Crusty on the outside, chewy and soft in the middle - what's not to love about baguettes?! It's hard to get a truly authentic French baguette in our home ovens, but we can get mighty close. Try this method for shaping baguette loaves with any favorite bread dough recipe - even the no-knead bread dough works quite well!
What You Need
1 batch of bread dough, like no-knead bread or basic white bread - makes 3-4 baguettes
Equipment [OR] Tools
Before Shaping: Prepare your bread dough and let it rise as normal. When ready to shape the loaves, sprinkle your work surface generously with flour. Turn the bread dough out onto the floured surface and use a bench cutter to divide the dough into three or four equal lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about fifteen minutes (this relaxes the gluten).
1. Sprinkle your work surface and one of the pieces of dough with more flour. Gently but firmly, pat the dough into a rough rectangle approximately 10 inches by 8 inches. Make sure the bottom isn't sticking and try not to deflate too many of those lovely air bubbles.
2. Fold down the top third of the dough and use the heel of your hand to seal the edge.
3. Fold the bottom third of the dough up and use the heel of your hand to seal the edge. Steps 2 and 3 are like folding a business letter. If it feels easier, you can rotate the loaf at this step so that you're again folding from the top down (as we did in the photo).
4. Use the edge of your hand to pat a crease in the middle of the dough and fold the dough in half again. This will create a taut and smooth surface to the dough. Use the heel of your hand to again seal the edge.
5. Sprinkle the work surface and loaf with a little more flour so there's no sticking. Use the palms of your hand to gently press and roll the loaf into a long baguette form. Start with your hands in the middle of the loaf and gradually move them to the outer edge of the baguette as you roll. Roll until the baguette is as long as your pan or couche (usually 12-15 inches).
6. Transfer the shaped baguettes to a baguette pan or a homemade couche (see how in this post) to rise. The loaves are ready to bake when they look puffy and ballooned.
• As you work the dough, keep it moving. Use extra flour if needed to keep the dough from sticking, particularly at the beginning and then when you roll the shaped loaf into the skinny baguette.
• To replicate professional ovens as closely as possible, place a small oven-safe pan in the bottom of the oven while it heats. Add a half cup of water or a few ice cubes to the pan when you put the loaves in to bake. The steam will create a moist environment during the initial few minutes of baking and help get a crackling crisp crust.
• Baking the baguettes on top of an baking stone also helps get a great crust and cook the loaves evenly.
• Bake baguettes at 450° for 20-30 minutes, until the crusts are brown and golden.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)