Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette

March 25, 2014

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
Prep time: 4 hrs
Cook time: 30 min

Ingredients

  • 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)
  • 1 splash Canola oil, for greasing bowl
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
In This Recipe

Directions

  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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Reviews (215) Questions (6)

215 Reviews

Michele K. November 16, 2018
Can you use bread flour in this recipe, or is it just not necessary?
 
sharskee June 27, 2018
There are so many bad and vague steps in this recipe. It's incredibly imprecise and also hard to follow (such as with forming the dough). I had to consult other sources several times after the second proof. It was a frustrating recipe for sure. I'd look elsewhere.
 
Nancy June 24, 2018
Not sure what happened, but my dough is not rising. This isn't the first time I have made bread, and normally I don't use a cool oven to let it rise, but this just hasn't worked for me. I live in a sub-tropical region, but I measured out everything and did what was instructed. Any ideas what could have gone wrong? I am using active dry yeast, bread flour, and table salt.
 
Anastasia W. June 24, 2018
How was the consistency of the dough? It should be fairly soft and moist. In my experience, when the dough is too tough, it doesn't rise well, like it's too heavy for the yeast to push up
 
Nancy June 25, 2018
The dough was very tough. I was actually surprised how tough, but I thought that is what was wanted because 3.25 c of flour and 1.5 c of water don't make a moist dough. After reading the comments, I realized everyone who had a good outcome used the weight (which I will be sure to do next time).<br /><br />I managed to salvage it by adding more water, yeast, and flour, and kneading all together and leaving to rise overnight. I don't think it is considered a baguette, but at least I got some bread!
 
ss August 20, 2018
try wetter dough and less salt. Wetter dough will rise much faster, and salt tends to retard yeast development.
 
Kerry S. November 10, 2018
The recipe has way too much salt, and not enough yeast!
 
Cynthia April 20, 2018
Oooo! I love these baguettes! I make bread 3x a week or more, and wanted to try this recipe. The first baguette is gone; must've been a whirlwind in my kitchen. I measured with cups [my scale is temperamental]. Mine turned out blond too, but I didn't care. Absolutely delicious - my husband and sons are never blasé about my breads but they were just astounded at how great these turned out. I wish everyone could have some - there would be no wars. People would be busy saying "Ummmm! May I have more?" instead of fighting. ;) Thanks again.
 
Julia J. April 5, 2018
I followed the recipe exactly and somehow managed to end up with very blonde loaves after thirty minutes of baking. I can't figure out what I did wrong.
 
ss August 20, 2018
I'd try spraying the loaves with a water mister first, instead of the ice cube method. I spray them right before they enter the oven, and then after a few minutes, I quickly open the oven door and throw in half a cup of water onto the oven floor. Hope it helps!
 
Dawn S. March 1, 2018
Heaven!!! I have baked with yeast only twice before with much too dense, unpalatable results (I'm cooking at altitude) and this was my third try. I was super nervous but the warm, heavenly baguette I am currently snacking on is, well, I have no words. I am shocked and in heaven! It's perfect!!
 
Mandy B. January 28, 2018
Just made this recipe today. Best/prettiest/tastiest/easiest baguettes I've made yet. Thank you!!
 
Emily November 26, 2017
Hello - I really enjoy making my own bread but often don't eat it all in the first sitting. What suggestions do ya'll have for storing a baguette that won't fit in a traditional zip-loc? Not expecting a lot of longevity without preservatives or refrigeration, but something that can get me a few days without a stale end would be great. Thanks for any advice y'all can share.
 
Anastasia W. November 27, 2017
It does get stale after a day or so, but I would just toast it. If you want it to store longer, I would pre-slice and freeze. you can pull out a slice or two at a time and toast. That's what I'd do with baguettes in general
 
Anastasia W. August 13, 2017
Just made this recipe. They are by far the prettiest baguettes I've ever made
 
Nancy D. March 18, 2017
No scale will give a readout of 14 2/3 ounces, folks.
 
Erica S. June 15, 2017
Yes, my scale did it just fine.
 
David O. March 18, 2017
The measurements of flour don't agree with each other. 3 1/4 cups does not weigh 14 2/3 oz.
 
Kay P. July 24, 2017
My thoughts exactly.
 
Betsy W. December 15, 2017
The cups are only given as a guide because some people break down into tears when they have to weigh ingredients. The same portion of the same flour on one day won't weigh the exactly the same amount the next day. Weight is more accurate and generally used for precise bakers. The reason for the weight changes from day to day has to do with the ambient humidity which will affect the weight of the flour, depending on how much is absorbed or evaporated off.<br />
 
Gabrielle October 9, 2016
I made the recipe exactly as written and it came out beautifully. So delicious warm with butter. Thanks so much!
 
