I was inspired to make my own baguettes after a visit to Paris in April 2010.
I baked two batches because the first batch didn’t turn out well. So I learnt my lesson (and mistakes) and tried again, and the second time was much better.
The first time was made completely by hand, while the second time was made with my handy KitchenAid+bread hook. So there are pictures for both techniques.
Don’t cheat on the rising time, we did the first round and it really made a difference. Lesson learnt! =)
4 C plain flour
1 T instant dry yeast
1 t sugar
1.5 to 2 t salt (I like my bread salty and favourful, so I add 2 t)
2 C warm water (about 38 deg C) (IMPORTANT – the yeast needs warm water to grow or proof, but too hot water will kill them)
Start off with proofing the yeast. Proofing is to activate the yeast and make sure it is alive and grows. Dead yeast will give foul tasting flat bread. So it’s important to check that it’s alive.
Use dry instant yeast.
Sprinkle 1 T of yeast into a bowl.
Add 1 t of fine sugar.
Add 1/4 C of warm water (about 38 deg C) to the yeast-sugar mixture. Use WARM water, not HOT water.
Stir it up and set aside for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, add 4 C of flour to a mixing bowl.
Add 1.5 to 2 t of salt. Using the lowest speed of the mixer or a spoon, mix the dry ingredients together.
Prepare 1 & 3/4 C of water.
Check on the yeast. If it’s alive, it will poof up to a foamy mixture with lots of bubbles. If it looked the same as 5 mins ago, that means the yeast is dead and cannot be used.
Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture.
Use a bread dough hook for the mixer. Start the mixer and set it at lowest or 2nd lowest speed. Add water slowly as the mixer mixes the dough.
The mixture will be very wet. Let the mixer run for 5 to 8 minutes.
If you are making the bread by hand, it will be a disgusting mess on your hands. But keep mixing and kneading. It will probably take about 15mins to achieve the same texture as a mixer does.
After about 8 minutes, the dough will start to become elastic. It will look like it has a shiny skin and is stretchy in texture.
If you knead by hand, it should become stretchy to the touch.
The dough will still be relatively wet and sticky at this stage.
Mould the dough into a ball and place it in a large oiled bowl. The oil will prevent the dough from sticking on the bowl.
Cover the bowl with a large damp cloth and leave the bowl in a warm draft-free place for 3 to 3.5 hours.
After 3 to 3.5 hours, the dough should have risen to triple its size.
Using your fist, punch down the dough and release all the air.
Knead the dough some more and let as much air out as possible.
Mould the dough into a ball again. Cover again as per earlier, and leave it aside for 1 hour. Or you can place it covered in the fridge for up to 4 hours.
The dough would have risen again but not as high as the first time. Punch down the dough again.
Lightly flour your table and place the dough on it. Flour your hands as well to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rectangle.
Cut the dough into 3 long strips.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the 3 long strips of dough on it. Stretch the dough to form a shape as long and skinny as possible.
Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 20 mins.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 230 deg Celsius.
When the dough is ready to be placed in the oven, cut 3 diagonal slashes along each roll of dough.
Place a bowl of boiling water into the oven.
Place the dough into the oven and bake for 25 mins (reduce by 3 – 5 mins if using a fan forced oven).
After 15 mins, remove the bowl of water.
Continue baking for the remaining 10 mins or less. And the baguettes will be beautifully browned.
Printable version is here. (large file, please wait for it to download & display)
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