Baguettes (French bread)
There's no better aroma than baguettes baking in the oven. See our expert guide for achieving the perfect crispy crust on this classic French bread
- Serves: 6 persons
- 150g strong white bred flour
- ⅛tsp or a large pinch fast-action dried yeast
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the bowl
- ½tsp fast-action dried yeast
Step 1The night before making the baguettes, make the poolish. Mix together the flour and yeast with 175ml of lukewarm water. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave overnight – the mixture should be very bubbly by the morning.
Step 2The next day, make the dough. Tip the poolish, flour, olive oil, yeast, 2 tsp of fine sea salt and 225ml of lukewarm water into a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Mix on low for 8-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and combined. Alternatively, use clean, wet hands to stretch, pull and knead the dough for 10 minutes on a floured worksurface until you have a single stretchy piece.
Step 3Tip the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for 3-4 hours, stretching and folding it every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours – gently pull up one side of the dough using wet hands and fold it over the rest. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat three times. It’s ready when it is really bubbly and has nearly doubled in size.
Step 4Tip the dough out onto a worksurface and cut into six even pieces. Lightly flour the top of each piece and shape into tight rounds. Generously flour the top of each round and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Step 5Generously flour one or two large clean tea towels (you may need to use two if your baguettes are large) and lay on a baking sheet. Use a dough scraper or knife to flip the rounds of dough so the floured side is on the worksurface. Fold the bottom third of the dough up to the middle, then the top third down so you have a rough oval/rectangle shape. Use your hands to gently roll the oval into a baguette shape, roughly 15-18cm long. Crimp the edge of the tea towel and sit the baguette next to it, seam-side up. Crimp the tea towel again on the other side of the baguette so it’s supported on either side. This will help the baguette keep its shape. Continue with the remaining dough along the length of the towel. Leave to prove for 2 hours until puffy.
Step 6Heat the oven to 240C/fan 220C/gas 9 for 45 minutes with a pizza or baking stone or large, heavy baking sheet on the middle shelf and a baking tray on the bottom shelf.
Step 7Carefully lay the baguettes on the stone or baking sheet, seam-side down, leaving plenty of space around them. Use a lame, sharp knife or scissors to make two or three diagonal slashes down each baguette. Slide the stone or sheet back into the oven, then pour 500ml of warm water into the tray on the bottom shelf. Immediately shut the door. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the baguettes are deep golden. Cool on wire racks.