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French Baguettes Made at Home

french baguettes

On my last trip to Paris, I reserved dinner at a cozy piano bar/restaurant in the 6th for the night of my arrival. When we sat down, I was still pretty delirious and jet-lagged, so I wasn’t really paying attention to anything other than my friends who were chatting with me. In fact, for a moment there, I completely forgot I was sitting in a cafe in Paris, France. It wasn’t until I absent-mindedly put a torn piece of baguette from the bread basket into my mouth that I realized I was in my favorite city in the world. I immediately thought oh my goodness! The bread tasted incredible! Seriously, truly incredible. It tasted the way bread in France can only taste. A lot of people ask me how to make homemade French baguettes like that, but non, ce n’est pas possible.

french baguettes

french baguettes

It’s not that you’re not a great baker, because even great chefs in American bakeries can never deliver true French baguettes. French bread tastes so good because French bread is, simply put, French! What I mean is that French bread is made with French flour, which is produced from French grains. Setting aside the fact that French bakers have been making bread their whole lives, the simple fact remains that the basic ingredient in which we make our bread differs. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make some pretty damn good baguettes at home here in America. These homemade French baguettes are proof!

french baguettes

french baguettes

Making homemade French baguettes doesn’t have to be an intimidating project. For this recipe, you don’t use a starter or any other kind of fancy ingredient. Instead, this bread gets lots of flavor from an overnight rise. Letting the dough rest in a covered bowl in the fridge overnight allows the yeast to slowly impart its flavor in the dough. The original recipe called for instant yeast, but I never have instant yeast on hand. Instead, I activate my active dry yeast with some warm water, and then mix ice cold water into the dough to slow down the yeast process. There’s hardly any kneading with this dough too, which makes it even easier. After baking the dough, you’re left with superb French baguettes that are crisp and light, with a soft and chewy interior. The taste is also wonderful; I recently made a sandwich au jambon with my baguette and I almost fooled myself into thinking I was enjoying a real French sandwich made with a real French baguette!

French Baguettes
Yields 4
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Ingredients
  1. 4.5 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  2. 1.75 tsp salt
  3. 1.5 tsp active yeast
  4. 1/2 cup warm water (110°F)
  5. 1.5 cups iced cold water
  6. olive oil for greasing
Instructions
  1. To a small bowl, add the active yeast. Follow with the warm water and give the mixture a gentle stir. Let this mixture rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Combine the yeast mixture with the rest of the ingredients (flour, salt, cold water) in the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed with the paddle attachment. Let the dough mix for approximately 1 minute. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then mix again on low speed for another 1 minute.
  3. Grease your work surface with some olive oil. Turn out the dough onto the oiled surface. Now, grab one end of the dough and stretch it out before bringing the flap in towards the center. Repeat this step for the remaining 3 sides of the dough to create a square pocket shape with a total of 4 flaps that have been folded into the center. Turn the dough over so that all the flaps are facing downward and the smooth side of the dough is facing upward. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Repeat this step with the stretching and folding, then 10 minute rest, 2 more times.
  4. Grease the mixing bowl with olive oil, then transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap; refrigerate the dough overnight. Note: Dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
  5. The next day, place the covered bowl of dough out on the counter 1 hour prior to baking. Preheat the oven to 525°F. Place a heavy pan (cast iron preferably) on the lowest rack in the oven to preheat with the oven.
  6. After an hour, very gently turn the dough out onto a greased work surface. You want to do this as carefully as possible so as to not disturb the bubbles in the dough. Gently shape the dough into a slight rectangle (just so that it's a little bit bigger than a square). Next to the greased area, sprinkle some flour on your work surface.
  7. Now take a pizza cutter, and cut one strip of dough off the rectangle. Gently roll this strip of dough onto the floured area of your work surface so that the entire surface area of the dough is dusted in flour. Transfer the strip to a baking sheet or a baguette pan. Note: You should ideally end up with 4 baguettes (a couple of them can be smaller and the other two larger, or all of them can be medium sized - your choice!). Each strip of dough should measure about 13 inches long. If you can't fit all 4 strips of dough onto the baking sheet, then bake the ones you can and loosely cover the remaining dough with a sheet of plastic wrap while the other dough bakes.
  8. Open the oven door and cover the glass with a towel. Very carefully add half a cup of warm water to the cast iron pan to create steam. Place your baking sheet into the oven on the middle rack, then remove the towel. Lower the temperature to 475°F and bake the baguettes for 16 to 20 minutes until golden brown (baking time will depend on the size of the baguettes). Cool the baguettes on a wire cooling rack.
Adapted from Peter Reinhart
Adapted from Peter Reinhart
Mon Petit Four http://www.monpetitfour.com/
french baguettes
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18 Comments

  • Reply Aysegul Sanford

    I have always been intimidated by making French baguettes, but this recipe doesn’t sound that hard. I love crusty breads and French baguettes are a dream come true when it comes to crust.
    I am curious, what brand of flour do you use for these baguettes?

