguette is my quixotic challenge in baking.
French bread flour is definitely different – it is a harder type of wheat I think – and our ovens here in the US don’t always reach the temperatures required for crusty French-style breads. However, I have found a recipe from King Arthur Flour that comes darn close to the real thing, or at least I think so.
When we visit France, one of the things I look forward to is a stop for baguette. No matter how small the town, there is always a boulangerie turning out the most delectable, crusty loaves. Now that I think of it, we just may be overdue for an in-person taste test.
French Baguette from King Arthur Flour
Ingredients for the Starter
- 1/2 cup cool water
- 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour (don’t substitute)
- 1/8 tsp instant yeast
Ingredients for the Dough
- All of the starter
- 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour (I substituted 1 cup KA Bread flour because I had it in the pantry)
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- Mix the starter ingredients until smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight. Don’t skip this step!
- The next day, mix the starter with the remaining ingredients, kneading until the dough is nice and springy but not totally smooth (or if you are like me, use your bread hook and heavy-duty mixer). Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour and again after 2 hours.
- Divide the dough in half (in our two-person household, I divide the dough into quarters). Shape each half into a rough oval. Wait 15 minutes and then fold each oval lengthwise, sealing the edge, and use cupped fingers to gently roll each piece into a long log. Place the loaves onto a lightly greased or parchment lined (my choice) pan, cover, and let them rise* until they are puffy, but not doubled – this takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rise, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Very gently use a sharp knife or razor to slash 3 diagonal 1/3-inch deep slashes in each loaf. Mist the loaves heavily with warm water (do not skip this).
- Bake baguettes for 22 to 28 minutes, til they’re golden brown. Take the baguettes of the pan and place them right back on the oven rack. Turn off the oven, crack the door open about 2 inches and let the baguettes cool completely in the oven.
- *For extra-crisp baguettes, King Arthur bakers suggest covering the shaped loves and let them rise for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate them overnight. The next day (Day 3!) take them out of the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature, covered for about 3 hours or until they are nice and puffy. Then bake as in Step 4.