Bake This: French Baguettes
January 2021 | article & photos by Renata Haidle
With a crunchy crust and a chewy, soft crumb, this French baguette will have you saying more, please, as soon as you taste it. The secret to a great baguette is to follow instructions carefully - there is no room for improvisation here.
- 1 Cup warm water (100-110F)
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Himalayan salt (1 teaspoon if you use fine table salt)
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- Activate your yeast by placing it in the warm water. Add the sugar and let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature. The mixture will become foamy, a sign that the yeast is fermenting properly.
- Gradually add the flour, salt, and olive oil, and mix until the dough starts separating from the bowl. The result should be a wet, slightly sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof in a warm, dry place for an hour (your oven with the light turned on works great for this purpose).
- After the dough has doubled in size, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into two equal parts. Stretch each part into an 8x12" rectangle. Slowly roll the rectangle on the long side to form a cylinder, maintaining some of the air bubbles. Seal the dough with your fingertips and let rest for 30-45 min, covered loosely with plastic wrap.
- Repeat the process, this time rolling your cylinder into a baguette shape, about 16" long, tapering the ends—dust lightly with flour. Using sharp kitchen scissors or a baker's lame, score the baguettes about a half inch deep, every 3-4 inches. This will allow some of the air to escape during baking and create the characteristic creases that make it easy to tear the baguette into pieces. Let rise for another 30-45 min.
- Preheat your oven to 460F. Fill a 9x13" pan with water and place it on the bottom rack. This will create steam that is essential for obtaining a nice crust during baking.
- Lightly grease a baking tray with oil that sustains high temperatures (such as canola or corn oil). Sprinkle with flour. Transfer the baguettes onto the baking tray and place in the hot oven on the center rack.
- After 15 minutes, remove the water pan very carefully. Continue baking for 5-10 more minutes, or until the baguettes turn golden-brown. If ready, they should sound hollow when tapped.