    March 7, 2016 at 1:14 pm
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      Oh I’m so glad you asked that question because I just noticed that I had listed AP flour instead of bread flour! I swear I read that recipe card at least 3x; it’s probably because I use AP flour so much I didn’t even realize. Anyways, I always use King Arthur’s flour (both AP and Bread). I buy the AP in the 25 lb. size at my local bulk discount store because I go through flour so quickly! ;p Thanks so much, deary!

      March 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm
  • Reply Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary

    One day I WILL get to Paris… and the first thing I am going to do is shove a bunch of french baguettes right into my mouth. 🙂 But until then, I will make and devour these perfectly American French baguettes! 😉 You are the best baker, Beeta, and this bread is just further proof of that. Absolute perfection, my dear! Cheers! xo

    March 7, 2016 at 3:41 pm
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      Yes, baguette stuffing is a must when you visit!! 😉 Thank you so much for your sweet comment – you’re too kind! Lots of love XOXO

      March 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm
  • Reply Jessica Holmes

    I cannot wait to one day go to Paris and taste one of their magnificent baguettes and a few macarons as well. These loaves look beautiful Beeta, absolutely perfection!

    March 8, 2016 at 3:18 am
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      Thanks so much, Jess! You would love a Parisian baguette (and macaron)! <3

      March 8, 2016 at 7:27 am
  • Reply Claudia Brick

    Homemade baguettes are the BEST!! I’m assuming Parisian baguettes are too, but having never been there…(gosh I want to visit so much!). I’ve made baguettes like this before in a baguette pan, but here in Melbourne I don’t have it with me – do you use a pan or put them straight on a baking tray? Wasn’t sure if they would spread out too much! x

    March 8, 2016 at 8:14 am
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      Thanks, Claudia!! I’ve used both a baguette pan and a baking sheet. They don’t really spread so no worries about that! I prefer a baguette pan thought because I like that the baguette pan is perforated so you get more from the steam effect that you’ve created below the pan, and they make those cute little dots on the bottom of the baguettes like the ones you see in the bakery/store! 🙂

      March 8, 2016 at 4:12 pm
  • Reply Louise Robinson

    It is hard to recreate French bread because they take it so seriously. Unlike our bread that lasts for days, a day old French baguette is normally so hard that you could do someone an injury with it. Yours look perfect! I have never made baguettes but you make them look easy Beeta! xx

    March 8, 2016 at 5:25 pm
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      Thank you, Louise! It’s actually fascinating how baking bread is a trade passed down through generations – it explains why they have such good bread!

      March 13, 2016 at 9:23 pm
  • Reply Eva

    J’aimerais bien prendre mon petit déjeuner avec tes "french baguettes". Elles sont dignes d’une boulangerie à Paris ! xoxo

    March 8, 2016 at 10:12 pm
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      Aww, merci, Eva! Je fais les baguettes pour vous a tous moment! <3

      March 13, 2016 at 9:24 pm
  • Reply Mmarissa

    I love how that bite of bread brought a wave of realization, "I’m in Paris, France!!" It’s a fact, the French have perfected the baguette. We ate them every single day of our trip – I ever bought an open topped handbag when we were there so I could easily slide the bagged loaf, so just the end poked out. Oh the end! Torture to wait until we got back to the apartment for that crackly bite.

    Beeta, you continue to amaze me with your talent. These baguettes may not be French, but they’re gorgeous – clearly baked with love and a passion for quality. I’m going to try a batch and surprise our neighbors with a fresh loaf. xoxo

    March 9, 2016 at 4:12 pm
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      Oh, Marissa! I can completely relate – waiting to get home for a bite of the baguette is just torture! Thank you so much for your kind words, friend. You are always so supportive – I so appreciate it! XO

      March 13, 2016 at 9:25 pm
  • Reply Traci | Vanilla And Bean

    Beautifully executed my dear! But I’m longing to know, what kind of bread flour you used? Was it 00 flour? I’ve never tried it but am curious of it’s performance and flavor. I’ve never had a real French baguette in Paris, but I can only image there is a marked difference in our’s here in the states. Delicious work Beeta! Thank you for sharing. I’m totally inspired!

    March 10, 2016 at 6:15 am
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      I use King Arthur’s bread flour as I’ve always had great results with it! I have heard that 00 flour can have more depth of flavor and chewiness, but I’ve never tried it. I know 00 is a bit more pricey than KAF’s bread flour so maybe I would use 00 for something like pizza crust, which only requires a cup of flour vs a baguette recipe like this that uses 4 1/2.

      Thanks so much for your kind comment!! <3

      March 13, 2016 at 9:32 pm
  • Reply Rachel | La Pêche Fraîche

    WOW! I’m so inspired. These baguettes are so perfect! Every time I’ve attempted a traditional baguette at home, they never come out quite right—not chewy enough on the inside and not crispy enough on the outside. Yours look totally beautiful though… Maybe I shall have to attempt it again soon! xo

    March 17, 2016 at 7:03 am
    • Reply Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

      Thanks Rachel!! I know what you mean. It can be hard to find a good baguette recipe. But Peter’s is great so it’s my go-to for perfect baguettes! <3 XO

      April 14, 2016 at 5:33 am

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