Our baguette uses a preferment, which helps to create a crisper, crunchy crust with a moist interior and an irregular crumb. The small amount of yeast and the longer fermentation impart a decisively nutty flavor.
Makes 3 baguettes.
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- ¾ cup lukewarm water (80 degrees F)
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra flour for preparation
- 1 ¼ cups water
- 1 ¼ teaspoons fine sea salt
- Yellow cornmeal, for preparation
- In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Stir in the flour and salt until a soft dough is formed. Cover and refrigerate 12 hours.
- Remove the preferment from the refrigerator. Let stand until at room temperature, 1 hour.
- In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, combine the preferment, flour, and water. With a dough hook attachment at low speed, mix until the dough forms a shaggy mass, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough. Let the dough rest 15 minutes.
- At low speed, mix the salt into the dough. Increase the speed to medium. Knead the dough 8 to 10 minutes. Test for proper gluten development---The dough should be smooth and elastic and pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
- Lightly oil s lsrge mixing bowl; transfer the dough to the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a cool, draft-free palce, 1 hour. Fold the lough down to deflate. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 3 equal parts. Flatten 1 piece of dough into a rectangle, with 1 long side facing you. Fold the bottom third of the dough, letter style, up to the center of the rectangle. Fold the remaining dough over the top to meet the opposite edge. Starting from the left, use the palm of your hand to seal the seam. Gently roll the baguette back and forth into an 18”-long log, tapering the ends. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough.
- Line a large baking tray with clean tea towels. Sprinkle the towels lightly with flour. Arrange the baguettes, seam-side up and about 1” apart, on the prepared towels. Gently pull up the towel between each baguette to form a pleat 1 ½” to 2” higher than the tops of the baguettes. Cover the baguettes with damp tea towels and let rise in a cool place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, at least 20 minutes before baking, place a large baking stone on the center oven rack. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Sprinkle a baker’s peel with cornmeal. Carefully transfer 1 baguette, seam-side down, to the prepared peel. With a lame or a sharp serrated knife, cut 3 shallow diagonal slashes, slightly overlapping, lengthwise down the center of the baguette. (A lame is a 3-inch long stainless steel rod to which a double-edge razor is attached. It is used to score the surface of breads.) Working quickly, open the oven door and generously spray the entire oven cavity with water (taking care not to spray the oven lightbulb) to create steam. (If you don't have a spray bottle to create steam, place a baking pat at least 2 inches deep on the floor of your oven. Preheat the pan along with the baking stone at least 20 minutes before baking. Just before placing the loaf in the oven, very carefully pour lukewarm water into the pan.)
- Slide the baguette onto the baking stone. Close the oven door. Bake 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray all around the baguette. Close the oven door. Bake 3 minutes. Repeat spraying the oven walls. Close the oven door. Bake about 25 minutes, until the baguette is dark golden brown. Transfer the baguette to a wire rack and cool completely. (Repeat with the remaining baguettes.)
You don't have to be a master baker like Metropolitan's James Barrett to make delicious French-inspired delights at home. Here are several favorites—some savory, some sweet—adapted by James for the home chef.