Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette

By • March 25, 2014 • 144 Comments

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Author Notes: This recipe is the aggressive, no-more-excuses shove that you need to start baking your own bread. It will only take you 4 hours of intermittent attention, and won't require a starter nor any equipment you don't already own -- and it will rival your favorite bakery's. Adapted slightly from Local Breads (W. W. Norton & Company, 2007) and Saveur Magazine.Genius Recipes

Makes 3 baguettes

  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) tap water, heated to 115° F
  • 1 teaspoon (1/8 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups (14 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons (3/8 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)
  • Canola oil, for greasing bowl
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  1. Whisk together water and yeast 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.
  2. Transfer 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.
  3. Remove 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.
  4. Heat 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.
  5. Uncover; 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.
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Comments (144) Questions (3)

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13 days ago Edward

It could be the water you're using too. Try bottled spring water and yeast that has a good use date,if the yeast isn't that fresh you won't get the rise no matter what. The room temperature has a lot to do with the rise also. I've made this recipe proofing it in my microwave,just put it in and close the door. An oven that's gas will work too,the pilot light provides enough heat. Put a small pan of hot water over the area of the pilot light and put the loaves in the oven,it should rise there with no problems. Hope this helps you Jill and Jean! :)

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13 days ago Jean

Mine didn't rise easier, I think I'll stick to the no knead bread, I was so looking forward to this working! Maybe I'll try instant yeast next time.

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13 days ago Carole Smith

I have baguette molds as well as cloth liners--
I make bread at least once a week and these are always a favorite.

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17 days ago Jill

My bread did not rise. I have never made bread before so I am clueless as to why that might be? Mine turned out flat and dense but I want to try it again!

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15 days ago tamater sammich

I love answering questions like this, but at this time I'm swamped with planting seeds in their little pots. So as it seems nobody else has time to answer the question, I'll give you this tip: Google (or DuckDuckGo) "My bread did not rise." There are certain classic thing new bakers do. It's not complicated, and I hope you do it, because I'd hate to see a new baker give up before they get going - fresh bread being the luxury that it is, and it being such an appreciated gift. All the best in happy baking to you!

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13 days ago Julie

Three common reasons bread doesn't rise:
Inactive yeast - was your water too hot or your yeast too old?
Rise temp too cold - was your room cool? If so, double the rise time.
Too little structure - more time spent kneading

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24 days ago Emma

Apologies if this has already been answered. I'm totally out of parchment paper - could I use aluminum foil in its place?
Thanks!

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23 days ago tamater sammich

I just mist with oil or lightly schmeer the oil on, and then dust the pan with flour. The first couple times you do it, it might be a little messy, but you'll get the hang of it. You can also sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom, and when you take the bread out of the pan, run your knife around the sides to loosen, and that's fine too.
Yeah, you can use aluminum foil, but tiny bits can stick to the bread, and these can be very hard to see and remove, and you might find yourself asking why you bothered. I try not to use parchment, aluminum, and paper towels, to minimize waste/resources, but do have parchment and aluminum on hand. It's just that thinking about it in advance, I can almost always find a way not to have to use them.

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about 1 month ago stevemr

Has anyone experimented with different flours or flour brands. The recipe calls for all purpose. How would bread flour change the results? What about store brand all purpose vs high end like King Arthur?

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about 1 month ago Jacqueline Ogilvie

I used Rogers All purpose, which is a great store brand in Canada. I had no problems with the recipe and the results were fantastic. Hope that helps

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17 days ago samaar

I have used store brand flour and King Arthur and the difference has not been too great. Also, I have run out of AP flour and subbed in a cups worth of semolina which I preferred. It makes the bread chewier.

Stringio

10 days ago Tan Kee Jing

Stevemr bread flour works too. As bread flour has higher gluten, it will hold the structure better and you will end up with a lighter, more airy crumb. However, as most all purpose flour are finer, the texture of your crumb won't be as smooth.

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2 months ago Miles

This is a great and easy recipe. I used instant yeast (saf-instant). I baked one loaf (which we ate), par-baked the second and then froze that and the remaining dough. We baked the frozen par-baked one and while it didn't rise as much as the first - it was still like brand-new home-baked bread. The crust was perfect. Thank you so much!

