four-hour baguette

Posted on May 26, 2012

You may be familiar with my sourdough bread adventure—a rustic country bread that in the end took over a year to perfect and became my Sunday obsession for months. Well, my experience with this bread was the exact opposite. I found the recipe, gathered ingredients, made the dough, baked and ate, all in about four hours. It was refreshing.

These french baguettes are very different from my sourdough. Where baguettes are light and delicate, my bread is dense and toothy. This baguette recipe is quick—thanks to commercial yeast—uses all purpose flour and doesn’t require any special equipment, which makes it pretty ideal for most home cooks. On top of that, your house will smell amazing while the loaves are baking. This recipe makes three 14″ long baguettes, which you’ll easily eat all of.

Four-Hour Baguette, from Saveur May 2012 Issue
1 1/2 cups tap water, heated to 115 degrees
1 t active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
canola oil, for greasing the bowl
1/2 cup ice cubes, for making steam in the oven for a good crust

In a large bowl, whisk together the water and yeast. Let sit until foamy. Add the flour, stirring with a fork or your hands, until a dough forms. Let the dough rest 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, sprinkle in the salt and knead it in. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Don’t forget to grease the bowl, this is a very sticky dough. Place in a cold oven to rise. Let dough sit for 45 minutes, until doubled in size.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a 8″ x 6″ rectangle. Fold the long sides into the middle and then fold the short side into the center. Return the dough seam side down to the greased bowl. Cover and let rise again in the cold oven for an hour.

After an hour, remove the dough from the oven. Place a cast-iron skillet in the bottom rack. Position another rack above the skillet and place a baking stone on that rack. Heat the oven to 475 degrees.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide into three equal pieces and shape each into a 14″ long rope (the length of a standard baking sheet). Flour a sheet of parchment paper and place it on a baking sheet. Place the dough ropes on the sheet evenly spaced apart. Lift the paper between the ropes to form pleats so they don’t stick together as they rise. Place two kitchen towels on each long side of the baguettes to support the loaves as they rise. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let double in size, about 50 minutes.

By this time your oven will be hot. Uncover the loaves, remove the towels and flatten the paper to space out the loaves. Use a razor blade to score the loaves with several long diagonal cuts. Carefully, with the loaves still on the parchment paper, slide them onto the hot baking stone. Place the ice cubes in the skillet and close the oven door. The ice will create steam which helps form a nice crust on the bread. Bake the baguettes 25 – 30 minutes, until browned.

Cool on a rack or enjoy straight out of the oven with some salted butter. Jordan and I ate an entire loaf just standing at the kitchen counter, they go down that easy.

These baguettes were delicious don’t get me wrong, but the flavor wasn’t very complex. Next time I’m going to try adding a bit of sugar to the yeast and water and try for a slightly sweeter baguette.

-Emily