I have baked a lot of bread but I wasn’t very successful with the Baguette for a long time. That was till I discovered the easier Same Day Baguette recipe. Some you might be wondering what a Same Day Baguette is. Traditionally, most French baguette doughs need about 10 hours to ferment and develop. This means that they’re started the previous day. A pre-ferment like a poolish or a sponge is first made and mixed into the dough the next day. A Same Day Baguette is one which takes about 4 hours to make, from start to finish.
A Baguette is a long thin and crusty French bread, typically about 24 to 30 inches long. It is made with flour, yeast, salt and water. Baguettes have a crisp crust and chewy interior. They’re considered stale and lacking freshness if the crust is soft. The French take their bread very seriously, I understand. They typically slice Baguettes into pieces and serve them in a bread basket to accompany the meal on the table. In a more casual home setting, the entire Baguette is kept on the table. It gets passed around the table with each person tearing off a piece as they want with their meal.
You can also use Baguettes in sandwiches like submarines and paninis. Fresh Baguette is excellent with soup, stews and salads. You can have Baguettes plain, fresh from the oven or with olive oil drizzled on it. The French also like to spread butter and jam on Baguette slices to dunk in coffee or hot chocolate. Baguettes are good for Bruschetta, garlic bread and bread pudding too. Stale Baguette is best for croutons.
There are few stories about the origin of Baguettes. One credits them to Napoleon Bonaparte. He supposedly asked for skinnier bread sticks of specific measurements so soldiers could carry them in their uniforms. Another story says Baguettes were created to prevent French metro workers from carrying knives. Apparently, they were an unruly lot given to fighting with their lunch knives! Baguettes could be easily torn apart and did not need knives to cut them.
Some consider Baguettes were created because of certain laws. One story attributes Baguettes the result of a post French Revolution decree. They were considered bread equally affordable by the rich and the poor. Another tells of a French law from the 1920s that forbid bakers to work before 4am. This didn’t give them time to make the traditional round loaves in time for breakfast. So they came up with the skinny Baguette to work around the law.
This Same Day Baguette recipe is based on Dan Leader’s well known Four Hour Baguette recipe. You can find his recipe on the net, developed for home cooks to bake a Baguette like one from a professional bakery. His recipe literally takes about 4 hours from dough to crusty bread. His recipe makes three Baguettes. I scaled it down to make two because I have a pan that makes two. I used to use floured couches to proof dough for long breads but now I have a pan for that. This is easier and less messy too.
Same Day Baguette
- 1 cups lukewarm water
- 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- Approximately 1/2 cup ice cubes for the oven
- Whisk the yeast and lukewarm water together in a large bowl. Let it sit for about 10 minutes till frothy. Stir in the flour and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then mix in the salt and knead the dough till it is smooth and supple. This is somewhat wet dough so I would suggest kneading by hand to get a good feel for the dough. Add more of flour, just a little at a time, to make the dough manageable. Too much flour will change the texture of the Baguette.
- Use a bench scraper to scrape and fold the dough at the beginning while kneading when it is sticky. A little flour, if necessary, and further folding/ kneading will make the dough stick less and smoother. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat uniformly. Cover loosely and let it rise for about 45 minutes till double in volume.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press it out lightly (do not deflate) into a rectangle. Fold the longer side of the rectangles towards the middle. Now fold the shorted sides to the middle. With seam side facing down, place the dough back in the bowl. Cover loosely and let it rise for about an hour, till double in volume.
- Divide dough into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into an approximately 14-inch rope. Place the ropes, with enough space in between them, on a floured piece of parchment on a large wooden peel or rimless baking sheet. Lift the paper between the ropes to form pleats. Place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under long edges of paper. This creates supports for the dough ropes allowing them to rise withut spreading outwards.
- Alternately, you can buy special cloth “couches” or a Baguette pan like I have. Cover loosely and allow to rise for another 50 minutes to an hour. About 20 minutes or so before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 475 degrees with a baking stone or upside-down rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack. Place a cast-iron skillet on the bottom rack.
- When ready to bake, remove dishtowels and pull the parchment paper flat. Don’t do this if using a Baguette pan. Using a sharp thin knife or scoring blade/ lame score four diagonal cuts across the top of each loaf. Transfer the parchment paper and loaves or place the Baguette pan on the heated stone/baking sheet. Pour ice cubes into the cast iron skillet and close the ove. This will create steam allowing the bread to completely rise before forming a crust.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes till deep golden brown in colour. Cool and serve, preferably slightly warm.