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Mar 1, 2010 07:34 PM

french baguette recipe?

I am going to try and make some baguettes.

Can anyone recommend a good recipe with some helpful steps/pointers?

thanks so much!

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  1. Do you want to base your baguettes on a sourdough starter based formula, a poolish or some other foundation?

    1. Here's a link to King Arthur Flour's "guaranteed" French Baguette recipe

      It's a good starting point if you've never made French or other artisan-type breads before. It's a simple water-flour-yeast-salt recipe It uses what's called a "poolish" starter which uses some of the ingredients to make a starter for the bread which helps to develop the bread's flavor and texture. Later you mix and knead the bread, let it rise, shape and bake.

      The great thing about King Arthur's recipes are that they are very well tested, and there are many reviews from folks who have tried the recipe and commented on it. King Arthur also offers a great deal of support - if you have trouble with the recipe, there's online chat available or you can call in to their customer service number. They want folks to have success with their recipes and go out of their way to help.

      If you can't find King Arthur flour in your area, use another unbleached all-purpose flour. Instant yeast is also knows as bread machine yeast (but not rapid rise).

      16 Replies
      1. re: housewolf


        so would anyone recommend using a pizza stone for this? set on bottom rack at 500? I have also read that a bowl of water is necesarry to create steam. any thoughts?

        and for the starter.. they recommend 14 hours or overnight. Can you lengthen that with equal or better results?


        1. re: lestblight

          I bought unglazed quarry tiles from Home Depot at 36 cents a piece and needed six. You can fit all the baguettes on them easily. I use hot water in a cast iron skillet for the steam but you can also spritz them before and spritz the oven during the baking. You can hold the starter for longer than 14 hours for better results but it's great with the 14 hours. I like to mix it the night before, and finish up the next afternoon. For much longer than that, you might want to refrigerate it at that point.

          1. re: chowser

            for these tiles.... can i use these for pizza as well? anywhere to just get one big tile ? instead of a few?

            would i need a baguette pan? perforated? non perforated?


            and lastly where would i spritz?

            on the bread or just in the oven?
            thanks so much!

            1. re: lestblight

              Your local store might have larger tiles. I looked for them but could only find 6"x6". They're perfect for pizzas, too. I normally keep them on the bottom rack of the oven all the time. I think it helps regulate the temperature better for all baking but it also takes longer to warm them up so I've removed them, depending on how much baking I'm planning on doing.

              You do not need a baguette pan. I use a kitchen towel, like these directions (picture 7):


              I don't bake it on a baking sheet, though. I put the baguette dough on a piece of parchment paper, all on a peel and slide it in.

              I haven't spritzed but have seen it on shows where they do the dough before it goes in and then quickly open the oven door and spritz again. I've played around with the steam from using ice cubes (seems dangerous in hindsight and I haven't done it again) or water thrown into the oven to using the cast iron which I've settled on (preheat cast iron w/ stones and pour a cup of hot water in after you put in the dough). I'd be sad to have my cast iron skillet break but not nearly as sad as losing my oven.

              1. re: chowser

                My oven floor is warped from pouring water on it. Now I put a cheap lasagne pan in the oven and add boiling water to it. The authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day suggests using your broiler pan.

                1. re: sharonanne

                  Since I tried it, I've heard of people breaking lightbulbs to the window. Yours is the first I've heard of oven floor warping but it makes sense. I'll count my blessings and not do that again.

                  1. re: chowser

                    chowser - I can top that.

                    I BROKE my oven years ago doing that - the oven floor split in half.


                    To be honest, I was splashing water in the oven, not spraying it.... fortunately it was my own home, and we were ready for a kitchen remodel. Good excuse to get a new stove...

                    1. re: threedogs

                      Oooh, that's my worst fear as this goes. I had watched Baking with Julia and the guest baker through a cup of ice water onto the oven floor. I was impressed with the instant steam and the way the breads turned out so I tried it. It was great bread, really impressive steam but when I thought about it... I'm just counting my blessings because we have a relatively new stove/oven.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Could you put a large cookie or baking sheet down and do that on the pan for the same effect?

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          Maybe, but that requires more accuracy than tossing. It was more the fun throwing a cup of ice and water into the sink. I've been using a cast iron skillet but I use boiling water so the temperature difference isn't as great. It still sizzles but isn't the same.

