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Traditional baguettes by hand

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Picture of Traditional baguettes by hand
Bread making can be one of the most zen things a cook can do. And while companies who make bread machines and bread mixes have a vested interest in convincing you that it is a time consuming, difficult process requiring a ton of equipment or specialized mixes; in fact, it's a really simple, really easy process.
This instructable will walk you through making two loaves of baguette bread. Following the French tradition, measurements for flour and water are by weight. Because there can be a huge variance when using measuring cups, I've found this method the most successful.
For a traditional white recipe you'll need:
  • 18 ounces of bread flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons dry active yeast, or 1/3 ounce of fresh yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I use Kosher salt that I've pestled down to a smaller grain)
  • 12.5 ounces of water
Tools: Mixing bowl, kitchen scale, counter-top or other smooth surface, bowl scraper, clean hands, baking sheet, kitchen scissors or razor, oven.

 
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Step 1: Measure and Mix

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Measure your bread flour into large bowl.
Add salt
Add yeast to flour and crumble into the flour with your fingertips. (I don't proof the yeast, I've never found it to be necessary.)
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the water.
Using your scraper, fold the water and flour mix together into a shaggy blend.

Step 2: I need you to knead me

Using your scraper, plop your shaggy mess out onto the counter, and scrape any flour that is still in the bowl out with it.
Now, this part is sticky and messy, but it's important to remember that the dough will come together in a few minutes of working it. You want to try to avoid adding flour at this stage because it will make your bread really tough and hard to rise. You may want to flour your hands a little, and maybe add a tablespoon or less of flour to your work surface, but what you really want is to work the ingredients you've already got into a smooth elastic dough.
I know, at this stage, it seems hard to believe this sticky glue ball will do that...but trust me...it does.
Initially try to incorporate any flour that was left in your bowl. Then pushing and pulling the dough, start folding it over itself, then change directions and fold again. Keep doing this. It adds air to the mix, and activates the gluten and the yeast.
Keep kneading and folding until your dough becomes elastic and stretchy.I usually pick up an end and swing it out, then fold it back on itself, then fold that rectangle in half, lengthwise.
This process takes about 10 minutes to get it to a smooth, elastic texture.
Here's a slideshow of me doing it. You can see how the dough goes from sticky and shaggy to smooth and elastic as air gets worked in, and the gluten starts to develop.

Step 3: Resting

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Now that your dough is smooth, elastic and activated, fold it in quarters a final time, making a big loose ball. (You want the air pockets to stay in your folds.)
Put the ball in a lightly greased bowl, and roll it once to coat the bread with butter/crisco/your fat of choice.
Cover loosely with a lint free tea towel, and put somewhere warm and draft free to rise.
(I usually turn on my non-convection oven for a minute or two to get the temperature to about 98 degrees F (37 C), turn off the oven, and pop the big stoneware bowl in there. Make sure you don't get it too hot though, or you'll start cooking the bread. You don't want that. An accurate oven thermometer is a big help here if you don't have a digital readout.)
Rest the dough for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Step 4: Preparing the loaves

Once your dough has risen, gently scoop it out of the rising bowl with your scraper onto a floured counter or workspace.
Divide the dough into two pieces.
Roll into baguettes by pressing each piece into a rectangle.(Not too hard, just lightly press) Fold one third of the rectangle into the middle, and press down along the edge to seal. Fold the other third into the middle, and press to seal. This gives the bread a strong "spine". Then fold the log lengthwise in half again, and seal.
The slide show I linked in the previous step has pictures of this step towards the end of the slide show.
Flip your baguette over and place on a lightly floured parchment lined baking tray, seam side down.
Once on the tray, use a sharp pair of kitchen scissors or a razor to slice 5-7 slices in the top of the loaf.
Cover your prepped baguette with a lint free and floured tea towel, tucking a bit of it between the loaves to keep them from touching during the second rise if necessary.
Let rise for about an hour in a draft free and warm spot. (I pop mine back into the oven where I did the first rise, but don't add any additional heat.)

