Don’t forget to reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees immediately after putting the loaves in the oven. For a slow-rise baguette (made by letting the shaped loaf rise overnight) see the variation that follows.
Why This Recipe Works: We wanted to make a simple baguette recipe and found that there were just some things that couldn’t be simplified. To get the right flavor we needed to use a sponge, and the longer it sat the better the flavor. Unlike many other rustic breads, baguettes cannot be baked at 500 degrees for any period of time or they form a crust before fully expanding. We tested baking them at several different temperatures and found that putting baguettes in a 500-degree oven and then immediately lowering the oven to 425 degrees gave us a perfectly crisp crust and moist crumb.
- 1/2 cup (2 3/4 ounces) bread flour
- 1/2 cup warm water (110ºF)
- 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups (16 1/2 to 19 1/4 ounces) bread flour
- 3/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110ºF)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
- For the sponge: Stir all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until the sponge has risen and fallen, at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
- For the dough: Combine 3 cups of the flour and the yeast in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the water and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (no need to remove it from the mixer), and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Remove the plastic wrap, add the sponge and salt, and knead the dough on medium- low speed until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If after 4 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl, but sticks to the bottom.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Turn the dough in the bowl with a dough scraper or large rubber spatula. Cover, let rise for 30 more minutes, then repeat the turning process. Cover and let rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes longer.
- Top a large rimless (or inverted) baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a baguette and lay it seam side down on the prepared baking sheet, spaced about 5 inches apart. Mist the baguettes with vegetable oil spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size and the dough barely springs back when poked with knuckle, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower- middle position, place a baking stone on the rack, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the baking stone heat for at least 30 minutes (but no longer than 1 hour).
- For the glaze and to bake: Score the top of the breads with a razor blade or sharp knife, cutting four 1/2-inch-deep slashes along the width of each baguette. Brush the breads with the egg-water mixture, then spray lightly with water. Carefully slide the breads and parchment onto the hot baking stone. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the center of the bread registers 210 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 25 minutes, rotating the loaves halfway through baking.
- Transfer the breads to a wire rack, discard the parchment, and let cool for about 30 minutes before serving.
Makes 2 baguettes.
Variation: Slow-Rise Baguettes
While it is convenient to be able to make a baguette in one day, if you have time, a long, slow overnight rising produces a more impressive loaf, richer in color with dramatic blistering and complex nutty flavors. Make sure that the plastic wrap covers the loaves completely but is loose enough to allow the baguettes to rise upward.
In step 6, do not let the baguettes rise, but refrigerate them overnight or up to 12 hours. Let the baguettes sit at room temperature, covered, for 30 to 60 minutes while heating the baking stone, then bake as directed.
- Side Dishes, Breads