making french baguettes at home

by amy on 13 January 2012

i love love love bread. i start almost every morning with a similar breakfast: a breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, bacon or veggie sausage, all on a fresh baguette. for years, i’ve bought baguettes from a wonderful local bakery, + while their bread is amazing, it was time to try making some myself. the result? holy moly, why did i wait so long to try? i’ve made 10-12 baguettes in the last 4 weeks, + with each that i make, my technique + result improves. even the very first ones were delicious, although they weren’t the prettiest.*

speaking of pretty, my picture doesn’t show nearly how gorgeous this baguette turned out. apparently baguettes are surprisingly hard to photograph with their long, skinny shape, + assorted crevices + nooks. but trust me, they turn out beautiful. in addition, their flavor + texture are amazing — the crust is perfectly crispy while the inside has a wonderful chewiness + flavor. i’ve eaten a lot of bread + this baguette can truly stand its own against many of the other baguettes i’ve tried. really!

i know the recipe below looks long, but don’t let it scare you off. breads like this take prep, resting + proofing time in addition to hands-on time, + most of the recipe below covers hands-off stuff. the hands-on time, honestly, is probably no more than 5 minutes on the prep day, + maybe 10-15 minutes on the baking day. and if i’m lying to you, may i be struck down by a giant pat of butter.

so, if you’ve ever flirted with the idea of making your own bread, try it! it’s easy, it’s inexpensive, + most importantly, it’s delicious. when you make it, definitely check out not without salt, as it has wonderful step-by-step pictures for this baguette recipe. i debated taking step-by-step pictures, too, but i was too busy stuffing my face with homemade bread. =) enjoy!

*update: see comment #16 below for a pic of my first batch. a little practice makes a big difference!

french baguettes

makes four baguettes, adapted from artisan breads every day by peter reinhart, as seen on not without salt

ingredients

5 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (*see note below)
1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 cups warm water

*note: i have used all-purpose flour instead of bread flour – it works out just fine, although the texture + taste are slightly different. i prefer the texture + flavor results of bread flour.

directions

prep day: combine all ingredients in bowl of mixer, set with paddle attachment, + mix on lowest speed for 1 minute until well blended + smooth. dough should form a coarse, shaggy ball. let rest, uncovered for 5 minutes. switch to dough hook + mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. dough should be smooth, supple, + tacky but not sticky. knead dough by hand on lightly floured work surface for 1 minute, then transfer to a large clean, lightly oiled bowl. cover with plastic wrap + immediately refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.

(dough can also be made without the use of a stand mixer. combine all the ingredients – start with a wooden spoon then switch to your hands when the flour is incorporated. lightly knead until all the ingredients are well blended. let rest for 5 minutes then knead for about 5 more minutes until dough is smooth + slightly tacky.)

baking day: remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours prior to baking. gently transfer to lightly floured work surface, taking care to release as little gas as possible. divide dough into four equal portions.

form baguettes: pat each piece of divided dough into a thick rectangle.
fold the bottom half to the center + seal the seam. fold the top half to the center + once again seal the seam. roll the top half of the dough over the seam to create a new seam on the bottom of the loaf.

with seam side underneath, gently rock loaf back + forth, with hands moving out toward + increasing pressure at the ends, to slightly taper the loaf until baguette is the length of baguette pan (or baking sheet). repeat with the remaining loaves.

place the formed baguettes on a baguette pan or a baking sheet that has been oiled or covered with parchment/silpats. mist top of dough with oil, loosely cover with plastic wrap, + proof at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it has increased to 1 1/2 times its original size.

baking: about 45 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees. place a sheet pan, which will serve as steam pan, with a 1-inch rim on shelf under which baguettes will be baked. remove plastic wrap from the dough 15 minutes prior to baking. just prior to baking, score the dough 1/2 inch deep with a serrated knife or razor. transfer dough to the oven, pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan (being careful not to splash yourself with the hot water).

bake for 15 minutes, then rotate pan + bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the crust is rich golden brown, the loaves sound hollow when thumped, + the internal temperature is about 200 degrees in the center. cool on wire rack before slicing or serving. best eaten the same day, or heated briefly in the oven the next day if crust loses its crispness.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Caroline @ chocolate and carrots January 13, 2012 at 8:25 am

I’m the same way. I’ve always been afraid to make them! I guess it’s high time I give it a try! :-)

2 amy January 13, 2012 at 8:30 am

it definitely is, caroline! i know you’ve already mastered a lot of different loaf breads + such, so these should be a piece of cake for you. i bet you could do an awesome whole wheat spin on it, too. good luck!

