I’ve gotten into breadmaking this spring―it’s a lovely way to spend a Sunday, my kitchen smells amazing, and I have breakfast for the next week. With summer just around the corner, I thought I’d share a classic baguette recipe that you may enjoy trying if you find yourself with extra free time and nothing to do. Though I got the original recipe from King Arthur Flour, I’ve changed up the ingredient measurements a bit and added my own tips throughout.
Yield: 3 baguettes Time active: about 1 hour Total time: about 6 hours
1 packet (2 ¼ tsp.) dry active yeast or instant yeast
1 ¾ cups lukewarm water*
4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl, then knead** using your hands or a mixer until the dough is somewhat smoothe. If the dough is too wet, add flour; if it’s too dry, add water.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for 60 minutes. Once the hour’s up, transfer the dough to a flat surface and gently deflate it by folding the edges into the center and turning it over several times. Repeat this process― letting the dough rise for an hour and deflating it―twice more.
After the third rising period, divide the dough into three equal pieces. I use a pizza cutter to accomplish this. Round each piece of dough into a ball, and cover the three balls of dough with greased plastic wrap. Let them rest for 15 minutes.
Working with one piece at a time, flatten the dough slightly, then fold it in half, sealing the edges with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough ninety degrees and repeat: fold, then flatten. Continue until the dough is elongated. Then, with the seam side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 16” log.
Place the logs onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined pan (i.e. not a cookie sheet). Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow them to rise until they’re slightly puffy (I think of it as “marshmallow-y”); this can take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. When you are nearly satisfied with the puffiness of your baguettes, preheat your oven to 450°F.
Remove the plastic wrap from the loaves. Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three to five long diagonal slashes in each baguette. Load the baguettes into the oven.
Bake the baguettes for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they’re a very deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool them on a rack. Let the baguettes sit in the open air for three hours before storing them in the refrigerator. To reheat, stick them in the oven for about ten minutes at 350°F.
*What the heck does “lukewarm” even mean? If you put your wrist under running tap water and feel a sting of sustainably tolerable heat, you’ve reached the temperature needed to reactivate the yeast (about 110°F).
**When I first started making bread, the thought of kneading scared me. (Who wants to exercise when they’re baking, am I right?) In reality, kneading is more repetitive than it is complicated or difficult. To knead a ball of dough, fold it in half, press down with the heel of your palm, rotate the flattened dough ninety degrees, and repeat: fold, press, rotate. See how long you can go before getting bored and giving up; I usually last about ten minutes, and it’s worked out fine.