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French Baguettes

The following recipe is a traditional method for making French baguettes. It's fairly long, as it requires starting the day before, but the work itself isn't very time consuming.

Ingredients (for 3 big or 4 small baguettes):

  • 650g Strong white flour (or French white flour T55)
  • 450ml Water
  • 11g Salt
  • 11g Fresh yeast (you can use dehydrated but it's not as tasty)
Recipe phase 1 (the day before):
  • In a bowl, mix together the water (should be around 25C degrees) and flour to obtain an homogenous dough.
  • Keep the dough for at least 1h at room temp., covering the bowl with cling film.
  • Add the salt and the yeast separately (the salt could kill the yeast) and mix all toguether for 5 minutes.
  • Apply 10 minutes of stronger (really strong) kneading of the dough.
  • Then leave it for 20 minutes in the covered bowl, and fold it one time on itself (give it a "tour"). Repeat this operation twice (60 minutes in total).
  • Then, put the dough in the fridge for 12h (up to 18h), and go to bed.
Recipe phase 2:
  • Take the dough out of the fridge, and leave it to return to room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • Cut it into 3 or 4 equal parts (do this as neatly as possible, try not to tear it too much).
  • Shape the baguettes by folding the dough twice on itself longwise, and then rolling it gently to extend it.
  • The baguettes have to rise for 1h, compressed in the fold of a folded linen cloth (called "couche" - layer) or tablecloth to keep its long shape.
  • Preheat the oven to 240C degrees and put a little bit of boiling water in a recipient at the bottom of the oven in order to create a lot of steam when you put the baguettes in the oven.
  • Just before you put the baguettes in the oven, you'll have to cut open the top of the baguette with a sharp blade (the best is a classic razor blade). This operation is important for the cooking process and the look of the bread.
  • Note: I think it's best to cook the baguettes one by one as they can "kiss" (stick to each other) during the baking.
  • They have to cook for 25 minutes but you should keep an eye out after 15 (as the cooking time depends on your oven).
  • Remove from oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes on a grill to keep their crispy crust.
It's laborious, not easy, but French bread is the best bread so worth a try :-) Mathieu