February 6, 2011

French Baguettes

French Baguettes

Recipe submitted by Craig Poirier.


Overnight starter

  • 1/2 cup cool water
  • 1 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast


  • All of the starter
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt


  1. For the starter: Mix the starter ingredients together till smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight is good.
  2. To make the dough: Combine the starter, yeast, water, flour, and salt, and mix and knead them together – by hand, mixer, or bread machine – till you’ve made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface should still be a bit rough. Allow the dough to rise, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface. Divide the dough into three pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel or edge of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15″ log.
  5. Place the logs in the folds of a floured couche or floured cotton dish towel, which you’ve set onto a sheet pan or pans. Or place them directly onto the pan (lightly greased or parchment-lined). Cover them with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they have become quite puffy, but haven’t doubled in size; this will take about 60 to 90 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 450°F; if you’re using a baking stone, place it on the lowest shelf. Roll the risen baguettes from the couche onto the lightly greased or parchment-lined pan of your choice – or onto a peel if you’re baking directly on the stone.
  7. Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust. Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8″ vertical slashes in each baguette. Place the baguettes in the oven.
  8. Bake the baguettes for about 25 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2″, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.

Recipe summary

Hands-on time: 30 mins. to 40 mins.

Baking time: 25 mins. to 30 mins.

Total time: 1 days 5 hrs to 1 days 5 hrs 15 mins.

Yield: 3 baguettes (Overnight)

Image courtesy of Allison Helmer on Flickr.com.