Homemade baguette isn’t hard to make, but it does take a lot of time to do right. It’s totally worth it, though, to have airy, crusty French bread in your own kitchen. I’ve made this Julia Child recipe several times now, and it’s a keeper. The total prep time actually making the dough is about 10 minutes, the rest is rising, rising, more rising, and then baking. Patience is the key!
The trick to a crunchy and satisfying crust is steam – this recipe calls not only for a broiler pan filled with water inside the oven, but also spraying the loaves with water several times while they’re baking to stimulate the development of that characteristic crustiness. The result is that crackle when you squeeze it that’s mentioned in Ratatouille, which is obviously the pinnacle of French cooking films.
A note on timing – the below assumes that you’re making this recipe in one day, making the dough in the morning and baking the bread in the evening. I couldn’t do that this time, so I made the dough in the evening and put it into the refrigerator to rise more slowly overnight.
This was my timing, and it turned out with a nice and airy texture inside: 9pm put the dough into the fridge for its first rise. 6:30am took it out of the fridge, deflated it, and re-covered it for a second rise at room temperature on the counter. 12pm separated the dough into two loaves, covered and left on the counter for the third rise. 6pm bake. The moral of the story is, don’t let the timing below rule your life. Those times are guidelines, not rules – work it around your schedule, and the likelihood is that you’ll have delicious baguette at the end!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Rise Time: 6-8 hours (or, if you’re delaying things with refrigeration as I did with my schedule above, up to 24 hours)
Bake Time: 25 minutes
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (120º – 130º)
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- 1/4 cup cheese of choice (I used extra sharp cheddar), finely grated
- In the mixing bowl of a standing mixer using a spoon, combine the yeast, 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, garlic powder, and rosemary.
- With the dough hook and the motor running on low, pour in the warm water. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Mix in the remaining cup of flour a little at a time, to make a soft dough, adding more or less flour as needed. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. The surface should be smooth and the dough will be soft and somewhat sticky.
- Turn the dough onto a kneading surface and let rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl.
- Return the dough to the mixing bowl and let it rise at room temperature (about 75º) until 3 1/2 times its original volume. This will probably take about 3 hours.
- Deflate the dough and return it to the bowl. Let the dough rise at room temperature until not quite tripled in volume, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rising surface: rub flour onto a cutting board or clean towel.
- Divide the dough into 2, 3, 6, or 12 pieces, depending on the size loaves you wish to make. Fold each piece of dough in two, cover loosely, and let the pieces relax for 5 minutes.
- Shape the loaves and place them on the prepared board or towel. Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature until almost triple in volume, about 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 450º. Set up a “simulated baker’s oven” by placing a baking stone on the center rack, with a metal broiler pan (I used a loaf pan) on the rack beneath, at least 4 inches away from the baking stone to prevent the stone from cracking.
- Transfer the risen loaves onto a peel and slash them diagonally. Sprinkle the cheese on top of each loaf evenly.
- Spray the loaves with water. Slide the loaves into the oven onto the preheated stone and add a cup of hot water to the broiler tray.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Spray the loaves with water three times at 3-minute intervals.
- Ideally, cool for 2 – 3 hours before cutting. I’ll admit that I couldn’t wait and served my two loaves within a half hour of them coming out of the oven!
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