These French baguettes are everything I love about French bread and Paris! With a crisp exterior and fluffy interior, you’ll find yourself turning to this recipe for homemade French bread over and over again.
French Baguettes Made at Home
On my last trip to the City of Lights, 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.
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!
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!
- 4.5 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 1.75 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp active yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water, 110°F
- 1.5 cups iced cold water
- olive oil for greasing
- 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.
- Combine the flour and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Add the yeast mixture and cold water, then continue to mix until a dough forms.
- Once a dough forms, swap in the hook attachment and knead the dough for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Then knead the dough on low speed for another 1 minute, then let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
- 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 let the dough rest for another 10 minutes.
- Lightly grease a large 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.
- The next day, place the covered bowl of dough out on the counter 1 hour prior to baking. After an hour, preheat the oven to 475°F. Now, 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.
- Take a bench scraper, knife, or pizza cutter and divide the dough into 2-4 pieces (depending on the size of baguettes you want). The more you divide, the smaller and skinnier your baguettes will be.
- Gently shape the pieces of dough into baguettes by gently stretching and elongating the dough. Sprinkle flour on a baguette pan or a baking sheet and transfer the baguettes to the prepared pan.
- Sprinkle a touch of flour on the top of the baguettes, then use a sharp knife to score the baguettes. You'll want to cut a few slits (each about 1/4" to 1/2" deep) in the top of the baguettes.
- Bake the baguettes on the middle rack for 16 to 20 minutes until golden brown (baking time will depend on the size of the baguettes) and your type of oven. Throughout the baking process, use a spray bottle to spray water into the oven (in the space above the baguettes) every few minutes. Cool the baguettes on a wire cooling rack. (see note)
You can bake your baguettes longer for a darker and crisper crust, but just keep a watchful eye on them so they don't get too dark or burn.
To turn this dough into focaccia bread, simply follow the recipe card as instructed, but instead of shaping the dough into baguettes, spread the dough out onto half of a standard rectangular baking sheet. Make sure you oil the baking sheet first before adding the dough. Once you've spread out the dough, use your index finger to poke into the entire surface of the dough to create slightly indentations. Drizzle olive oil all over the top, then sprinkle rosemary leaves and coarse sea salt all over the top. Bake at 475°F for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 3 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 660