When you’re ready to shape the baguettes, sprinkle your counter with a little flour and turn the dough out on top. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough and knead it for a minute or two until the flour is absorbed and the dough is no longer quite so crazy-sticky. A dough scraper can help a lot with this step.
Shape it into a rough ball and let the dough sit for 15-20 minutes. This resting period helps relax the gluten again after kneading so your baguettes don’t spring back on you quite so much while shaping.
While the dough is resting, spray a baguette pan with non-stick spray. Alternatively, form a simple “couche,” or cradle, for your loaves by rolling up 4-5 place mats and setting them a few inches apart. Drape the rolls with parchment paper. Your baguettes will nestle between the rolls, as pictured above.
Cut the dough into 3-4 pieces and shape each piece into baguettes following this method for How to Shape Baguettes. If the dough starts to become too sticky to work with, coat your palms in a little flour and continue shaping. Gently transfer each shaped loaf to your pan or couche and cover them loosely with plastic wrap or a clean towel.
Let these rise until puffy, 45-60 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 450° when you think there’s about 20 minutes of rising left to go. Timing this takes a little trial and error until you get a feel for it, but better to err on the side of pre-heating too far in advance rather than scrambling at the last minute. If you have a baking stone, make sure this is in the oven while it pre-heats
Slash the tops of the loaves a few times just before putting them in the oven. Loaves in a baguette pan can be baked directly on top of the oven rack or baking stone. If using a couche, gently slip the rolled place mats out from under the parchment and slide your loaves still on the parchment paper onto the back of a sheet pan or pizza peel. If you have a baking stone, transfer the loaves directly onto this. If not, put the entire sheet pan in the oven.
Bake the loaves 20-30 minutes, until they look deep golden-brown and feel light when you pick them up (using oven mitts!). For an extra-crispy crust, spritz the oven with water 2-3 times during the first few minutes of baking using a spray bottle. Let the finished loaves cool slightly, but baguettes are best while still hot from the oven.
(Image: Emma Christensen)