Easy French Baguette Recipe
Craving a crusty French loaf? Look no further than this easy baguette recipe. Only 4 ingredients, and it’s mostly downtime! You can do this!
Here at my house, I’ve been knee-deep in bread baking. I’m on a real kick!
But today’s recipe has always haunted me.
My family loves a good crusty French baguette. We eat this kind of bread with so many things!
It’s so chewy and yeasty and good. But I’ve always been afraid to try making it myself.
Everything you hear says it’s complicated and fussy, and no one but a French boulanger could ever get it right.
WRONG! Here’s living proof that anyone can make a killer loaf with this easy baguette recipe.
You see that? Is that gorgeous homemade bread or what. I made that! It was pretty easy! And I’m not even an expert bread baker (talk to me about cakes, though!).
I am over the moon about that crunchy, splintery outer crust. See how it shatters? And the interior- soft, pillowy, and so airy. It’s perfection.
If I can do this, so can you. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!
What is a baguette?
When you picture a scene in France, do you envision a girl in a striped top, wearing a beret, and riding a bicycle with a basket full of long loaves of French bread?
Those long loaves are called “baguettes.” (The term comes from the Latin word for “stick.”)
They are iconic, and France’s reputation for incredibly crusty and delicious baguettes is known far and wide.
They say that nothing can come close to the bread you can get in France. I’ve never been, so I can’t say for sure, but I think you’d stand the best chance if you make it yourself.
How could anything be better than a freshly baked loaf of bread? That crackly crust, the tender, airy crumb inside, steamy and yeasty and just begging to be torn into!
Give it a try. It’ll only take 4 simple ingredients and a few easy steps to make this easy baguette recipe. It’s mostly downtime!
French Baguette Ingredients
This French baguette recipe is made with just 4 simple ingredients.
Water: Water brings the yeast to life and hydrates the bread. You’ll need both warm water and cool water for this easy French baguette recipe.
Warm water first, to dissolve the yeast. You want it to be warm but not hot, like a baby’s bath. Aim for around 105 degrees F. If the water is too hot, it can kill the yeast.
The cool water comes later, and the exact temperature is not as critical. The exact quantity can vary based on different factors. Use the minimum amount needed to achieve a stiff, shaggy dough.
Yeast: I prefer dry active yeast for bread baking. It allows a slow enough rise for the flavor to really develop, and it’s easy and convenient to buy and store.
Instant yeast is another option. If you go this route, you’ll only need 0.75x the amount, and you can cut the rise times down by 15 to 20 minutes.
Either way, be sure to check the expiration date on the packet and make sure it hasn’t past. If it has, the yeast could be dead and your bread won’t rise properly.
Flour: Bread flour is my favorite for this baguette recipe, because it has a higher protein content and therefore yields a strong crumb and a chewy texture.
However, a lot of readers have tried experimenting with alternative types of flour, and you can read about their results in the comments section below.
Salt: Salt carries all the flavors and intensifies them. Feel free to adjust the amount used to your own taste.
I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine and that can leave a bitter taste) so the flavor is pure, and it’s very inexpensive and easy to find.
How to make this Easy baguette recipe
Despite only having 4 ingredients, the results of this easy baguette recipe are magical. And it’s all because of the technique!
Start by dissolving the yeast in warm water.
While that is doing its magic, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Create a little well in the center, and add in the yeast mixture. Stir it around, taking flour from the outside edge and bringing it into the well, a little at a time.
Next, add a bit of cool water. Keep stirring and adding water as needed until a shaggy bread dough forms.
Now cover it loosely, and let it rest.
Once the dough has had its rest, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and begin folding.
For this type of bread, there’s not a lot of kneading involved. It only needs a few quick folds to become smooth and build strength without overworking the gluten and causing toughness.
Gently shape it into a rectangle, then bring both short sides of the rectangle into the center. Flatten, and repeat.
Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover it tightly. Allow it to proof (or rise) in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Divide the dough into 4 equal portions.
Add a little flour to your workspace and shape the dough into a slender loaf (about 15 inches long) with pointed ends.
While the baguettes are rising, fill a baking pan with water and place it in the bottom of your oven. Preheat the oven and allow it to fill with steam from the water. This is the KEY to a crusty baguette.
Once the loaves have finished their second rise, remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle them with a bit of flour.
