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Plain Easy to make French Baguette

2 cups warm water
1 1/2 packages dry yeast
4 1/2 cups plain white flour or a bit more if needed
2 teaspoons sea salt
Olive oil to brush the bowl for proofing
Flour for forming

In a mixing bowl, put the water and yeast and stir a bit. Add the flour and salt and stir briskly until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. All flours are different, so if you need a bit more flour to get a nice, soft but shiny dough, use a little at a time.

Clean and scrape the sides of the bowl with a dough scraper (invaluable for making any bread) and turn the dough over four times onto itself. Put the dough in a clean bowl that is brushed with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and put it in a warm place. After it rises to not quite double, use the scraper to turn the dough over on itself a couple of times and put it back in the warm place to rise completely.

Throw a bit of flour onto a flat smooth surface (mine is granite) and turn the risen dough out onto the flour, handing everything with a light touch.

Using as little flour as possible, dust the dough so that you can handle it without having it stick to you.  Divide the dough into three pieces and let it rest for 10 minutes. Form each piece very gently into a rectangle and fold the dough over on itself once, sealing the edges.

(Use seasoned baguette pans if possible. Or rub the pan with a paper towel and a little olive oil. Make sure the dough is NOT sticky when you place the rolled dough in the pan.)

Pull and roll the dough (as you did when a child with PlayDoh) outward to form a long baguette-sized piece that will fit end to end in your baguette pan. Do this with the other two and put the pan somewhere warm, covered with a light cloth to rise again while the oven heats. Heat the oven to the highest temp you have (mine is 275C or 400 F.

When you are ready to bake, uncover the dough and with a very sharp knife or lame, make three long cuts, overlapping slightly each time, and quickly put the dough in the oven.

Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on your oven, until the crust is golden…

Suzanne Dunnaway is the author of No Need To Knead, Handmade ItalianBreads in 90 Minutes (Hyperion); Rome, At Home, The Spirit of la cucina romana in Your Own Kitchen (Broadway Books); No Need to Knead (Metric/American version-Grub Street Publishers, London) 

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