3 Julie @ Table for Two January 13, 2012 at 8:33 am

You baguette looks so beautiful, Amy. You said that the picture doesn’t do it justice — I can’t imagine what it’d look like in person cause this is awesome looking already! What a great thing to make. Now that i’ve gotten over my fears of yeast, maybe I can move on to bread! ;)

4 amy January 13, 2012 at 8:35 am

you’re so sweet, julie – thank you so much! i’m so glad you’re mastering your fear of yeast + i’m looking forward to seeing all the awesome breadtastic things you make this year!

5 danielle January 13, 2012 at 8:36 am

I have been making a lot of my own bread lately I cheat a bit though and use my bread maker for the mixing and rising and then finish it in the oven.

6 amy January 13, 2012 at 8:37 am

i don’t think that’s cheating … i think that’s smart. =) isn’t homemade bread the best?

7 Jess January 13, 2012 at 8:38 am

I never have good luck when baking bread, but you’ve inspired me to give it another try! Thanks for sharing!

8 amy January 13, 2012 at 8:39 am

yay, that’s awesome to hear. give it another try + report back on how it goes!

9 Ashley @ Kitchen Meets Girl January 13, 2012 at 8:40 am

Amy, I think the pictures are gorgeous! You did a fabulous job–you know I said one of my food goals this year is to master the art of bread-making, and seeing this makes me want to get started right away.

10 amy January 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

i’m so glad this is inspiring you to get started on your bread goals, ashley. if your homemade bread comes out anywhere near as fabulous as your homemade tortillas did, i know it’ll be perfect!

11 Kelly January 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

I love baking fresh breads! One of my favorite cookbooks is Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, and it has so many great recipes, and it’s incredible the amount of knowledge you can gain from reading it. I’m hoping to make some fresh bread on this holiday weekend.

12 amy January 13, 2012 at 9:55 am

i’m thinking i should buy the full cookbook, rather than just read some of the recipes online. everyone has been raving about it, + if this recipe is any indication of how great the rest of it is, it would be a worthwhile investment. have fun baking this weekend!

13 Steph@TheChickpeaChickadee January 13, 2012 at 9:56 am

Yummy! I’ve always wanted to try to make french bread. thank you for the motivation. Looks like there will be some bread making in my future now.

14 amy January 13, 2012 at 9:59 am

woohoo, steph! i can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you – i bet it’ll be fantastic.

15 Chris @ TheKeenanCookbook January 13, 2012 at 10:35 am

This looks gorgeous! I’m glad you mentioned that your first few were not so pretty. I’ve only tried twice, maybe, and they tasted fine but were not pretty. I think I got disheartened and haven’t tried baguettes since (but other bread I have) – you inspire me to get back in the kitchen! Delicious!

16 amy January 13, 2012 at 10:46 am

thanks chris! here’s a pic of my very first batch, for comparison. as you can see, they weren’t quite as long + lean – they were shorter + stubbier. also, i didn’t score them at the correct angle (they should be scored much more diagonally than horizontally), so the scores didn’t pop open correctly. they were still delicious, but just not as pretty as these. by the second + third batch, i had mastered the shape + scoring. now get back in the kitchen – you *will* master ‘em! =)

17 Cassie January 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I’m with you on the whole loving bread thing. these are gorgeous!

18 amy January 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm

thanks so much, cassie! isn’t bread glorious? the idea of a low-carb/no-carb diet makes me shake in my boots – i could never handle it!

19 Lesley January 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Ooh, that loaf looks wonderful. Is it remarkably better than a bakery baguette?

20 amy January 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm

thank you! i’d say it’s remarkably better than a grocery store bakery baguette, about on par with a good bakery baguette. i’m hoping that with a little bit more practice (+ a very good brand of flour), they’ll get even better than that. =) you should try ‘em!

21 ErinsFoodFiles January 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I must admit ever since you first tweeted about baking your own baguettes I was inspired too. Except I was inspired to purchase baguettes and eat them with butter. Maybe I’ll get around to baking some! I used to do a LOT more homemade breads, but have gotten lazy/busy lately.

22 amy January 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm

bahaha! you have a pretty good excuse for being busy lately, but when you do get a little free time, you should really give ‘em a try. they come together super quickly + are just so delicious, especially straight out of the oven when they’re still warm. mmmm.

23 Renee January 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Your baguette is so pretty! I know what you mean about bread and photos. I just went through that the other day. Hard to capture it just right. I’ve made french bread, rolls, and loaves but not baguettes yet. Maybe next time.

24 amy January 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm

i’m glad you know what i mean about photographing bread – something about it is just a bit challenging. if you’ve made french bread, rolls + loaves, you should definitely give these a try soon. enjoy ‘em!