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2 months ago Edward

I would like for all of you to bake these loaves of bread and send them to me! Thanks! :)

Stringio

2 months ago Erik Smith

Good Starting point, but I had to modify it quite a bit to get it to work properly:
10g yeast
10g Sugar
10g Salt
415g Flour
375ml water (heated to 125f)

Cut into 2 loaves (3 basically makes sandwich rolls)
Bake 45 mins

The rest of the processes good. Leads to a nicely textured, flavourful bread.

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2 months ago Rebecca @ DisplacedHousewife.com

I just wanted to say that your directions are exquisite. My eleven-year old daughter made this start-to-finish, by herself, and it was amazing!!

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2 months ago Julie

Active dry yeast won't foam in warm water unless there is a pinch of sugar.

You can bypass the entire yeast-in-warm-water step by using instant/ rapid rise yeast instead of active dry. Use 3/4 tsp of instant yeast in place of the 1 tsp active dry and just stir it into the flour. No need to mix it with water first.

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2 months ago Nelly

Really? Does that really work? Why doesn't everyone just use instant yeast?

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2 months ago Julie

It really does work! Many authors do prefer instant yeast and write recipes that call for it. The only exception might be pizza, where active dry yeast can help make a dough that is easier to stretch into shape.

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2 months ago Nelly

Great, I'll try it! Thank you!!

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2 months ago Vanessa

The main reason people prefer active dry yeast over instant is a greater depth of flavour. I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes, but I like to know that my yeast is still alive by proofing it.
If you're using active dry yeast, definitely put a little sugar* into the water.
*or honey, or juice, or ice cream, or really anything sweet. I've even had melted gummy bears work!

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2 months ago Nelly

Gummy bears? That's hilarious! So you've had honey work for you? I've tried it and it didn't work for me. I'd love to use anything other than sugar. Maybe maple syrup would work?

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2 months ago Vanessa

I used the honey for a great braided wreath bread, and it was great! Raw honey though, not the stuff in plastic teddy bear squeeze bottles. As for maple syrup, I don't see why not! I'd love to hear how that works out for you if you try it :)

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14 days ago Julie

Active dry yeast can produce better flavors than instant - but only if you use the same quantity for both. The reason is that active dry rises dough more slowly, and a slower rise produces more flavor. By using 3/4 the amount of instant yeast, instead of a 1:1 substitution, the rise times are the same, flavor is developed and the bread making process is simpler :)

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3 months ago susan

Wow, this absolutely worked for me, with the kitchen towel rollups and the recipe as is. Great and chewy baguette. I thought it was a lot of salt, but the bread tastes fine. I may decrease it by a little next time and see how it goes. I did make one change - I left the loaves on the parchment and ON the baking sheet in the final rise and then put the whole thing in the oven; I did not do a transfer onto a hot baking sheet as prescribed.

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3 months ago John

They make a pan for French bread,they work great you don't need a rimless sheet pan or parchment.

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3 months ago Terry

Just finished baking and; thankfully, I had no trouble. I used Rapid Rise highly active yeast (Fleischman's). I also added 1 teaspoon of sugar because so many reviewers had problems with the first step and used this change. The crust is incredibly crunchy! bu I don't think the bread has any flavor. Slathering on the butter works well! I would make these again.

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3 months ago leigh frat

I don't have a rimless baking sheet. Is it necessary to move the loaves to a hot pan that's in the oven?

Thanks.
Leigh

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3 months ago Amy

I shared this recipe with my Swiss colleagues. One commented that his wife does not like the taste of the yeast here in the states. Is there a recommended brand of yeast or one that is more European in flavor than our standard varieties found in the market? (fleischmanns)

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about 1 month ago stardust4300

You can always use instant potato flakes instead of yeast. My friend has Chrohn Disease and we can't use yeast.

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3 months ago Emily Love

As others have stated below, my yeast did not get foamy and (possibly as a result) my loaves did not rise at all! They are long flat hard pancakes as opposed to the beautiful loaves pictured above. Any tips? Would love to be able to add baguettes in to my staple bread recipes.

