I know what many of you will say when I suggest making baguettes at home: “Why?”

i hear you Really If you happen to live near a great bakery, or if you just don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen, it might not be worth the effort. But I know many others – those who, like me, find project baking an exciting and productive way to spend part of a weekend – will be amazed at how fun and rewarding the process can be.



Among technical breads, baguettes are well-suited for home baking because they are usually made with commercial yeast rather than dough riser. This means that there is no need to store starter and feed it in advance before you can start. In fact, the entire list of ingredients could not be simpler: flour, water, yeast, salt.

With so few ingredients, a successful baguette, with a thin, ultra-crispy crust and a hollow, creamy-tasting interior, depends on flour choice. You want a flour that will facilitate enough gluten development to trap gas produced by the yeast to create internal holes of various sizes, but not so much that the dough has difficulty stretching into its characteristic long and thin shape. This means using flour with a 10 to 12 percent protein content (check the side of the bag for this information). At 11.7 percent, King Arthur all-purpose flour is a good, widely available choice, and it contains some barley malt, which improves fermentation and flavor.

Since the final dough must be strong but not too strong, the mixing is not too intense and can be done by hand. You actually want to leave the dough a bit underdeveloped, meaning it won’t feel particularly smooth or elastic after mixing: A series of folds made while the dough is rising (or bulk fermentation) will encourage gluten development. At the end, the dough will feel strong, smooth and much less sticky.

While the list of ingredients and mixing are relatively simple, getting the necessary equipment to make well-shaped, classic baguettes is more of a challenge. Two items — a 4-by-20-inch wooden transfer shell to gently move the delicate loaves and a 13-by-20-inch wooden board to slide them into the oven — require some planning. Both can be purchased online from specialty bakeries, or you can visit a hardware or home improvement store and have pieces cut from ¼-inch plywood. I chose the second option, which set me back about $10. Instead of the board, you could use a rimless baking sheet or pizza peel, but make sure it’s at least 18 inches long and 12 inches wide to accommodate the loaves.

Also crucial are a lame and a large baking stone. A lame, curved razor blade attached to a handle cuts cleanly through the soft dough so it spreads evenly in the oven. You can find one at well-stocked kitchen stores and online, although a utility blade from the hardware store makes a decent substitute. A baking stone radiates heat out and into the dough, helping the loaves rise quickly and bake to a shiny finish. You could bake the loaves on a large inverted baking sheet, but you won’t get the same results.

Once you have all the equipment, plan your timeline. The dough rests overnight in the refrigerator, which helps improve the flavor of the bread and the quality of the crust, while also giving you some flexibility. Start by making the poolish (a kind of preference, like fardo starter but made with store-bought yeast) in the morning on the first day, mix the dough in the evening, refrigerate it overnight and bake at your convenience the next day. The recipe makes three baguettes, but if you don’t want to bake them all at once, you can return part of the dough to the fridge and bake it later.

Handling baguette dough that is soft and somewhat sticky can be difficult. Try to use a light touch and minimal flour when shaping, and know that the first dozen baguettes you make at home may not be picture-perfect. Fortunately, a wobbly baguette will still taste good, and I doubt anyone will care when they tear into the crispy crust.

While this may not have persuaded many casual home cooks to try their hand at baguettes, I know there are intrepid bakers out there who are already getting out their kitchen scales. If you’re in that group, congratulations — you’ll soon be richly rewarded.

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