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            Now I just put a pan in the oven & pour in boiling water when I put the bread in - gives it a good amt of steam.

                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              chef_chicklet, i once put a Teflon pan on the oven floor and when I took it out, all the Teflon flaked off & then the remainder of the pan warped... badly.

                              1. re: funniduck

                                Ewwwwww. how hot was the oven?
                                So better to use a non- teflon or anything coated baking sheet in the oven.
                                I have a pizza stone, if I used that, I bet it would crack in a second.
                                Plenty of other things to use. Like the bottom piece of the broiler pan for the oven, its enamel. Lately. I keep thinking I want to try a wet towel. Put it in the bottom of the pan damp, and then douse the towel with water to create a steamy environmemnt. No splashing, quick and I could shut the oven door quickly. Probably will try that soon.
                                But my goodness,don't be going and messin' up your oven!

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Be careful throwing the water on the oven floor, I have doused my gas pilot light that way. Would think that an electric oven would be even more problematic. I keep an old cake pan on the floor of the oven and pour water in it.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    Good point. Didn't even think about that!

            2. You might want to look over this thread, which has good advice and discussion of baguettes in general and the King Arthur recipe specifically:

              16 Replies
              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Have you made other kinds of bread before, and are you kneading by hand or in a mixer?

                1. re: jvanderh

                  just simple flat breads

                  pita. pizza. none with a starter.

                  and ill be using my mixer.


                  1. re: lestblight

                    I start with the basic Julia Child baguette recipe.

                    The thing that helped me was figuring out that the dough had to be wet enough to knead easily but dry enough that chunks don't stick to my fingers. If the dough is too dry, you can't knead thoroughly, and the gluten doesn't form, and it doesn't rise. So, I start with the recipe, but then I add more water if I can't knead it easily. I knead by hand, but I think that might be true in a mixer, too.

                    I've tried with water and without, and I like it better with water. I throw 1/4 cup of water into the oven just before closing the door. It gives a crunchier crust, which is important for french bread, I think.

                    1. re: jvanderh

                      So i had my try at baguettes.

                      It came out fairly well.. my crust was crunchy.. but not as deep brown as i have seen. I did put water in a pan under and sprayed the baguette.

                      Do you always place the water pan under? I was worried that by placing the pan under on the lowest rack i would lose some heat by placing the bread in the middle. How do you place yours?

                      Also... i didnt have too many holes in my bread.. did i knead mine too much in the mixer before letting it rise and create those bubbles?

                      and finally.. how do you store your bread? placing it in a plastic bag lost the crunch. so paper bags?

                      1. re: lestblight

                        Try turning up the oven for a darker crust. I usually start high (450) and then lower it (425) after it gets close to the darkness I want. Since yours was crusty, it sounds like the water did the job. If you leave the pan for water in the oven as it preheats, it'll come to temperature with the oven and help maintain the high temp as you put the dough in. Start at a higher temperature than you want because it'll come down when you add the cold dough. That way, you won't lose the heat when you place the bread in the middle.

                        Store the bread in paper bags or just out after it's cooled completely. If you've cut it, with the longer baguettes, I'll cut a little piece of plastic and rubber band it to the cut end but leave the rest uncovered. Plastic will make it soft as you've found.

                        1. re: chowser

                          thanks, i will keep it in mind when its time for round 2. which would be more often but the starter takes time to build.

                          His recipe calls for 14/15 hours

                          but can i have that longer in the fridge?

                          Can i make it today let it sit in room temp over night and the fridge it? and use it on sunday?

                          oh and how do i go about getting more bubbles/holes in the bread?

                          1. re: lestblight

                            If you're going to use it Sunday, I would probably just leave it in the refrigerator and not leave it overnight at room temperature. Even that is a long rise and I've never left it five days in the refrigerator. Maybe someone else can chime in. You can freeze the dough, too, if you don't want to make it soon.

                            As the holes go, the more you knead, the more you develop the gluten in the bread which gives it strength in structure as the bread rises. Knead more, let it rest longer. But, if you overproof the dough (yeast runs out of food), it can deflate so you want to be careful of that, too. What kind of flour are you using? A good bread flour will help.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Hey Chowser

                              how long can i leave my starter in the freezer for?