25 Baking Serendipity January 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I’ve been afraid to make these for a while too, but you do an awesome job of breaking down the steps…and the final product looks fantastic! I also love the dish towel you photographed it on. Such pretty color! PS: I have a giveaway going on that I think you’ll be in to!

26 amy January 13, 2012 at 11:55 pm

thank you so much, sarah! the dish towel was a gift from my mom – from crate + barrel. green is my favorite color, so she chose well. =) i’m off to check out your giveaway – thanks for the heads-up!

27 Jeff January 14, 2012 at 3:03 am

Beautiful bread! Revealing that recipe is dangerous… there are so many things I’d want to make with it! Bruschetta, artichoke dips, cheeses… I’d gain 20 pounds a week!

28 amy January 14, 2012 at 9:48 am

ha! proceed with caution then, because once you make one of these baguettes, you’ll be addicted! =)

29 Chris @ TheKeenanCookbook January 14, 2012 at 10:56 am

Yes! Your first attempt photos look very similar to how mine were. Good to see them, gives me hope when looking at where you started and where you are now =D

30 amy January 14, 2012 at 11:17 am

i’m so glad to hear that they were helpful for you to see. =) hope your next attempt turns out awesome – i know they will!

31 Wendy (The Weekend Gourmet) January 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Amy…your baguettes look like they could’ve come from a bakery in Paris! Gorgeous…nothing better than homemade bread. I loved making my first loaf of artisan bread last year. I need to do some more baking, and this bread has inspired me!

32 amy January 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm

you are so sweet, wendy, + i’m so glad to hear that this has inspired you to get back into making homemade bread. can’t wait to read about it on your blog! =)

33 Jodi @ Southern Flavored Life January 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I have to try this ASAP. My hubby will be very impressed!

Just found your blog, and I love it! I’m from TN, too!

34 amy January 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm

wonderful to meet you, jodi, especially as one tennessean to another. =) if your husband is anything like mine, he’ll *definitely* be impressed by these. =) hope they turn out great for you!

35 Sherri @ The Kitchen Prescription January 14, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Whaaaaaat! That’s crazy. Homemade bread. Unheard of. Lol It IS pretty. Who know’s maybe one day I will get up the nerve and cajones to try this.

36 amy January 15, 2012 at 7:59 am

you should! it’s waaaay easier than it looks/sounds. this was my first foray into homemade bread + i was shocked at how easy it was. =)

37 Julie at Burnt Carrots January 15, 2012 at 8:56 am

I absolutely love baguettes! They might be my favorite part of France – people carry and eat baguettes everywhere! I think I might give this one a try. I’ve be meaning to work on my bread making skills.

38 amy January 15, 2012 at 9:58 am

aren’t they awesome?! around here, we easily go through 2 baguettes a week. thankfully, now i can save a bit of money by making ‘em myself! hope you give ‘em a try + they work out fabulous for you!

39 Mommyof2Girlz/StephD January 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I have always been scared to make bread from scratch, but we do LOVE french bread so I think you have finally inspired me to try it..lol

40 amy January 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm

that’s awesome, steph! i hope you give it a try + please do report back on how it goes. =)

41 nat@thesweetslife January 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm

nothing beats homemade bread–these turned out perfectly!

42 amy January 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm

i couldn’t agree more! =)

43 The Waspy Redhead January 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm

This is so impressive friend!

44 amy January 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm

aww, you’re so sweet, elizabeth! i have to admit, i was pretty impressed with myself after making these awesome baguettes. i have to admit, they’re far easier to make than they look, though. =)

45 easyfoodsmith January 17, 2012 at 10:01 am

Perfect looking baguette. This is one bread that I need to try at home coz my daughter loves it. Thanks for sharing.

46 amy January 17, 2012 at 10:30 am

you’re so welcome. you should absolutely give it a try! we’ve stopped buying baguettes altogether, as we can make them just as easily at home + they turn out as good, if not better, than store/bakery versions. hope you try ‘em + they turn out wonderful for you!

47 vanessa February 15, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Amy, do you ever freeze your dough? I am going to make some but just wondered if you ever did that? I would double or triple my recipe then!

48 amy February 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm

hi Vanessa, i’ve never tried freezing the dough, but I asked around + people said it could be done without negatively affecting the quality of the bread. =) personally, i halve the recipe + make 2 baguettes at a time – that lasts us about a week around here. for me, the dough is quick enough to make that i don’t mind doing it once a week. plus, it’s nice to make the house smell like freshly-baked bread at least once a week. =) let me know how they turn out for you!

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