Homemade French Baguettes

This recipe for Homemade French Baguettes requires a few steps to get the perfect pockets of air in the bread but nothing beats homemade bread and the way it makes your house smell. By following these step-by-step directions, you can successfully make great baguettes at home.

Now Let’s Get Cooking
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The one thing you must do if you want to make homemade French baguettes is plan ahead. While there are only a few ingredients and they are not hard to make, there is a lot of down time waiting for the dough to rise in different stages. Just start a full day ahead of when you’d like to eat the baguettes and enjoy the process. Start by making a  poolish. A poolish is what we call a pre-ferment – a starter dough that is made ahead of time and it is key to giving your bread great flavor. Other examples of a pre-fermented doughs are sourdough, levain or biga. The nice thing about using a poolish as a starter for baguettes is that it is made once, takes just 12 hours and is used in its entirety when you make the baguette dough – you don’t have to keep and feed it like you do with a sourdough starter. It’s as simple as stirring three ingredients together – flour, water and yeast.

Poolish in a bowl with a yellow spatula.

After 12 to 18 hours at room temperature, your poolish will look like the image below – slightly increased in volume and bubbly.

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Poolish in a bowl with plastic wrap pulled halfway off the bowl.

Add water to the poolish to loosen it and then add the flour, more yeast and some salt. The dough will be relatively wet, but the good news is that you don’t really have to knead baguette dough. We want there to be nice airy bubbles in our baguettes and by simply stretching and folding the dough over on itself is enough to engage the elastic quality of the gluten and then you just have to let the yeast do its job of reproducing and flavoring the dough.

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Baguette Dough in a bowl with a red and white striped towel.

Once your dough has gone through a couple of rises, start to shape the dough into roughly the right shape – a rectangle. Portion the dough into 3 or 4 pieces and flatten them into rectangles. Then, with the long side of the rectangle facing you, fold the dough into a third of its width as you would fold a letter – fold the top third of the rectangle down and fold the bottom third of the rectangle up. It should now look roughly like a log. Let it rest and rise again.

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Baguette dough resting and rising on a linen couche.

 

You’ll do this one more time before gently rolling the logs out into a baguette length. It should now rise one last time in a baguette pan or on a baker’s couche – a durable French linen cloth used  to keep the doughs rising upwards instead of sideways.

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Two raw baguettes in a baguette Pan.

Now it’s time to bake the homemade French baguettes. The key to the crust of a baguette is steam. Professional bakers use stem ovens to get the best crust, but you can create a similar environment at home. Pre-heat your oven with a cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven for at least 30 minutes. Boil the kettle and when you’re ready, put the baguettes into the oven and pour boiling water into the cast iron pan. Use long oven mitts to do this and be aware that there will be a lot of steam. Close the oven door as soon as you can and let the baguettes cook in the steamy environment for just 15 to 20 minutes. It’s the steam that will create that nice crispy crust on the outside of the baguette.

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three homemade French baguettes on a wooden board on a counter.

The three baguettes above have a different appearance because two of them were dusted with flour before being transferred to the oven. If you like that rustic look, a simple quick dust with flour is all you need. 

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One homemade baguette on a wooden board resting on a marble countertop.

So you can see it is a long-is process (lots of unattended time), but there are a couple of ways you can shorten the path to freshly baked bread. You could make the dough, let it rise twice, portion it into 3 or 4 and then freeze the dough for another time. Freeze  each portion in an air-tight bag and then defrost the dough on the counter and pick up the recipe where you left off once it has fully thawed.  I find it even more convenient to freeze freshly baked baguette as soon as they’ve cooled down. Then, it’s a quick re-heat in the oven at 400ºF for 8 minutes or so and you’re set to go with a fresh loaf. Just grab a bread knife!

