Easy Fresh Baguettes
This recipe is such an easy lift, you won't believe it.
Often, I’ll show up to potluck parties with two fresh baguettes, and folks will ask, “Did you bake this? How incredible!” I enjoy that. Little did they know how easy it was to prepare.
Most importantly, there is no kneading needed in this recipe. What is required is time, but it’s not your time. It’s the bread’s time.
Classic baguettes are made from four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. With this recipe, you stir these together and let the bread create itself.
3 cups flour
1 1/2 water (heated)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon yeast
Stir the ingredients in a mixing bowl until you have a shaggy mass. No need to over-mix. Cover with Saran Wrap and set aside for half a day. To form the baguettes, sprinkle flour on the raised dough and on the cabinet surface. With a spatula, scrape the quite sticky dough out of the bowl and onto your work surface. Cut the dough into two pieces. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the baguette baking tin or a cookie baking sheet. Roll each half to form a baguette and place it on the baking tin. Using a pair of kitchen scissors or a knife, score the baguettes with four slashes diagonal down the top, as you typically see with baguettes. Raise for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees twenty minutes before the baguettes have risen. Place baguettes in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Roll baked baguettes out onto a rack or the cold cabinet surface to cool. Voi la!
Timing: These are the bare directions to demonstrate the simplicity of this recipe. Now let me tell you about it. Though it’s not much work, having fresh bread requires thinking ahead. If you wake up in the morning and think you want fresh baguettes for dinner that night, you can stir them together in the early morning. (If you don’t think of it until just before dinner or before you leave for a party, you’re screwed.) In the case of stirring together in the early morning, heat the water in the microwave for about a minute. It doesn’t have to be the perfect temperature—just nicely warm. (Not over 130 deg.) However, if you think of baking these lovely creatures the night before, and this is when I like to do it, stir the ingredients together after dinner or before you go to bed. In this case, you do not need to heat the water.
Yeast—you may be surprised that the recipe calls for a small fraction of the usual two packets. This is correct. Only a 1/4 teaspoon is required. This recipe is in the direction of sourdough, where the dough develops with some of the natural yeasts.
Flour—once you’ve mastered the basic “white bread” baguette, it can be fun to experiment with some heartier flours. I like to use buckwheat flour or whole wheat flour. In this case, go with 2 1/2 cups of white flour with 1/2 cup of buckwheat, or an alternative. This requires a tiny bit more water. You might also add some herbs. Rosemary or oregano is good. I also enjoy roasting a teaspoon of fennel seeds, then after ground to powder with a mortar and pestle, added to the mix when you initially stir it together.
Beautiful bread—To get a lovely dark brown surface, brush the baguettes with a single egg yolk before baking.
How done? Typically, 15-20 minutes is plenty. Recently, I had a guest for dinner who complained when I pulled out the baguettes. Don’t you like them darker, he asked. So I put them back in for another 5-10 minutes. This gave a wonderful crispy crust and beautiful color. So that’s how I do them now.
Enjoy your own fresh bread out of the oven. It’s easy, and there’s nothing like it!
Five O'Clock with Theral Timpson is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.