A Frenchman's guide to baking the perfect baguette.
The perfect baguette
If you have ever wanted to bake baguettes like a proper boulanger, here is your chance!
- 1 kg / 7.8 cups of White bread flour
- 20 g / 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp of table salt
- 14 g / 4 1/2 tsp of dried yeast
- 650 ml / 2 3/4 cups of water
- Do not get scared by the long preparation time, most of that is rising time during which you do not have to sit and look at the dough rising. In fact, should you want to bake these baguettes for breakfast, you can start in the evening and one of the rising steps can then take care of itself overnight.
- Take ~333g / 2.6 cups of bread flour, 325 ml / 1 1/2 cups of water and 5g / 1 2/3 tsp of dried yeast and mix them to a batter-like consistency. Note: it is always best to use lukewarm water and to sprinkle your yeast over a small amount of that water and leave it for 5 MNS or so before throwing it into the mix. This will help to activate the yeast. Also, you don't have to be precise in the weights here, all that matters is that you get a batter-like dough.
- Cover the dough and leave it for at least 3 hours. You will see that the surface is then covered in little bubbles. Note: 3 hours is enough but longer is fine too. You can even leave it overnight if you wish.
- Add the rest of the bread flour, water and yeast and add the salt. Mix to a dough and knead for a few minutes. Note: do not add salt and yeast on the same spot on top of the batter-like dough or the salt will kill the yeast. Add them in different spots and the kneading process will take care of redistributing them evenly. Also, as with any bread dough, add more flour if the dough is still wet and sticky or add more water if the dough is too dry.
- Cover and leave to rise for 90 MNS, but after 45 MNS simply fold the dough in half, recover it and leave it to rise again. Note: After this folding you can leave it to rise for much longer, even overnight if you wish.
- Get the dough on a floured surface, cut it into 6 portions and roll each one into a long cylinder to fit your baking sheet.
- Place the baguettes onto your baking sheets, 2 per sheets. With a sharp knife, cut a few diagonal lines across the length of each. Note: if possible, place them directly on the baking sheets rather than placing them elsewhere and then moving them onto the baking sheets just prior to baking as any last rise they would achieve whilst waiting for the oven to preheat would be upset the moment you handle them to place them on the baking sheets.
- Cover each baking sheet with a cloth and preheat the oven to 250°C / 482°F. Place an oven proof saucer with a little water in it at the bottom of the oven to provide a little steam during baking.
- Sprinkle a small amount of flour on each baguette and place them in the oven for about 15mns or until golden. Note: if you're unsure whether the baguettes are ready, turn them over and tap them with the knuckle of a finger. If it sounds hollow, then the baguette is ready. Also, if you're like me, you might only be able to get 2 trays at once in the oven and you might have to do the whole baking in 2 sessions. No big deal.
- When ready, place the baguettes on a cooling rack. Let them cool for a minute or two and enjoy your delicious fresh bread with butter, jam or any other topping you like.