There are two methods for making authentic French baguette bread. The yeast method typically yields a lighter baguette that tastes as if it came straight from un marché en plein air (an open air market) in Paris. French baguettes are ideal for enhancing dinnertime meals, and they also freeze well for future use or entertaining last-minute guests.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 544 g (4 cups) all purpose or whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp. Dry active yeast
- 1 to 2 tsp. Salt
- 473 ml (2 cups) warm water
- Olive or light vegetable oil
- Large mixing bowl
- Medium size mixing bowl
- Large baking tray
- Oven-safe bowl
Combine the flour and salt thoroughly in a medium mixing bowl and set aside for mixing with the yeast and water later.
Mix the yeast and warm water in the medium sized bowl. Add half of the flour and salt mixture. Use hands to mix the ingredients to a doughy texture. Avoid the tendency to over-mix, which results in a dough that takes longer to rise and yields a bread that tastes too dense. Cover the dough with a dish towel and set aside for three to four hours. The dough will rise to nearly three times its original size.
Add the remaining salt and flour mixture to dough. Mix thoroughly with hands, then place dough on a floured counter top or cutting board. Knead for ten to eleven minutes to produce a springy elastic texture. Lightly oil a bowl with olive oil or light vegetable oil and place the dough in the bowl, turning a few times to ensure sure dough is exposed to oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a dish towel for another hour or until the dough expands to twice its original size.
Set the oven to preheat to 232 degrees C (450 degrees F). Knead the dough again for ten minutes, then divide it into thirds. Form each section of dough into 30 to 37.5 cm (12 to 15 inches) long baguettes and place them on a large baking tray. Baguettes are ideally 7.5 cm (3 inches) wide, but personal preferences can vary. Allow the baguettes to rise for twenty more minutes.
Cut diagonal slashes along the length of each baguette to ensure that steam can escape during baking. Slashes prevent wide, irregular cracks from developing during the baking process. Make sure not to cut the slashes any deeper than half a centimetre. Cutting too deeply will cause the baguettes to go flat.
Fill the oven-safe bowl with four cups of water and place it in the oven to ensure proper vaporisation for the baguettes. Place baguettes in the oven and bake for fifteen minutes next to the bowl of water to encourage a light, crusty bread. After fifteen minutes, remove the bowl of water and bake baguettes alone for ten more minutes, or until baguettes turn golden brown. Baguettes in France are typically baked at extremely high temperatures unavailable in UK ovens, but a bowl of water assists with the essential vaporisation needed to yield crusty, golden baguettes. Serve baguettes while they are warm, or wrap them tightly in cling film to keep fresh for serving later.
Baking the baguette
Tips and warnings
- Use an extremely sharp knife to make baguette slashes.
- Double the recipe to make a few baguettes to freeze for later.
- Make sure the bowl used in the oven is safe at high temperatures. When in doubt, skip the bowl of water.
- Wear long-sleeved pot holders to take baguettes out of the oven to avoid serious burns.
- Keep an eye on the baguettes as they bake. True oven temperatures vary, so baking times can be a few minutes shorter in some ovens and a few minutes longer in others.
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