Then quickly slash them with a lame razor blade or sharp knife. This is decorative, but it also allows the crust to crack and the bread to expand in a more controlled way.
Place them in the hot oven, and allow them to bake until deeply golden brown. They should feel light and dry on the outside, and when you tap them, they should give a hollow sound.
TIPS FOR MAKING FRESH BAGUETTES
- Make sure your yeast isn’t past its expiration date. Over time, yeast can actually die. Old yeast probably won’t activate and help the bread to rise.
- Watch the water temperature. If the water is too hot it can kill the yeast.
- Be sure to use bread flour, not all-purpose flour. Bread flour has a higher protein content, which helps to get a better texture and that nice crunchy outer crust. King Aruthur and Bob’s Red Mill both make excellent bread flour.
- Don’t forget to score the top of the loaf before baking. Due to the shape of the bread, scoring is necessary to release the gas that forms inside the loaf caused by the oven’s heat. Without scoring, the shape of the baguette can be destroyed.
- Keep the oven door closed during the baking process. Use the oven light to check on the progress of your bread.
- Place the baguettes in the center of the oven, do not place them at the bottom of the oven.
- Use a baguette pan to help keep the bread shape while baking.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you use a baguette?
This type of loaf is infinitely versatile with its crispy crust!
Slice it into 1/2-inch rounds, perfect as a base for bruschetta or crostini.
Or it can be used as a dipper for your favorite party dip recipe.
And the best way we like to enjoy it is toasted with garlic butter for garlic bread. So good with a pasta dinner!
Or tear into it and eat it with your favorite soup recipe. So satisfying!
How do you keep a French bread baguette fresh?
Baguettes are best when freshly baked, but they’re still pretty fantastic the next day or even a few days later!
To store a French baguette, wrap it loosely and keep it at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
If you notice it’s not as crusty after a while, pop it in a warm oven (around 170 degrees-ish) for 5 or 10 minutes, and it should come out good as new.
Can you freeze a baguette?
A fancy French boulanger might disagree with me, but I say go for it!
I do this a lot at my house. When the baguette is still fresh, slice it down into thin rounds. I’ll often cut on the diagonal, so there is more surface area to spread yummy things on.
Then slip the baguette slices into a zip-top freezer bag, and into the freezer they go.
We pull out what we need whenever we want a slice of crusty French bread.
The baguette slices thaw in just a few minutes at room temp. Or they can be warmed in the oven or toasted up. It’s super convenient!
Why is my baguette flat?
If the dough is too sticky, the bread can sometimes bake up flat.
Another reason your baguette may turn out flat is if the yeast dies. This can happen if the water is too hot when you add the yeast. The water should be warm but not hot, like a baby’s bath. Aim for a temperature of around 105 degrees F.
Lastly, if you allow the unbaked loaves too much time to rise, they could over-proof. This basically means the yeast “tires out.” As soon as those loaves look doubled in bulk, whisk them right into a preheated oven.
Why is my dough sticky?
This can happen if too much water is added. Be careful to use only as much water as is needed to make a stiff, shaggy dough. Keep in mind that the dough will hydrate as it rests.
How many French baguettes does this recipe make?
This recipe makes four slender baguettes.
If you prefer a thicker loaf, divide the dough into just 2 or 3 loaves.
Hopefully, this takes the mystery out of the crusty French baguette!
You can do it yourself, so don’t let anyone intimidate you! You’ll love the result, and everyone will be so impressed!
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Crusty French Baguette Recipe
- Place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside and allow the yeast to dissolve and become foamy.
- Place the bread flour into a large bowl and stir in the salt.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and stir in the dissolved yeast.
- Add the cool water, a little at a time, while stirring, just until a stiff, shaggy dough (watch the video below to see what this should look like) has formed (you may not need to use all of the water).
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, gently press it into a rectangle, and fold the short sides into the center. Flatten, turn 90 degrees, and repeat.
- Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 to 2 hours).
- Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, and shape each one into a long loaf (about 15-inches long and 1 1/2-inches in diameter), with pointed ends.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, and place a pan of water on the bottom rack.
- Uncover the baguettes, sprinkle them lightly with flour, and make 4 elongated slashes down each one with a lame, razor, or sharp knife.
- Bake the breads until crusty and brown (approx. 30 to 40 minutes). The baguettes should give a hollow sound when tapped.