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How to Make a French Baguette Posted by on Apr 12, 2012 in Cooking, Culture

Ok, granted, not everyone can easily learn how to “make-and-bake” a French baguette, but with just a little patience and a fair amount of practice, you hopefully won’t need a “baguette magique” (magic stick) to do that!

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Combine the steps of the video above with the detailed tricks listed below, and you may actually end up baking a good baguette !

  • When mixing the dough, you can do it though the “autolyse” method: Mix the water with unbleached bread flour, then wait some half an hour until the water is absorbed by the bread floor before adding the yeast. Add to the yeast some knead and salt. After the dough rises, deflate it and turn it out on a surface that is sprinkled with some flour.
More on “autolyse” here!
  • Divide the dough into three equal parts with a knife or a dough cutter. Cutting them into equal parts makes sure that all three will bake in the same time. Roll them tightly.
  • Flatten the dough with your hands, and roll it well while tucking it in with your fingers, until the outside of the dough stretches without tearing apart.
  • Seal the seam to pinch the dough together. Make sure that there isn’t too much flour on the dough, otherwise the seal won’t stick!
  • Add some water to the seam while pinching its sides together.
  • Roll the baguette by putting your hands on both sides of the middle of the loaf. Going outward, keep rolling the dough back and forth, until the loaf lengthens into a rope-like shape. By doing that, any trapped air will be expelled toward the ends. Then shape the other dough into long loaves.
  • Once you did that, put the shaped loaves on a well-floured textile surface, like a pastry cloth (See picture below), then tuck folds of the floured cloth around the loaves sides in order to support the dough when it rises and to pull apart the baguettes.
  • Let the dough rise for half an hour in an oven warmed by a pan for example. The point is to keep the dough in a warm enough area for it to rise to almost its double size (See the video above.)
  • Once it does that, cover the loaves with a damp towel. Make sure you heat the oven before.
  • Put the loaves with the side of the seam down on a cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet.
  • Here’s where it gets a bit tricky mes amis: If you have a cutting board, tuck the edge of the board between two loaves and use a fold of the pastry cloth to flip one loaf onto the peel. Go to the cornmeal-baking sheet. Careful here: The dough might fall and then all you would end up having is a flat rock-solid baguette!
  • Do the same with the other loaves, then swiftly cut the loaf under the surface of the dough with a knife into three or four parts. This will let gas escape without bursting the seam.
  • Take the baguette pan to the oven and sprinkle the walls of the oven with water to make a burst of steam. Bake until you get a golden brown color.
  • Once you’ve done that, the loaves should sound hollow when you tap the bottoms!
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