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How to Make Bakery-Style French Baguettes

Why this recipe works A great baguette is hard to come by outside of France. The ideal: a moist, wheaty interior punctuated with irregular holes, and a deeply browned crust so crisp it shatters into shards. But home cooks rarely attempt to make baguettes since existing recipes provide little instruction and explanation. We wanted to create a detailed, authentic recipe for the home oven. First order of business: the mixing method. We chose a hybrid approach for the ideal structure and open crumb: We mixed the dough in a stand mixer and then folded the dough several times during the first rising period. We got the best flavor when we then gave the folded dough a slow rise—16 to 48 hours—in the fridge. We added a little diastatic malt powder to our dough to boost exterior browning and flavor; during the dough’s long refrigerator stay, the yeast consumed nearly all of the available sugars, and the malt powder unlocked more sugar by converting starches in the flour. A little whole-wheat flour provided even more depth. For a shatteringly crisp, flavorful crust, we covered the bread with a disposable roasting pan while it baked so it could cook in its own steam. If you can’t find King Arthur all-purpose flour, you can substitute bread flour. This recipe makes enough dough for four loaves, which can be baked anytime during the 16- to 48-hour window after placing the dough in the refrigerator in step 3. The baguettes are best eaten within 4 hours of baking.

  • makes 4 loaves
  • resting time 1 to 1½ hours
  • rising time 18½ to 19 hours
  • baking time 17 minutes
  • total time 21¼ to 22¼ hours, plus 20 minutes cooling time
  • key equipment rimmed baking sheet, couche, water-filled spray bottle, baking stone, pizza peel, flipping board, lame, 2 (16 by 12-inch) disposable aluminum roasting pans

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  • ¼ cup (1⅓ ounces) whole-wheat flour
  • 3 cups (15 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
  • 1½ cups (12 ounces) water, room temperature

1). Sift whole-wheat flour through fine-mesh strainer into bowl of stand mixer; discard bran remaining in strainer.

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2). Whisk all-purpose flour, salt, yeast, and malt powder, if using, into mixer bowl. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add water to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, 5 to 7 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer dough to lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 minutes.

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3). Using greased bowl scraper (or your fingertips), fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees and fold dough again; repeat turning bowl and folding dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds). Cover tightly with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding and rising every 30 minutes, 3 more times. After fourth set of folds, cover bowl tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least 16 hours or up to 48 hours.

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4). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter, press into 8-inch square (do not deflate), and divide in half. Return 1 piece of dough to bowl, cover tightly with plastic, and refrigerate (dough can be shaped and baked anytime within 48-hour window). Divide remaining dough in half crosswise, transfer to lightly floured rimmed baking sheet, and cover loosely with greased plastic. Let rest until no longer cool to touch, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

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5). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining piece covered), roll into loose 3- to 4-inch-long cylinder on lightly floured counter. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

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6). Mist underside of couche with water, drape over second rimmed baking sheet that has been inverted, and dust evenly with flour. Gently press 1 dough cylinder into 6 by 4-inch rectangle on lightly floured counter, with long side parallel to counter edge. Fold upper quarter of dough toward center and press gently to seal. Rotate dough 180 degrees and repeat folding step to form 8 by 2-inch rectangle.

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7). Fold dough in half toward you, using thumb of your other hand to create crease along center of dough, sealing with heel of your hand as you work your way along loaf. Without pressing down on loaf, use heel of your hand to reinforce seal (do not seal ends of loaf).

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8). Cup your hand over center of dough and roll dough back and forth gently to tighten (it should form dog-bone shape).

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9). Starting at center of dough and working toward ends, gently and evenly roll and stretch dough until it measures 15 inches long by 1¼ inches wide. Moving your hands in opposite directions, use back and forth motion to roll ends of loaf under your palms to form sharp points.

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10). Transfer loaf seam side up to prepared couche. On either side of loaf, pinch edges of couche into pleat, then cover loosely with large plastic garbage bag.

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11). Repeat steps 6 through 10 with remaining piece of dough and place on opposite side of pleat. Fold edges of couche over loaves to cover completely, then carefully place sheet inside garbage bag. Tie, or fold under, open end of bag to fully enclose. Let loaves rise until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 30 minutes to 1 hour (remove from bag to test with knuckle).

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12). One hour before baking, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Line pizza peel with 16 by 12-inch piece of parchment paper, with long edge of paper perpendicular to handle. Unfold couche, pulling from ends to remove pleats. Gently pushing with side of flipping board, roll 1 loaf over, away from other loaf, so it is seam side down.

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13). Using your hand, hold long edge of flipping board between loaf and couche at 45-degree angle, then lift couche with your other hand and flip loaf seam side up onto board.

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14). Invert loaf seam side down onto prepared pizza peel, about 2 inches from long edge of parchment, then use flipping board to straighten loaf. Repeat with remaining loaf, leaving at least 3 inches between loaves.

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15). Holding lame concave side up at 30-degree angle to loaf, make three 4-inch-long, ½-inch-deep slashes with swift, fluid motion along length of loaf. Repeat with second loaf.

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16). Slide parchment with loaves onto baking stone. Cover loaves with stacked inverted disposable pans and bake for 5 minutes. Carefully remove pans and continue to bake until loaves are deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating loaves halfway through baking. Transfer loaves to wire rack, discard parchment, and let cool for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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problem The bread is bitter and dense.

solution Sift the whole-wheat flour.

We add ¼ cup of whole-wheat flour to the dough to deepen the flavor. But the sharp-edged bran in the whole-wheat flour can cut through the loaf’s gluten structure for a squat loaf, and also impart a bitter flavor. The solution? Simply sift the bran out of the whole-wheat flour, so your bread gets nutty—not bitter—flavor without any textural defects.

problem The bread has a uniform crumb.

solution Shape the loaves gently.

One of the hallmarks of a good French baguette is its open, uneven crumb structure. Be sure to use a gentle hand when following the shaping steps; otherwise, you’ll press out the air that forms the irregular, open, airy holes in these loaves.

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