Makes: 3 small baguettes

If you’re looking for something to do while it’s bitterly cold outside, here’s a 4-hour project with a delicious result! Sometimes I stumble across a recipe that just looks unbelievable enough (this can’t work, or taste good) to make me want to try it. Such was the case with the 4-hour baguette recipe I found on the Food52 website. Since I’m not a baker, especially of bread, this was even more laughable, but one Sunday I threw down the flour and yeast and went to work.


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups (12 ounces) tap water, heated to 115°
  • 1 teaspoon ( ⅛ ounce) active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 3 ¼ cups (14 ⅔ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ( ⅜ ounces) Diamond Crystal kosher salt (note: if using a fine-grained salt like table salt, fine sea salt or other brands of kosher salt, you will need to use a smaller volume)
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing bowl
  • ½ cup ice cubes

Directions

1Whisk together water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour, and stir with a fork until dough forms and all flour is absorbed; let dough sit to allow flour to hydrate, about 20 minutes. Add salt, then transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven or microwave. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

2Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and shape into an 8-inch x 6-inch rectangle. Fold the 8-inch sides toward the middle, then fold the shorter sides toward the center, like a T-shirt. Return dough, seam side down, to the bowl. Cover with plastic again, and return to oven. Let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3Remove bowl with dough from oven and place a cast–iron skillet on the bottom rack of oven; position another rack above skillet, and place a baking stone or upside down or rimless sheet pan on it.

4Heat oven to 475° F. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and cut into three equal pieces; shape each piece into a 14-inch rope. Flour a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet; place ropes, evenly spaced, on paper. Lift paper between ropes to form pleats; place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under long edges of paper, creating supports for the loaves. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

5Uncover; remove towels, and flatten paper to space out loaves. Using a sharp razor, knife, bread lame or scissors, slash the top of each baguette at a 30–degree angle in four spots; each slash should be about 4 inches long. Pull out the oven rack with the stone or baking sheet on it and, using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone or pan. Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms). Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes; cool before serving.

My verdict: Amazing! While Maison Kayser has nothing to worry about (yet), these were everything you’d want a baguette to be—good flavour and a great crust. Much better than anything we can get locally. The texture of the bread itself needs a little work, and my slashes were barely noticeable (time to get a lame, my single edged razor blade wasn’t cutting it – literally), but I’m really nit-picking now. Frank paid them the ultimate compliment, saying “we’ve had worse baguettes in France.” I’m not sure how you would do this without the cast iron pan, ice and pizza stone combo – it sounds weird, but it works wonderfully! I added the sugar to the recipe, it makes the yeast work better, but it’s not essential.


About the author

Anne Maxfield is a New York based food influencer and blogger who dreams of making the South of France her home. When she’s not tracking down cheese or making her own charcuterie, she writes the Accidental Locavore blog and contributes to the Huffington Post. This article is adapted from a post on her blog.

Originally published on our sister site, France Today

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4 COMMENTS

  1. What’s the point in putting in a recipe like this, which doesn’t include any European measures or temperatures and contains information such as “… place a cast–iron skillet on the bottom rack of oven; position another rack above skillet, and place a baking stone or upside down or rimless sheet pan on it.” This has little meaning when not explained, a skillet being round and seldom available. But it doesn’t need to be explained for, if we read further, the author states: “I’m not sure how you would do this without the cast iron pan, ice and pizza stone combo.” Well, neither do I, so we still don’t have any idea of how it all works. What a waste of time for Europeans, even, like here, for native-English speakers.

    • Hi Lionel,

      I tried this recipe myself, and the idea behind the skillet is to provide a vessel for the ice to sit in while it melts and evaporates. The additional moisture in the oven allows the bread to rise to its full capacity before a crust forms and restricts expansion. A round skillet would be fine so long as it fits within your oven, but I have seen other chefs simply throw their ice cubes into the bottom of the oven!

      If you don’t have a pizza stone any baking sheet will do in its stead, but it must be rimless (if you only have a rimmed baking sheet, you can turn it upside down for much the same effect). This is because it’ll be pre-heating in the oven and you want to be able to slip your floured loaves onto it without negotiating a rim!

      As far as the US measurements are concerned, we let our contributing writers use whichever measurements they create their recipes in. If you have a smartphone or home assistant like Siri or an Amazon Alexa you can always ask them to convert the measurements as you go – that’s what I do when I use an American recipe and it works a treat – and it’s hands-free too! 😊

  2. I use French flour because I am allergic to stronger flours. This sounds perfect and I am drooling at the thought of trying it.

  3. Whats wrong with Lionel? teaspoons and cups sizes and just google the temps etc. The recipe says you can use sheet pan. You just need to create some steam which ice cubes or a pan with water in it underneath the rack in the oven that you have your baguettes….to produce a crust. This is used for any bread recipe that you would like a lovely crust. Suggest Lionel takes some cooking lessons. Cup sizes that are American is so easy compared with weighing everything. I live in Australia. Love this recipe and have made them with success.
    Valérie T

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