For your French baguette recipe you will need a very hot oven and lots of steam! It is wonderful to smell the aroma of French bread baking in the oven and you will have bread that is far superior to any that is commercially made.
515 g/1½ lbs plain bread flour
2 tsp salt
15g/½ oz fresh yeast; or 1 tablespoon dry yeast; or 1½ teaspoons of fast action dried yeast. The type and quantity of yeast used is important!
(If you can't get fresh yeast, put all dry ingredients together, then add the water)
425 ml/15 fl oz lukewarm water (very important – must not be cold)
In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt together.
If using fresh yeast, place the yeast in another small bowl, gradually add the water slowly , mixing it well to dissolve it.
(If using dried yeast, sprinkle it into the bowl with half of the flour and salt before adding the warm water.)
Beat in half the flour gradually to form a batter.
Cover with plastic film and leave at room temperature for about 3 hours (trebled in size)
Add the remainder of the flour, gradually beating it in with your hand.
Now, put the dough onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave again to rise for 1 hour.
When doubled in size, knock back (punch it – think of someone you don't like!).
Turn it out onto a lightly floured board and divide the dough into 3 pieces.
Shape each piece of dough into a ball and then into a rectangle 6 x 3 ins/ 15 cm x 7.5 cm.
Take the bottom third of the rectangle, length ways, and fold it up, then bring the top third down and press the layers together.
Repeat this process about 3 times. Each loaf will now be an oblong.
Gently stretch each piece of dough into a 13-14 ins / 33-35 cm long loaf.
There are special trays called bannetons for resting the bread in before baking which will help keep their shape. If you do not have any then just follow these instructions for an easy remedy! It is what I use!
Pleat a floured dishcloth/tea cloth on a baking tray to make 3 moulds for your loaves!
By placing them between the pleats of the dishcloth/tea cloth the loaves will keep their shape while rising.
Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to maximum – at least 230°C/450°F/Gas 8
Roll the loaves onto the baking tray, spaced apart.
Slash the tops in several places with a sharp knife.
Place at the top of the oven.
The oven also needs steam to bake the baguettes correctly.
Spray the inside of the oven with water and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
The oven should be sprayed with water twice more during the first 5 minutes of baking.
Place your freshly baked baguettes on to a wire rack to cool.
As you will see, your French baguette recipe has been well worth the wait. Delicious!
You can fill them with your favourite filling or a good slice of cheese and a glass of your favourite wine!