La Baguette

Here's a recipe for our daily bread. It's not artisan, it's a yeasted straight-dough. It's got a wicked crust, tender interior and it's done in 3 hours. I usually program the mixing and first rise to be done by the dough cycle of my bread machine, but here, I present it using hand kneading.

There will be a separately published faq for this recipe. A repository of observations justifying just about everything. It's a special preparation and I repeat it often. This is the best I have to date. This recipe is basically Julia Child's baguette recipe from The Way to Cook with 3 critical changes:
i. The yeast is rapid rise; any brand seems to be just fine but it has to be fresh. I guarantee this by using individual packets. I've had good luck with: Fleischman's bread machine yeast, RedStar Instant Active Dry Yeast, a rapid rise SAF type and even Kroger makes a rapid rise yeast. They all seem to work with equal efficacy.
ii. I use 2.5-3 grams of shortening per 500 grams of dough; I currently use Crisco (it's a cheat but the results are worth it).
iii. I use a baguette pan as the cooking surface, NO clay tiles.

The baguette in 18 simple steps in under 3 hours.


1. Whisk unbleached white flour (300 grams or 2 cups + 3 T), salt (5 grams kosher or 1.5 t), rapid rise yeast (1.5 level teaspoons), vegetable shortening (ca. 3 grams, 1/2 t).
2. Add water (200 grams or 3/4 C + 1T, ca. 110-deg-F) mix with a spoon and let sit for 10 minutes, kind of a mini autolyse, it'll make kneading easier.
3. Plop dough on counter and knead at least 7 minutes.
4. This is the dough after 2 minutes kneading.
5. This is the dough after 7 minutes kneading, rounded.
6. Place the ball of dough in a container to rise for 1 hour 15 minutes. I use a 2.4 L (10 C) plastic container with a hole punched into the top. This allows the gas to escape.
7. This is the risen dough after the first rise. Do not coat the dough with anything!
8. Plop out the dough on the counter, round it and cover with a moistened lint-free towel for 20 minutes and NOW, preheat the oven to 450-deg-F.
9. We're going to convert it to a baguette form in the next 5 steps. First squash it into an oblong shape and press a groove into the middle.
10. Fold the bottom half to the middle.
11. Fold the lower half onto the upper half, should be a tight roll.
12. Repeat steps 9-10.
13. Repeat step 11, finish elongated baguette shape by rolling gently on the counter. I don't care what Rinehart says, it should be tight and dense.
14. Place the loaf into the baguette pan, it's 16-17 inches long.
15. Cover the rising baguette with a moistened, lint-free towel and let rise for 20-25 minutes.
16. Dust the loaf lightly with flour, it facilitates a clean slash. With a visciously sharp implement, slash the loaf several times along the top nearly paralell to the length of the baguette (I never bothered with a lame; I use a chef's knife).
17. Bake in the lower third of the oven and upon adding it spray the oven floor and/or sides with a squirt bottle of water for steam. Use at least 50 mL of water (ca. 2 ounces).
18. Remove from oven in 25-30 minutes, should be golden on the outside. Do not cut it for at least 15 minutes. As it cools it should crackle. It's awesome.
Printable version.

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Anonymous said...

Bob here.
Is this the bread you were talking about tonight at KK; made en mass on Sunday and then portioned out for nightly baking? I think I might start the same routine after the first of the year.


Dave said...

Hi Bob,
Yes. I do almost the exact same procedure only I often put it in the fridge at step 6. And, when refrigerating, I use cool water to mix the dough.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have a couple of questions. (btw, thank you for sharing your website, recipes, everything!)
- Would it be possible to let a breadmaker do the kneading instead? How would you suggest that be done.. ie do you think it would be alright to just put the ingredients in and set it to "dough" setting for the first rise (up to step 7)?
- Also, how important do you think the baguette pan is? I've got a pizza stone, but no baguette pan.. and am wondering if the purchase is necessary.

Thank you again!!

Dave said...

1. A bread machine for kneading and the first rise is actually my method of choice (yes, the dough cycle).

2. I believe that baguette pan, for this application, can't be substituted by tiles. I interchange use of these. I use tiles for pizza and sourdough-type boules and for the baguette, I use the pan. I think the perforations allow the steam shot to get at the exterior better and there may be several factors I haven't identified exactly that make it indispensable. Sorry to burden you with more stuff, I just think it's necessary.

Anonymous said...

Okay. Thank you so much for the advice, and for the speedy response! I'll get a baguette pan.

Anonymous said...

My husband says you're the man to solve this puzzle: when I make baguettes, why does the crust soften as it cools on the counter? Here's the method: burst of steam as bread goes onto stone (~1c into hot container), then spritz oven every 30 second for a total of 3 times. Turn oven down from 500 to 450ish. Bread comes out of the oven beautiful and crispy, and softens on the counter every time (even in dry weather). What gives?


Anonymous said...

Hey Caren,

Email me the recipe you use first dave@davesbeer.com and we'll work on it. One caution, I might be slow, busy weekend coming up, but I won't forget. I live for this kind of problem solving.


Sandra said...

Hello, first thanks for the recipe, I am trying to make baguettes since I moved to USA and for the first time it came close to the real one ! Still far away from yours , but I know I will get there. I have a question, my baguette did not "crack"like yours, but I have to confess I did something you did not tell to do, I did brush it with a mix of egg white and water before putting in the oven, could this be the reason ? Another thing, I did put link from my blog to your web site since I put the picture of the bread there, I hope you don't mind, if you do, just let me know and I will take it off. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sandra,
Thanks for the link, I appreciate it.

Please feel free to email me anytime for hints and to tell me of your progress or problems with the prep. It might take a day to answer, but I usually get back much quicker.

Be patient, it might take a few tries until it's to your satisfaction.

Sandra said...

Hi Dave, thanks for your answer, I will keep trying :)
Your web site is AMAZING I want to try everything hehehehe
Congratulations !