Baguettes – Crusty long loaves of bread with a chewy inside is much easier to make than you think
Once again, The Great British Bake Show has inspired me to make something that I’ve never made before. But this food is one we’ve all eaten before – baguettes. I am a sucker for a good, crusty, chewy, baguette. It’s great for sandwiches, French toast, regular toast, or, my all-time favorite, dipped in olive oil and Parmesan.
Though I love baguettes so much, I avoided making them myself because I haven’t had great experiences with making crusty bread at home. I made a sourdough previously and it just didn’t have the crunch or the chew that I was looking for in a loaf of sourdough. So I decided it was just easier to keep buying bread instead of making it myself.
However, when watching an episode of the GBBS recently, Paul Hollywood had a great tip for getting a crusty baguette – steam! You simply add hot water to a hot skillet placed in the oven and close the oven door. The steam creates the crusty exterior on the baguette that we all love. With this new tip under my belt, I knew I had to try making them for myself!
For additional tips, I leaned on King Arthur Flour and their incredible recipe and videos. I felt so confident making this recipe every step of the way. Make sure you take a look at them here if you really want additional help during the process.
Without further ado, here are my gorgeous crusty French baguettes!
How are baguettes made
The process of making baguettes is far simpler than you’d imagine. However, it does require some time. The basic steps of the process are:
- Make the bread starter and let it ferment for 14 hours
- Make the dough and let it rise for 1.5 hours
- Form the baguettes and let them rise/rest for 45 minutes
- Bake until beautifully brown for about 25 minutes
Making the starter
The purpose of the starter is that it creates the flavor and levener for the bread. It’s just yeast, flour, and water mixed in a medium bowl and left alone to work it’s magic overnight.
Making the dough
One the starter is done, it’s added to a bowl of a stand mixer with more flour, yeast, salt, and water. That’s it! Nothing fancy – just basic bread ingredients. The ingredients are mixed together until they form a dough and then kneaded to make the dough soft and smooth. It’s then transferred to a clean bowl to rise.
Forming the baguettes
Once the dough has risen, it’s gently turned out onto a floured counter and split into three even pieces. Those pieces are formed into three smooth balls and covered to rest for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the balls are flattened and folded to form a log. Then, the log is slowly rolled to be 15 inches long and placed on a baking sheet. The rolled baguettes are covered and left to rise for about 45 minutes.
Baking the baguettes
When the baguettes have rested for 45 minutes, it’s time to bake them. The oven should be preheated to 450 degrees with a cast iron skillet at the bottom. Additionally, you should boil 1.5 cups of water on the stove that we’ll use in the baking process.
Cut slits in the rested baguettes and dust with a little flour. Place the baguettes in the preheated oven and then pour the hot water into the hot skillet to form the steam. Quickly close the door of the oven to ensure the steam doesn’t escape.
Bake until the baguettes are golden brown and then remove from the oven to cool.
Tips & Tricks
- Adding steam during the baking process is so important for the texture and color of the bread. You MUST add the water to a hot cast iron pan or else the steam won’t get created and will form a moisture “bubble” in the oven that will prevent your baguettes from browning. Believe me – I learned this the hard way.
- To really add crunch to the bottom of the baguette, I highly recommend using a pizza stone. It’s called a pizza stone but I use it for all my bread baking – bagels, baguettes, sourdough, etc. Here’s the one I have.
- The key to artisan-looking baguettes is the dusting of flour on top. But it’s not just for looks! The dusting of flour helps keep the plastic from sticking to the dough when the formed baguettes are in their final rise.
For the starter:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup water cool
- 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
For the baguettes:
- all of the starter (from above)
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- The night before baking, make the start by combining all the starter ingredients in a medium bowl and stirring together with a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight for at least 10 hours and up to 16 hours.
- The next morning, combine the start in a large bowl of a stand mixer with the rest of the ingredients. Mix with a dough hook on low until all the ingredients form a dough. Turn up speed one notch and mix for another 4 minutes. The dough should be smooth and stick slightly too the bottom. If it's too sticky, add 2 tablespoons of flour and mix together.
- Grease a large bowl with olive oil. Pour out dough into grease bowl and coat completely. Cover with a damp towel and place in microwave or other draft-free spot to rise for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, fold the edges of the dough together by pressing into the center gently and then flipping over. Cover and continue to rise for another 45 minutes.
- Flour a clean counter surface and turnout dough onto surface. Form into a rectangle and slice into three equal portions. Form each portion into a ball by tucking under the edges. Place onto floured surface and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let them rest for 15 minutes.
- Place cast iron skillet at bottom of oven and rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Make sure to let it preheat for at least 30 minutes before placing bread in the oven, especially if using a stone. Place a sheet of parchment onto baking sheet and set next to prepping area. Set 1½ cups to boil on the stove and keep covered until ready to use in the baking step.
- Once the balls have rested, grab one and form into a cylinder. Then, flatten into a rectangle, with the long sides in the horizontal position. Pinch the two short sides together in the center of the rectangle. Fold over the top long side into the center and then fold the bottom long side into the center, similar to folding a letter. Flip over to have the seams facing down. Slowing begin to roll into an even log. Then, stretch the log until it is 15 inches long. Place onto prepped baking sheet. Repeat with other two balls. Dust all the logs with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise about 45 minutes. They won't be double in size but definitely more inflated.
- Cut 4 to 5 diagonal slits on the top the loaves and then place in the oven. Pour water into the hot skillet and then close the oven door. Bake until deep golden brown on top, about 25 minutes or when centers are 205 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.