Classic Baguettes

At a Glance

Prep
20 mins.
Bake
30 mins.
Total
19 hrs 50 mins.
Yield
3 baguettes
Overnight
These crunchy baguettes feature a chewy interior riddled with holes, and a crisp, deep-gold crust. While it’s a challenge to make “real” baguettes at home, this version is probably as close to an artisan bakery version as you’re going to find. The ingredients in baguettes are pure simplicity: flour, water, salt, and yeast. It’s the baker’s technique that turns an average baguette into an all-star. Don’t expect perfection the first time out, but the more you practice your baguette-baking techniques, the better the baguette you’ll make.

Our guarantee: These baguettes, right out of the oven, will have a crunchy crust; later, the crust will become chewy. They’ll be a deep golden brown, about 16″ long, and 1 3/4″ to 2 1/2″ in diameter.

Starter

Dough

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 cup to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
  • all of the starter
  • 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour or Organic Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • *Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

Directions

  1. To make the starter: Mix everything together to make a soft dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have risen and become bubbly.
  2. To make the dough: Mix and knead everything together — by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. If you’re using a stand mixer, knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2; the finished dough should stick a bit at the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces.
  5. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again.
  7. With the seam side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 16″ log. Your goal is a 15″ baguette, so 16″ allows for the slight shrinkage you’ll see once you’re done rolling. Taper each end of the log slightly to create the baguette’s typical “pointy” end.
  8. Place the logs seam-side down into the wells of a baguette pan; onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans; or into the folds of a heavily floured cotton dish towel (or couche ). Cover them with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise until they’ve become quite puffy, about 1 1/2 hours.
  9. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F; if you’re using a baking stone, place it on the lowest rack.
  10. If your baguettes have risen in a dish towel or couche, gently roll them onto a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet, floured side down. Or if you plan on baking them on a baking stone, roll them onto a baker’s peel.
  11. Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8″ vertical slashes in each baguette. Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.
  12. Bake the baguettes — on the pan, or on a stone — for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they’re a very deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool them 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.
  13. Store any leftover baguettes in a paper bag overnight; freeze for longer storage. Thaw and reheat just before serving.

Tips from our bakers

  • Why the small amount of yeast and the extra-long rise? Because as yeast grows, it releases organic acids and alcohol, both of which are flavor carriers. The extra-long rise will give your baguettes outstanding flavor.
  • To make an épi de blé, a slightly longer and more slender loaf that bears resemblance to its namesake sheaf of wheat: Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Shape each piece as you would for a classic baguette. Hold a pair of scissors at a low angle at one end of the loaf and open the scissors so they’re wider than the width of the bread. Make a swift, clean cut 3/4 of the way into the dough, moving the cut piece to one side of the loaf. Repeat the process 2″ to 3″ farther down the loaf, moving the newly cut piece to the opposite side of the loaf from the first. Continue doing this until you reach the other end of the loaf. Note: the farther you cut into the loaf, the more elegant, though fragile, your épi de blé will be.
  • To make a demi baguette: Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Shape each piece as you would for a classic baguette, rolling them into 7″ to 8″ long loaves.
  • To bake baguettes in a stoneware baguette baker: Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Shape each piece as you would for a classic baguette, rolling them into 12″-long loaves.
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