Recipe: Fresh Baguettes

A recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas, featured in The Soup and Bread Cookbook.

The Soup and Bread Cookbook (Beatrice Ojakangas)

A recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas, as seen in The Soup and Bread Cookbook.

My favorite method of getting a crisp crust on baguettes might seem a bit over the top—and more than you want to attempt. I keep a pan of river rocks in the bottom of my oven so that they heat up as the oven itself does. I also keep a baking stone on the center rack of the oven, it takes at least an hour for the oven to heat both the rocks and the stone. Then, I slide the risen loaves onto the stone and pitch about a cup of water onto the rocks, which creates the steam necessary to achieve a crusty loaf.

The following recipe offers an alternative method for baking a very acceptable baguette, not quite so crusty, but still excellent.

Watch a Baking with Beatrice demo.

Makes 2

1 package (¼ ounce) or 1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast

1¾ cups warm water (105° to 115°F)

4 cups unbleached bread flour, plus additional if needed

2 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let stand until the yeast looks foamy, about 5 minutes. With a wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups of the flour until combined. Set aside until the dough begins to rise to make a sponge, 25 minutes. Alternatively, to further develop the flavor, cover and refrigerate the sponge overnight.

In a food processor, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and the salt. Pulse 2 or 3 times until mixed. Alternatively, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add the sponge to the flour mixture. In the food processor, process until the dough comes together in a soft ball that completely comes away from the sides of the bowl. Alternatively, add the sponge to the flour mixture in the mixing bowl and mix until a shaggy dough forms. If the dough seems dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. Or, if the dough seems too moist, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, cover with a bowl, and let sit for 15 minutes until the dough comes together. Knead until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated overnight, if necessary.)

Lightly grease two 17″ × 14″ baking sheets. Punch the dough down and divide into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a long, slender loaf about 21″ long and 3″ wide.

Place the loaves diagonally on the baking sheets and let rise, uncovered, about 30 minutes until almost doubled in bulk. (You can refrigerate the loaves at this point to bake several hours later or the next day. Brush or spray with cool water before refrigerating.)

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 475°F. Using a razor blade, a French lame, or a serrated knife, make 4 or 5 diagonal slashes in the risen loaves and spray with cool water. Bake one loaf at a time (refrigerate the second until ready to bake) until golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.



Make the Fresh Baguette dough using only 3 cups flour and reducing the salt to 1½ teaspoons. When ready to shape the dough for baking, lightly flour or line the baking sheets with parchment. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and form each into a 3″ × 7″ oval. Place 2 loaves on each prepared sheet and dust lightly with flour. Cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Spritz the loaves with water. Bake one sheet at a time, for 25 to 30 minutes, spritzing every 5 to 10 minutes to achieve a crispy crust.

Makes 4

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