I always thought homemade bread was one of those really hard things reserved for fancy people. I am happy to report that IT’S NOT! And that is good news for me, my friends, because I loooooove bread. But it has to be the good, crusty, chewy on the inside and hard on the outside kind. Authentic, real bread. French bread.
We were at the grocery store recently looking for some delicious crusty bread to go with a baked brie appetizer I was making for Thanksgiving (and Christmas, and basically any other holiday or non-holiday party recently because it’s so easy and delicious), and I was frustrated by the lack of fresh bread. None to be found. As I yearned for my days in France, I thought to myself, you know, maybe you should try making some…
Alright, so like I said, I thought this was gonna be hard. I was pretty intimidated. But I found this recipe for crusty no-knead bread online and it seemed easy enough, so I decided to give it a try.
What resulted was a crusty yet fluffy, totally authentic-seeming baguette that took me right back to my days en France.
Now if only I had some comté cheese to accompany it…
Seriously, this recipe was so easy, and the bread is so perfect, that I don’t think I will ever buy store-bought bread again. Unless, of course, I am in France and buying it from a boulangerie. I’m for real. It’s that good! I mean look at the crispy crust and the dusting of flour. If that doesn’t scream “authentic French baguette” then I don’t know what does.
Speaking of authentic French baguettes, I recently learned a fun tidbit while watching a French YouTube video all about La Baguette Française. Legend has it that the long, baton-shaped loaves of bread used to be eaten by the wealthy upper class, while the poor lower classes made bread in round, ball-shaped loaves so that they’d last longer. When the French Revolution came about, it was liberty and equality for all, in all things, even bread. And so it was, baguettes for all! And that’s how the baguette became popularized, and is now almost synonymous with French culture itself. It’s not a false stereotype that the French love their bread. It really is a part of everyday life there.
And for good reason, if you ask me. Vive la baguette!
Have I convinced you? Are you ready to make your own baguettes and forever shun store-bought loaves of wannabe “French” bread? Without further ado, here is the recipe.
Easy Homemade Crusty Baguettes
Prep time: 5 – 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 – 45 minutes
Inactive time: depends, see notes below
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Just a quick overview of this recipe. It involves mixing the dough, letting it rise overnight or up to several days, then preparing the loaf, and then baking it on a baking stone if you have one. Initial prep time is about five minutes. When you actually want to bake the bread, give yourself a couple of hours to let it rise at room temp and then bake. I also have some really important notes at the end about achieving a crispy crust, so be sure to read them! This recipe will make 3-4 baguettes, depending on the size. You can cut the recipe in half and get two baguettes like I did.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (lower end if you measure by placing the cup directly into the flour and sweeping off the excess; higher if you measure by spooning the flour into the cup and sweeping off the excess)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 ounce (2 packets) fast-rise yeast
In the biggest mixing bowl you have, combine all ingredients. You may want to halve this recipe if you don’t have a very large bowl, and/or if you don’t plan on eating bread all week long.
With a wooden spoon, mix everything together so that it forms a sticky dough. Now it’s time for the dough to rise. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours.
After two hours, transfer the bowl to the fridge and continue to let it rise overnight or up to several days. The longer you let it sit, the more sourdough-like the dough will become. I’ve made this bread twice. The first time I let it rise for almost a week, and the second time I let it rise overnight and then baked the bread the following afternoon. Both times were amazing.
When you’re ready to make bread, take the bowl out of the fridge. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and grease your hands. Take out a large piece of dough, about the size of a baseball or even as large as a grapefruit, depending on how much bread you want to make. Put the rest back in the fridge until you want to use it.
Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and dust it with flour. Place your dough onto the parchment paper and shape into a long baguette form. It’s going to look small and skinny now, but it will rise and expand later, so keep that in mind. You can also shape this into any form that you choose. I’ve also read that this recipe can be used to make pizza crust, but I haven’t tried it myself.
Let the dough rise/expand and come to room temperature, for one to two hours.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and if you’re using a baking stone, preheat that along with the oven. You can also use a normal baking sheet if you don’t have a stone. Before placing the bread in the oven, slash it a few times with a knife to a depth of about a half inch. Now, place your bread and parchment paper onto the baking stone or sheet and put it in the oven.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, until nice and golden brown. I actually let mine bake a few minutes longer so it’d be nice and crusty. More notes on that below. Once done, remove the baking stone from the oven and let the baguette cool directly on the oven rack inside the oven.
How to get a crispy crust:
I have learned that the secret to getting that awesome, crispy crust is… steam! To accomplish this trick, you will want to preheat a cast iron skillet or metal baking dish in the bottom of the oven while you’re preheating the oven. After placing the bread in the oven, very carefully pour 1 cup of warm water into the hot cast iron skillet to create steam, and close the oven as quickly afterwards as you can. The steam this will create is the key to getting a nice crispy crust.
And one last piece of advice if you’re a hard crust lover like I am. Keep in mind that when the bread has just finished baking, it’ll have a very hard outer crust at first, but it will soften as it cools. To achieve maximum crustiness, you may want to let it bake just a few minutes longer. It’ll probably feel hard as a rock at that point, but trust me on this one, it’ll be perfect once it cools.
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