Recipe Step-by-Step Quick Notes:

  • Make poolish and  let sit, covered, room temperature for 12 to 18 hours
  • Add water to poolish, then flour, yeast and salt. Mix together, turning the dough over on itself several times.
  • Rest 10 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold the dough and put in an oiled bowl, covered with a lid or plastic wrap.
  • Rest 45 minutes
  • Stretch and fold the dough. Return to the oiled bowl, covered with a lid or plastic wrap.
  • Rest 45 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 3 or 4 portions. Flatten each portion, fold and shape each into a log. Cover.
  • Rest 30 minutes.
  • Fold and shape each log into a baguette. Rest either on a baguette pan or baker’s couche, covered.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 475ºF with an empty cast iron pan inside for at least 30 minutes while baguettes are resting.
  • Bring water to a boil on stovetop.
  • Score the baguettes. Send to the oven. Pour boiling water into cast iron pan.
  • Bake at 475ºF, 20 – 25 minutes.

Homemade French Baguettes

  • Prep Time: 35 m
  • Cook Time: 25 m
  • Resting Time: 2 h
  • Total Time: 3 h
  • Servings:
    4
    Baguettes

Ingredients

Poolish:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup water
  • teaspoon active dry yeast
  • cups water
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Instructions

  1. Start about 24 hours before you want to enjoy your freshly baked baguettes. Make the poolish by combining 1 cup of flour with ½ cup of water and ⅛ teaspoon of active dry yeast. Stir the ingredients together in a bowl and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Let the polish sit at room temperature or in a slightly warm area for 12 to 18 hours.

  2. After 12 to 18 hours, the poolish will have grown in volume slightly, have lots of bubbles on the top and be very wet. Add 1¼ cups of water to the poolish and mix together. Then, stir in the flour, yeast and salt. Combine well until a dough comes together and turn the dough over on itself several times. There is no need to knead the dough. Let the dough sit for 10 minutes.

  3. Stretch the dough and fold it over on itself several times. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm-ish place for 45 minutes.

  4. Stretch and fold the dough over on itself several times again, return it to the bowl, cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave it a warm-ish place for another 45 minutes.

  5. Divide the dough into three or four portions (4 for shorter baguettes and 3 for longer baguettes). Flatten each portion into a rectangle and fold the dough like a letter, folding the top third of the dough down to the center and folding the bottom third of the dough up over the top third. Each portion of dough should now look like a little log.

  6. Let the dough logs rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Flatten and fold each dough log again, sealing the edges down firmly and roll each log into a baguette shape gently. Now you need to let the baguettes rest one last time in their baguette shape. You can let them rest on a lightly floured baguette pan or on a linen couche. Cover with a clean kitchen towel while the baguettes rise.

  8. In the meantime, place an empty cast iron pan on the bottom rack of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 475ºF for 45 minutes.
  9. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  10. When you are ready to bake, the baguettes should just slightly hold a fingerprint in the dough when pressed. Slash the baguette with a baker’s lame or very sharp knife and transfer the bread to the oven. If you are using a baguette pan, simply transfer the pan to the oven. If you are using a couche, use a peel to transfer the baguettes to a baking stone or baking steel. As soon as the bread loaves are in the oven, pour the boiling water into the empty cast iron pan in the oven and immediately close the door.

  11. Bake at 475ºF for 20 to 25 minutes, until nicely browned.
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Comments (5)Post a Reply

    1. Hi Diane. The key to making great baguettes is the steam to make the crust crispy and brown. The pans you are referring to use a lid to trap steam, rather than putting steam in the oven. I haven’t used the King Arthur baguette pan, so can’t say whether it is as effective as creating a steam oven.

  1. OMG!!! This dough is so sticky!!! Got so frustrated that instead of shaping put them in loaf pans and praying for the best. Please put out a video tutorial. The FB live was not enough, especially with the question interruptions. Dough does having an amazing texture and wonderful yeasty smell.

    1. Hi Hilda. These days, as most of us tend to measure with volume measurements instead of weight measurements, recipes like dough can be a little tricky and need you to be flexible. So, if your dough was too sticky, just add a little more flour. If, on the other hand, the dough is too tough, add a little water. I’m glad you were resourceful enough to bake the baguettes in loaf pans instead and I will definitely think about creating a video to support this recipe. Hope you enjoyed the bread nevertheless.


  2. Love this recipe. I was hesitant to make it at first because it seemed a little bit complicated but it is actually pretty easy and not complicated at all. They turned out so good. There is something so rewarding about eating bread you’ve made yourself.

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