Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette

By • March 25, 2014 156 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.

More Great Recipes: Bread, Rolls & Muffins|Rice & Grains|Bread

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Comments (156) Questions (3)

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3 days ago drake richards ll

if you mill your own flour with a stone grinder, can you add amaranth or einkorn flour? If you own a baguette pan can you use that with out the stone. Finally, if you have a convection what would be the time difference.

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3 days ago tamater sammich

1 - For new flours, I experiment using 1/4 of the new flour to the recipe mix. If you've got experience making breads, then paying attention to the consistency of the dough, if it's the same as the dough you usually make, then it usually bakes up the same. If you don't have much experience, then just add a bit more each time you make dough. When you start not liking the results, you've hit your limit for that particular addition. Also, there're books & websites specifically for nontraditional grains.
2 - Yes, you can use a baguette pan; I always do, and have with this recipe.
3 - My oven is convection, and I go by whatever temp the recipe calls for.

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17 days ago slmbrunton

Could you use this recipe and make a standard round loaf instead of baguettes?

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8 days ago mizerychik

I've made this in round loaves, individual rolls, baguettes, and with the standard "French" setting in my bread machine. Every time it turns out excellent. I'm pretty sure that as long as your yeast is active, it's impossible to mess up this recipe.

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3 months ago Beverly Ingram

I made this for the first time Wednesday and it did take about 4 hours. My bread was nice and crusty on the outside and a moist chewy inside with air holes. I thought it was quite good. Thanks for sharing.

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3 months ago ML Mauch

Am I to understand that you leave the oven on @475 for over 50 minutes? Why can't it be turned on during the last 15 minutes prior to baking?

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3 months ago Pia S

Hello - has anyone tried doing this using a natural starter instead of dry yeast? Would be interested in thoughts on proportions. Thanks!

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5 months ago beekeeper

My only complaint would be the use of canola oil which is almost all GMO. About the only oil left that is not GMO is olive oil.

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5 months ago tamater sammich

I believe organic oils would be non-GMO; Spectrum oils, for example. Or you could use butter or coconut oil, as well as the olive oil that you mentioned.

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5 months ago beekeeper

You are correct. I live in a small town with no access to organic oils so I usually don't think of them. Thanks for the heads up.

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26 days ago Nancy Duggan

Don't be too sure: http://www.businessinsider...

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25 days ago tamater sammich

That kind of thing always has, and always will be around. Especially if the price is much cheaper than it 'should' be - be suspicious. When I was a kid, dogfish shark was punched into the shape of scallops! Nowadays I can afford to patronize companies like Spectrum and Eden Foods (which I trust implicitly). This wasn't always the case. I still have to prioritize my food choices. For example, in order to afford certain things I believe to be of utmost importance, I spend a lot of time gardening. (For example, I grow cabbages, as buying organic ones for making sauerkraut and winter storage, as the But it's worth it in the end. Oils are very important to me, and over time I use less and less of them. Oh yeah, treat them like gold, with proper storage and BB dates. Thanks for the article, Nancy.

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6 months 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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6 months 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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6 months 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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6 months 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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6 months 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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6 months 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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6 months 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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6 months 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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7 months 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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7 months 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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6 months 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.

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5 months 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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7 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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7 months ago Edward

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

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7 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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7 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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8 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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7 months ago Nelly

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

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7 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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7 months ago Nelly

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

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7 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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7 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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7 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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6 months 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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8 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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8 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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8 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.