I love bread. Oh, man, I really, really love bread. And there is nothing better than fresh-from-the-oven homemade bread. Here’s an easy but yummy homemade baguette recipe. It makes three loaves, which probably lasted all of 27 minutes at our house. I don’t even think they cooled enough to touch before the human vacuum cleaners sliced it up and chowed it down.
This is a really simple recipe, just yeast, flour, salt and water. That’s it. The best ones are always simple.
So, start with the yeast. 1 1/4 teaspoons of yeast and 1/4 cup of very warm water and let it sit for three minutes, so it looks like this.
While the yeast is doing its yeasty thing, mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Then add the yeast and the rest of the water.
Mix it all well and then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is supple but not too smooth–maybe 5 minutes or so. I’ve found that making bread is a great stress reliever. All that kneading is good for getting out your frustrations.
Then, it’s back into the lightly oiled bowl to let it rise until doubled, about 2 hours or so. The recipe says to cover with a towel, but I find it works better to lay a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap over the dough. After it’s risen, gently punch it down, fold it over on itself and let it rise until doubled a second time.
Once the dough has risen, you get to have some fun with it. This part involves lots of stretching and folding.
Divide the dough into thirds,
and stretch the first piece into a rectangle.
Go ahead and leave air bubbles in the dough. Fold the top down and the bottom up like you’re folding a letter.
Roll the dough into a log and seal the seam gently by pinching slightly. Fold it over by a third three times, seal the length of the loaf and then repeat. Do the same thing with the other two dough balls. Once that’s done, gently roll the loaves until they’re long and baguette shape and put the loaves on a baguette pan if you have one (as you can tell from the photo, I don’t). Otherwise, a lightly floured baking sheet will do.
Let them rise again until they’re nice and plump, but not quite doubled in size. While you’re waiting preheat the oven to 500 degrees. I have to turn mine on about the time I put the bread on to rise, because my oven is the slowest preheater on the planet (otherwise, I LOVE my new stove).
Once they’re ready to put in the oven, use a sharp knife and cut some slashes in them, more or less vertical. Mist the loaves with a spray bottle or plant mister.
If you don’t have a baguette pan, you can use a baking stone, which should preheat with the oven. I also don’t have a baking stone–I lost it in one of the moves–so I cooked mine on the baking sheet. Place an empty water pan (another baking pan or a small cake pan will do) on the bottom shelf of the oven.
Put your bread in the oven, pour a cup of VERY hot water into the water pan. Close the oven door. One minute later, mist the loaves and the oven walls and do it again two minutes later.
Bake for about 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes longer, until they’re golden brown.
Place the loaves on a cooling rack and prepare to fight off the hungry hoardes.
And now that I’ve given you my favorite quick-and-easy bread recipe, I’d love to hear how it worked for you–and I’d love to have your favorite bread recipe as well.
And here’s the recipe, all in one place.
1 1/4 tsp yeast
1/4 cup very warm water
4 cups unbleached flour.
Tip: substitute 1 cup unbleached flour with 1 cup cake flour for a softer textured recipe baguettes.
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tbsp cool water
Combine yeast and warm water, stir, and let stand for three minutes. Combine flour(s) and salt in a separate bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture and the cool water. Mix with your hands. Place recipe baguette dough on floured kneading surface and knead until dough is supple but not too smooth. This will take about four minutes. (Use a minimum of additional flour).
Cover recipe baguettes dough with towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
Knead for six minutes or so, until dough is smooth and stretchy. Place dough in oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with towel and let rise until doubled (about two hours).
Push the dough down gently and fold over itself. Shape into a ball; cover, and rise again until doubled. Place dough on lightly floured surface, divide into thirds, and stretch the first piece into a rectangle. Leave large bubbles in dough. Fold top down and bottom up, as if folding a letter. Roll the loaf to shape into a log. Press lightly to seal the seam. Fold the dough over by a third three times, seal the length of the loaf, then repeat. Aim at drawing the skin tight over the surface but leave some bubbles.
Seal the skin without tearing or deflating. Set aside, and shape the other two pieces of dough the same way.
Roll each recipe baguettes back and forth until each loaf is longer. Put the shaped loaves on a baguette pan if you have one, or on a lightly floured baking sheet lined with parchment paper if you don’t. Cover with a floured cloth and rise for half an hour or until loaves are plump but not doubled.
While recipe baguettes dough is rising, heat oven to 500 degrees. If you are not using baguette pans, place a baking stone in the oven to preheat, and place an empty water pan under the stone.
Cut a series of slashes on the top of each baguette, running vertically. Take care not to deflate the loaves when cutting. Mist the loaves with a mister or plant sprayer.
Place the baguette pans in the oven, or gently slide the loaves onto the heated baking stone.
Pour a cup of very hot water into the water pan. Close the door. One minute later, mist the loaves and the oven walls. Close the door. Mist again in two minutes.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes or longer until the loaves are golden brown. Cool on a rack.