Even if you’ve concocted dozens of cakes, pie after pie, a surplus of sourdough, and all sorts of other baked goods, you may still be intimidated by the baguette, a beloved bread too often perceived as the purview of only the most skilled and experienced bakers. But once you’ve followed this baguette recipe, which yields two loaves and requires less than a half-hour of hands-on work, French bread will become a household staple. In fact, once you have made your first baguettes and realized how nonthreatening the process is, you’ll likely start on batch number two right away, the first usually being eaten before you know it. Go ahead and make several loaves at a time, just to be safe.
And never worry about baking too much of this bread, says Laura Sampson of Little House Big Alaska. "I think the bigger problem will be when it disappears too fast." Besides, you can store the bread for a few days in an air-tight plastic bag without losing much of the taste or texture, and you can toast baguette slices for a bread that’s "perfect for bruschetta or great for serving with soup," Sampson adds.
That said, a French-style baguette is, of course, best served fresh, so let’s get to it.
Gather the ingredients for this baguette recipe
There’s almost no chance anyone even a little interested in baking won’t have all the ingredients needed to make this baguette recipe. The secret here isn’t at all in the ingredients but rather in how you handle them. (Don’t worry, that’s not all that secretive, either.)
You will need five and a half cups of all-purpose flour, divided, four and a half teaspoons of active dry yeast, one teaspoon of salt, two cups of warm water plus two tablespoons of room temperature water, and one egg white. Oh, and don’t forget about a bit less than a tablespoon of olive oil to grease the bowl.
Prepare the dough for this baguette recipe
Gently place two cups of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer set up with a dough hook, then put all of your yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other. Add two the cups of warm water and stir by hand to combine, usually for about 30 seconds. Now, let the mixer run on medium speed for two minutes.
Next, add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft, even dough for this baguette recipe (usually about three and a half more cups) and continue to machine-knead for five minutes.
Let the baguette recipe dough rise then rest
Once the dough for this baguette recipe is ready, use olive oil to coat the sides of a medium bowl for rising the dough. Now, remove the dough from the mixer, form it into a ball, put it in the greased bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap and a towel.
Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, which will take about 60 minutes or longer if your house is cold. (You can tuck the dough near a heater or vent.)
Once the dough has doubled, gently press out the air, divide the dough in half, and let both dough balls rest for five or ten minutes.
Roll out and roll up your loaves for this baguette recipe
Prepare two large baking pans with either silpat baking mats or parchment paper, and set them aside. Now, lightly flour a good amount of space on a clean, flat counter.
Lay one-half of the baguette recipe dough on the counter and press it out into a small rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to be roughly ten by 15 inches. Next, roll the dough into long tube and pinch the roll closed at both ends. From taper to taper, your dough should be about 16 inches in length at this point. Lay the tube of dough onto one of the prepared baking sheets, and then repeat that process with dough ball number two.
Brush the loaves for this baguette recipe, then rest them again
Mix the egg white with the two tablespoons of room temperature water, and then use a silicone brush (or any clean, soft brush) to coat the top, bottom, and sides of both loaves with the egg wash.
Now, cover both baguette recipe loaves with plastic wrap and let them rise until they have almost doubled, which will take about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t discard the egg wash, as you’ll be using it again soon.
Score the baguette recipe loaves and then get baking
When the baguette recipe loaves have risen, remove the plastic wrap and slash each loaf with a sharp knife three or four times, cutting about a quarter-inch deep on an angle.
Now, bake the loaves in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then pull the bread out and brush the egg wash over each loaf again. Rotate the pan’s position in the oven as you return the par-baked loaves to the heat and bake for 15 minutes more or until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when you thump it on the bottom.
Cool your baguettes on a rack, then serve them as desired, from as-is with butter to sandwich bread to bruschetta and beyond.