Helen S. October 2, 2016
Why not just dissolve the yeast, put the flour and salt in the mixer, add the wet ingredients and mix for 3 minutes? Adding the salt after adding the flour is counterproductive. Kneading is kneading whether you do it in a mixer or by hand. My mother did it by hand because she didn't have a mixer that would do it for her. Making things more difficult is not genius - it is exactly the opposite. However, I live in the midwest where we are more practical. <br />
 
Sandy H. October 3, 2016
And obnoxious? Might you have shared your thoughts without the snark? Sheesh...don't know why you even bother reading blogs like this one.
 
Helen S. October 3, 2016
Hi Sandy - Having owned an upscale bakery for 23 years and presently a pastry chef for a 4 star, 4 diamond restaurant, I am coming at this from experience and not snark. I have written 3 books and have a blog, www.pastrieslikeapro.com. It is a blog of my love affair with pastry and baking having done it professionally for about 30 years now. It is a teaching blog that has lots of photos to walk you through whatever I am doing. The point I was making is, this recipe is a basic bread recipe made by the most difficult method imaginable. Why? That's just a question, not snark.
 
Sandy H. October 3, 2016
The tenor in your response strikes my ear more kindly than the original "we are more practical", implying the rest of the country is somehow inferior and impractical. I certainly respect your journey and the knowledge you have acquired through countless hours of dough experience (which the very nature of dough demands). Your point is not lost, the first time and again now. It wasn't the message, rather, the delivery. It would be my privilege, Helen, to get to know you as I too, share a love of the craft.
 
Trish October 9, 2016
Read the introduction! The recipe is intended for anyone to use regardless of equipment available. And delaying adding salt allows yeast to develop better. I
 
dennis' M. November 6, 2016
Really Helen. Aren't you special.
 
Claudia T. December 9, 2018
I think beginner recipes now specify to keep the salt and yeast apart, so people who don't realize how much yeast is a living thing won't kill all their yeast by dumping salt onto it. I have seen it in a multiple beginner books, the warning to not add the yeast and salt at the same time, or to keep them on opposite sides of the bowl at first, etc.
 
Miles September 28, 2016
Just made these again and because I was distracted made two major mistakes. First I forgot the salt and had to add it after I'don't kneaded it and, second, I forgot the folding part. Having done (or not done) all that, the loaves still turned out. Flat, but tasted good. Going to made bread crumbs and make more, with no distractions. So definitely try these! BTW I use instant yeast and have used both APRIL and bread flour.
 
Miles September 28, 2016
That's AP not April : )
 
Farmgirl November 7, 2016
All purpose.
 
Kootenaygirl September 9, 2016
If you are on the fence about these, give them a try. I had started the process before I read the reviews, so I was aprehensive, but they were great. It's a tasty, crusty baguette...super simple to make and I highly recommend them to anyone who, like me, wants to avoid a trip to the shops.
 
Elizabeth April 2, 2016
These were amazing! We love Panera's baguettes and think these are even better! Thanks!
 
Tamar G. February 6, 2016
I have been following this discussion for months. At the risk of being totally negative, I must say that this recipe is nothing special and kind of flawed. I bake bread often and have made far better loaves than this....even when I am just winging it. I wanted this recipe to blow me away.but mostly it was just a multi-step endeavor that was mediocre. Sorry all.
 
tamater S. February 7, 2016
If you have a link, I'd be interested in your favourite recipe. :-)
 
elizabeth M. April 7, 2016
I agree - and wish I would have read your comments earlier. After adding the salt and mixing it was a goopy mess...I've had better luck winging it too.
 
Jacqueline O. February 6, 2016
I use parchment paper at high temperature. The bud says 425 f. I've used it at much higher temps with no disasters.
 
John February 6, 2016
When I make any bread that calls crispty crust , after the beads in the oven about 5 min. I throw in 1/4 water (i have a stone on the bottom)and that makes enough steam.
 
Smaug February 6, 2016
This is too hot for parchment or any silicone product. You could use foil, or the old towel method. You could also use a perforated baguette pan; they work very well. This isn't the first time I've seen ice used for steam (the recipe I learned baguettes from used shaved ice in a dutch oven full of nuts and bolts). I suppose there's some sort of theory behind this, but hot water makes perfectly good steam; it does need to be added somewhat slowly.