A baguette is a type of long, narrow, crusty bread that originates from France. It is made with simple ingredients, such as flour, water, yeast, and salt. Baguettes are characterized by their golden-brown crust and soft, airy interior, with a slightly chewy texture. They are typically consumed fresh, often on the same day they are baked, and are commonly used for sandwiches, as a side dish, or as an accompaniment to soups and stews.
The process of making a baguette can be time-consuming and requires patience, as it involves a slow fermentation process that contributes to the bread’s unique flavor and texture. Here is a basic recipe for making a traditional French baguette:
- 4 cups (480 grams) all-purpose or bread flour
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons (8 grams) active dry yeast or instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons (12 grams) salt
- Additional flour for dusting
- Prepare the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and yeast. If using active dry yeast, dissolve it in the lukewarm water before adding it to the flour. If using instant yeast, add it directly to the flour. Gradually add the water, mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Add the salt and continue mixing until fully incorporated.
- Knead the dough: On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and knead it for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and elastic. Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook on low speed for about 5-7 minutes.
- First rise: Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- Shape the baguettes: Gently deflate the dough and divide it into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, and then fold the long edges towards the center, overlapping slightly. Press the seam to seal and roll the dough into a long, thin log. Pinch the ends to taper them.
- Second rise: Place the shaped baguettes onto a lightly floured or parchment-lined baking sheet or a baguette pan, spaced evenly apart. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let them rise for 45-60 minutes, or until nearly doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven: While the baguettes are rising, preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Place a baking tray or oven-safe dish filled with water on the bottom rack to create steam, which helps to develop a crispy crust.
- Score the baguettes: Using a sharp knife or a bread lame, make diagonal slashes on the top of each baguette, about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) deep.
- Bake: Place the baguettes in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and have a hollow sound when tapped. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking for even browning.
- Cool: Remove the baguettes from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
This recipe yields three standard-sized baguettes. Enjoy your freshly baked baguettes with butter, cheese, or your favorite spread, or use them to create delicious sandwiches.