Step 5: Second rise

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Your loaves will look like this after the second rise.
During the last 10 minutes or so of your rise, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.(If you're rising your bread in the oven...take it out BEFORE preheating the oven. )

Step 6: Baking

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Bake your loaves at 450 for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown. (Times may vary due to oven temperature variances.)
For a crunchier, thicker crust, spritz your oven with a few squirts ofwater just before you add the bread, or place an oven safe bowl of hot water in the rack below the bread.
When done, remove to racks and let cool.

Step 7: Enjoy!

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Yum!
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zoe.s.morel5 months ago

Made two of these baguettes today, was a bit worried as I didn't think the dough had risen enough but they turned out pretty good, my boyfriend especially loved them, so i'll be making more tomorrow- thank you :)

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bob.superfly made it!8 months ago

good recipe ,ive been trying to conquer making baguettes for about a week or so with various recipes and mixing the dough in my bread maker,none really worked out very well apart from this recipe and method ,great instructions ,will deffo be making more in the future.

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Cyncha2271 year ago
What wonderful breads you have made! I saw the tutorial, and the other breads as well. I would love to know about the dark loaf with sunflower seeds (maybe)! I have moved across the country and plan to try the baguette as soon as I am able after we get into our own house. I'm really inspired by your post! I am just getting into breads after making pizza for decades. I think it's time, and you are my inspiration! Thank you!
CharlotteE312 days ago

Really enjoyed making this! Also, the level of detail in the recipe was perfect, so easy to follow

SoapyHollow (author)  CharlotteE39 days ago
Ah, thanks! Happy baking! :)
neveraea7 months ago

This recipe was okay. I was looking for a recipe to produce crusty baguettes with a soft chewy center. This was not it.

SoapyHollow (author)  neveraea7 months ago
Oh, I'm sorry to hear that yours didn't turn out that way. I'm actually making about 10 loaves today, and the first 4 turned out exactly like what you're shooting for. Bread can be impacted by weather, age of the flour, age of the yeast, dry vs cake yeast...there's so many things that can change how your bread comes out. I hope your next batch turns out exactly like you want. :)
thank you for this! mine turned out wonderfully! next time I think I will make four smaller ones though. Next up to try is sourdough!
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KaraaKinetiic8 months ago
Absolutely fantastic. I made this recipe today with the sole purpose of turning it into garlic bread to go with dinner. I ended up turning one loaf into garlic bread and saving the other to be cut up and eaten with butter. Even my fussy partner said it was delicious.
I will definitely make this again.
I used 510 grams of bread flour, and 360 grams of water as I measure in grams instead. I also used instant dried yeast. I added a tiny bit extra flour as I was kneading and to prove, heated a wheat bag and placed that under the bowl, as it was taking a rather long time to rise. Thanks heap for the recipe!
SoapyHollow (author)  KaraaKinetiic8 months ago
Awesome! Yay! :)
KaraaKinetiic8 months ago
Absolutely fantastic. I made this recipe today with the sole purpose of turning it into garlic bread to go with dinner. I ended up turning one loaf into garlic bread and saving the other to be cut up and eaten with butter. Even my fussy partner said it was delicious.
I will definitely make this again.
I used 510 grams of bread flour, and 360 grams of water as I measure in grams instead. I also used instant dried yeast. I added a tiny bit extra flour as I was kneading and to prove, heated a wheat bag and placed that under the bowl, as it was taking a rather long time to rise. Thanks heap for the recipe!
ThisIsMyNameOK10 months ago

Whoo Hoo! My first time ever making bread. Unfortunately my attempt to upload a picture of it has failed for some reason. It's a little burnt on the bottom, a little doughy in the middle, and a little too chewy overall, but for a first attempt I am very pleased with the results. Thank you for this awesome Instructable! :-)

cnc-bee1 year ago

For baguettes you should do a pre-dough

1/3 of the flour - same weight of water. Pinch of yeast. Mix and let rest at room temperature for 12 hours. Deduct that from the main recipe. It will start to bubble and will have a strong sour smell - that's what you want! Then proceed as normal and mix the predough in when you do the main dough.

