I traveled to Paris to train at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute. Although I mainly went to learn the secrets to making croissants and brioche, the recipe I learned at the course that I make weekly is for French Baguettes. This is so simple and there is nothing like pulling a baguette straight from the oven and biting off a big chunk. Not very ladylike, I know, but it’s kind of like licking the cake batter spoon. You just can’t resist.
The best way to make bread is to weigh your ingredients, which I highly recommend. But I have also translated this into American-style measurements for those of you who don’t have a scale. This recipe makes three baguettes.
I bake this with fresh yeast, so there is no need to proof the yeast first in warm water. But if you can’t find fresh yeast, use one packet of active dry yeast. Place it in warm water with 1 tablespoon of sugar and allow it to proof for about 5 minutes.
- 10 grams (1 ½ tsp.) salt
- 400 grams (2 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons) luke warm water
- 650 grams (4 ¾ cups) King Arthur bread flour
- 20 grams fresh yeast (or one packet active dry yeast, plus 1 T. sugar)
Place an empty bowl from a stand mixer on a kitchen scale. Zero out the scale. Add 10 grams of salt. Zero out the scale. Add 650 grams of flour. Zero out the scale. Add 20 grams of fresh yeast, crumbled.
In a separate bowl weigh 400 grams of water. Then pour that into the salt, flour and yeast.
Using a dough hook, mix on medium speed for 5 minutes, or until a ball forms. Do not knead for more than five minutes or you will lose elasticity and flavor.
Once the ball is formed, place it on a lightly floured counter. Cover it with an upside down mixing bowl and let it rise for about 15 minutes.
Note: if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough by hand on a marble or granite countertop for about five minutes.
After it rises, remove the bowl. Cut the dough into three sections weighing at least 350 grams each. French law states that no baguette can weigh less than 350 grams (but it can weigh more).
Knead each section into a ball. Cover with a damp tea towel and let sit for 10 minutes.
Turn a ball over so the seam is on top. Flatten it a bit with the palm of your hand. Fold one side toward the middle, and flatten the seam a bit.
Rotate the dough 180 degrees. Bring the other end in toward the seam. Press seam on top. Should look like a coffee bean.
Turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat these steps. Fold one side in. Press the center a bit. Turn 180 degrees. Fold the other side in. Press the center a bit.
Then, roll into cylinder (about 6 inches long).
Repeat the steps again. Flatten the cylinder with the palm of hand. Fold one side in. Press seam. Turn 180 degrees. Fold the other side in. Press on seam. Now, roll to the length of baguette, between 12- 18 inches. As you fold it and roll it, if you see bubbles in the dough; that is a good sign that your yeast has activated properly.
Spray your baguette pan with Pam and place the baguettes onto the pan. If you don’t have a baguette pan, you can use a large cookie sheet. Cover with the moist tea towel and leave at room temperature to rise for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Once risen, use a razor blade or Exacto knife to score the top of the baguette before baking.
Place a 13 x 9 pan filled halfway with water on the lower rack. Place the bagette pan on an upper rack. Bake until golden. About 15 minutes.
You can use this recipe to make rolls, mini baguettes or even a regular loaf.