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3 months ago Justcookin

Hi Emily -
Did you check the temperature of the water? I always use a thermometer to make sure. Having the rest of your equipment at room temp should help. If your yeast is fresh there should be no problem. As stated previously, you can add a little sugar -even 1/2 t would help the yeast. You might consider were you had the bread rise - check out methods using the oven to proof or I set it on the top of the stove , covered with the oven on. I hope this helps -

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24 days ago Chris Stone

Sounds like dead yeast--don't let it sit too long; it's worth buying new. And keep it in the fridge.

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3 months ago Janet Kuhn Francis

I made this on a whim. My yeast didn't foam, but it did "work", so I figured it would be okay, and so it was. I did consider adding sugar and might the next time. I also didn't find the dough terribly wet, though I added some flour at each process. Also, since I was kneading by hand, 10 minutes seemed like a LOT of kneading, so I went with the smooth and elastic part, rather than the time. For the salt, I added roughly 2 t of plain old sea salt and I found it a bit bland. I will probably up the quantity and add it with the flour the next time, instead of after. The texture was a bit dense, so maybe more kneading....but the crust was wonderful. Also, I didn't even make it to 20 minutes, at about 18 it was going to be burnt if I left it in any longer. But all in all, delicious, easy, and not so daunting that I wouldn't do it again.

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3 months ago Genevieve Keller

10 minutes is a standard time for hand kneading. It helps you form the gluten chains that then will allow for the gas pockets to help the loaf rise and make the holes inside.

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4 months ago Liz Levy

These came out beautifully and tasted excellent. I did have to add almost an equal amount of sugar to the yeast to get it to foam as well as lower the temperature to 100-105 degrees instead of the 115 as stated above. My dough doubled every time except for the last time when in the 14" rolls. They only puffed up just a tiny bit. Once baked, the texture of the bread was thicker and denser (and heavier!) like a Ciabatta instead of the light, gaps of air, french baguette style. Did anyone get the true baguette texture and have tips to share if so?

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4 months ago J

I had the same experience with the first loaf. I saved half the dough in the fridge and tried again a day later-this second loaf was perfect!!! It looked so sad when I put it in the oven, but puffed up within 5 minutes and came out perfect with big holes and excellent flavor/texture!!

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4 months ago Ariane Volk

Can someone help with a more detailed explanation? I'm not a native speaker and i'm having trouble interpreting what happens in step 4. Can someone help? "Lift paper between ropes to form pleats; place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under long edges of paper, creating supports for the loaves", like under the baguettes? I don't get it.

Stringio

4 months ago Justcookin

The "ropes" are the loaves of bread. Place the bread loaves on the parchment paper leaving space between the loaves. Raise up the parchment paper between the loaves of bread and crease them so that the loaves stay long and formed as baguettes. roll up two towels and place them on each end under the parchment paper parallel to the loaves. This will help hold the loaves in place and allow them to raise and stay in the baguette shape. I hope this helps!

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4 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

The step-by-step photos in the article will help too! https://food52.com/blog...

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2 months ago tamater sammich

Thanks for that link. Used to be able to get those step-by-step pics by clicking the white > arrows… so what happened, did something change? I have to admit, I'm confused. I wasn't going to bake the bread because of that, and when I read a comment by rebecca, (displaced housewife) saying her 11 year old daughter making the bread, I became, aside from being confused: embarrassed, too!

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2 months ago tamater sammich

Ok, thanks to the pics, which made everything crystal clear, I'm now heading into step 4 of the process, and it looks like it's going to be a great batch of bread tonight.

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2 months ago tamater sammich

It waa very good. The wettest dough I've ever baked with. So tonight I did another batch, but doubled it, and even though I tried to do exact measurements, it was just a teeny bit less wet. Doubled the loaf sizes, (as opposed to baking 6) baked in long pans, and it's good too. So, ok, it's my new go-to for white flour bread. Or at least my husband says he hopes so. Thanks to everybody including all the great comments.