Thank you! My baguettes look amazing. Can't wait to share them at this potluck tonight! Woo hoo for homemade bread!
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dvinson12 years ago
My baguettes! Thank you!
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dvinson12 years ago
I'm making this right now! I'm on the last step of just waiting for the oven to preheat, I'm excited to eat this bread! Hopefully I did it right, should I brush the top with egg white??
I've made "french" bread a few times and the problem has always been the cuts, because my recipe says to cut it after the second rise before going to the oven. When I do that, it always deflates the bread a lot. I'm gonna give this one a try and as soon as I do I let you guys know.
Thanks for sharing :)
CrazeexGood6 years ago
French bread pizza!
The pizza dough recipe is very similar to a plain bread recipe. Just add 1 table spoon per 100gr of flour.

And btw, what is French bread pizza? (I'm French) Do you mean well risen dough?

One more thing, you are missing a very important part in your baguette making process : the shaping!

Here is a link were they explain the whole process of baguette making
http://aulevain.canalblog.com/archives/p20-10.html

Basically, you need to capture air in the dough by pressing down the edges to the centre. This should be done once every 20 minutes while the dough is rising.

Then you can shape the finished product into a baguette shape rolling from the centre to the edges with your fingers wide spread apart.

Not sure if this makes sense...

Happy bread making!
french bread is a typeof bread sold in america french bread pizza is a baquaut with melted chese on top and add pizza toppings
french bread is a typeof bread sold in america french bread pizza is a baquaut with melted chese on top and add pizza toppings
SoapyHollow (author)  CrazeexGood6 years ago
Mmmm! If you want to do that, add a little olive oil to the bowl for first rest, and then for second rest, press the dough out to fit your pizza tray or baking tray, and brush it with olive oil and and let it do a brief (20 minute or so) second rise. Bake for just a couple of minutes, then add all your toppings and bake for another 15 or so minutes. I'll be sort of a foccaccia / fluffy deep dish. (You could also add a tablespoon or so of oil to dough when you're mixing it up to make it a little softer.) Man, now I want pizza. :)
jdenton23 years ago
Merci!
crestind6 years ago
Will this recipe work if I use all purpose flour instead of bread flour?
Great recipe! Somehow I managed to screw it up partially, and got thin area of raw dough in the center of one of them (too thick?), but the other loaf turned out fantastic! Crispy crust, soft center. :)
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try going "sandwich" size... and check the temp on your oven that it's not too hot
xoxoxox
I read somewhere that you can make bread flour by adding 1 tablespoon of wheat gluten for every cup of all-purpose flour.
jonnis4 years ago
Nice recipe. Made a double batch today, and the baguettes came out great. A little larger then i expected, but that is just a plus. They look a little pale in the picture, but they do have some color. I just didn't have any milk or eggs left to brush them with.

 
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jamiec534 years ago
I made some and it was awesome! It's really good toasted. Thanks for the recipe!
jamiec534 years ago
:) That was a Cheap Trick
SoapyHollow (author)  jamiec534 years ago
Hee! :)
Do you bake with a cookie sheet thing or just on the grills?
SoapyHollow (author)  brooklynlord4 years ago
I use a heavy jellyroll type baking sheet, and preheat it at the same time that I preheat the oven.
mAlfunkti0n4 years ago
Made two baguettes last night using this instructable and they turned out great! I will probably never buy bread from the store again considering the taste and price of ingredients.

Thank you!
SoapyHollow (author)  mAlfunkti0n4 years ago
Yay! I just made a batch today, but I added the zest of two lemons, and about a teaspoon (guessing, I didn't measure) of cardamom. So amazing. Point being, the recipe is super adaptable, so go crazy adding stuff! (Just remember if you're adding wet stuff, like non-dried veggies or fruits, that you may need to increase your flour and your yeast a bit to compensate for the extra moisture.)

Glad the 'structable was useful for you!
serjinio5 years ago
Dear SoapyHollow, i am really new to cooking, i didnt use any oil in step3- resting ("butter/crisco/your fat of choice") , it was some hard ,if it possible please, add oil to intro ingredients part, thank you.
the oil was to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl, it had nothing to do with the texture. You probably overworked your dough or did not let it rise enough the last time just before baking.
thanks.
serjinio5 years ago
Hi, thank you, its really good.
SoapyHollow (author)  serjinio5 years ago
Yay! I'm glad you liked it. (Also, how adorable is your icon baby? So cute!)
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