                              1. re: lestblight

                                Honestly, it's only something I've read about but never done. I've read up to six months by some sites I like but only three according to Peter Reinhart in BBA (which is what I'd go with).

                                Also, if you're making dough to hold in the refrigerator (like you were with the focaccia), you might try Artisan bread in 5 minutes. You can let time knead the bread for you. MIx the ingredients and just leave it in the refrigerator.


                        2. re: lestblight

                          I didn't see what recipe you used so I''m curious.
                          I recieved The Bread Baker's Apprentice as a gift last year at Christmas (priceless!) and I'd really recommend you take a look at it. I found out that there's a lot to learn about baking baquettes!

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            oh i have it! im reading crust and crumb first though.

                            the recipe i used was the king arthur one.. and im using KA flour as well

                            i figure it is the training wheels recipe.. but hey that doesnt bother me yet..


                            what is the max days you have left it in fridge with success?

                            1. re: lestblight

                              one day, and yes i like ka flour too. There are so many recipes, that's what I had the hardest thing with. Which recipe to try first?

                              1. re: lestblight

                                I make this recipe weekly, never have I gotten the large holes, I think I need to use a starter for that.

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Another excellent book on baking bread is Michael Kalanty's How to Bake Bread: The Five Families of Bread (Peter Reinhart wrote the forward for the book). It is well-written and full of good information designed to be used as a text book in culinary schools, as well as a reference and guide for the home baker. The book was recently given the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Bread cookbook in Paris, France.
                                  The first formula/recipe in Chef Mike's book is for baguettes (lean dough family) and he explains that a higher hydration percentage is what gives the bread larger air holes in the crumb. However, if the dough has too high a hydration percentage, it will be very difficult to handle (think ciabatta or foccacia dough).
                                  As for creating steam in the oven, at his SF demo class, Peter Reinhart used a half-sheet pan (not non-stick), preheated it in the oven (dry), then added about a cup of boiling water (oven door covered with towel) right after placing the load in the pan. He explained that you want the steam for only about the first 5 minutes of baking. He also has started to advocate using an aluminum roasting pan with a baking stone for the crispy crust (works similar to baking in dutch oven).

                                  1. re: RikkiMama


                                    my second attempt was better.. more air holes..

                                    im going to order a larger baking stone.. i was going to put the baguettes on this minus the sheet pan,.. figured it would give it more crust that way by just putting the parchment on the stone.

                                    how many days do you keep yours around till it gets stale? how do you store yours?


                            2. re: lestblight

                              I have found it doesn't matter if the water's below or above. I made the best baguettes of my life last weekend by using the normal method, with about two cups white bread flour and one whole wheat.

                              My biggest tip: Let it raise a good three hours after the first punch down. And make your dough as wet as you can possibly handle it.

                              Store in paper or cloth, as the French do -- and resign yourself to the fact that it's never as good past the first day, no matter what.

                    2. I make french bread all the time and I have never used a starter at all. I know it's not quite the same thing but what would the bread be like if you just proofed the yeast as usual (15 min in warm sugared water) and then made the dough? Has anyone tried that?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: julesincoq

                        Against my better judgement, I tried a recipe last week from because it was so highly rated. It was okay, maybe a step above what you'd buy from a grocery store. The crust wasn't as crispy, the texture was softer, more doughy w/ less chew. There wasn't as much flavor. Warmed w/ butter, it was good, just not as good as starting w/ the starter and doing the long rise. I also like a higher temperature with baking (than even the King Arthur recommendation above), using tiles, and steaming the oven with a cup of boiling water, over spritzing the dough. A lot of little variables that add up to a big difference in bread.

                        1. re: julesincoq

                          I tried the recipe suggested here with the starter this weekend. I have to say I didn't find it any big deal. It hardly seemed worth all the time that went into it. The ingredients are essentially the same as what I use for basic french bread but the difference is that this King Arthur one has you produce a starter and there was a lot more rising time. When I make baguettes I mix the dough, rise and hour, punch, rise another 2 hrs, form into loaves, rise and hour and bake. I didn't find the starter made any difference....though I'd be interested to make two and taste them both at the same time to see if there really is a noticable difference.