Bready Things: the Baguette Edition

Hello friends,

Shooting a question out into the universe: Why is bread so good? Specifically, freshly baked bread, and more specifically, a freshly baked, crusty baguette…

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I’ve said previously, making bread can be pretty daunting. There’s the precision in measuring ingredients, so much rising and kneading and folding and the scientific way it all has to come together to bake perfectly. I get why people stay away. For me, baguettes are especially daunting because they’re one of those amazingly wonderful things that people don’t really make at home. Also, because grocery stores in the US do a really good job of fucking up baguettes – making you think that unless you’re a professional baker, your baguettes will turn out hard as a rock with dry insides or grossly soft crusted with dry insides.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to make baguettes, but as a traditional recipe requires a lengthy dough rising process and fancy oven, I always assumed I would have to take a course in Paris…  SO imagine my excitement when Food52 posted an article on a 4 hour baguette that they love! (I obsessively thought about making them every day since they posted it.) Obviously, I was weary of making baguettes at home (visions of dry grocery store loaves filled my mind), but had to give it a try!

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The Food52 article on Dan Leader’s 4 Hour Baguette provides a great step by step guide with images that are way better than any I took, so if you plan on making these, I would HIGHLY suggest looking there. Also, if you’re a stickler for details like me, I would read the step by step image guide while also reading the actual recipe because it includes some extra information like exact timing.

Things I learned from my adventures in baguette making:

  • In the comments section of the recipe people talked about how wet the dough was. I don’t know if it was the temperature of my kitchen or the way I measured the ingredients, but I didn’t really encounter this. The dough was wet, but not too wet? Basically, I wouldn’t worry too much about this. If it looks really wet, add more flour.

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  • Also in the comments section were a lot of complaints and/or confusion about the amount of salt to use if you used a salt other than the one specified in the recipe. I used Maldon and added bit too much, resulting in a baguette that was a tad too salty. Next time I’ll  err on the side of less salt.

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  • The recipe calls for you to preheat the oven with your baking sheet inside while the baguettes rise for the last time. I only have one baking sheet, so transferring my risen baguettes to the oven was pretty rough. Lesson: use a secondary baking sheet or you’re going to have a bad time.

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  • As always, I started making these waaaay too late into the night. The recipe is for 4 hour baguettes not 30 minute baguettes, so start at a time that won’t end in you doing the “finally eating the baguettes I made” dance in your kitchen at 12:46AM.

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While it is still a dream of mine to travel to France and learn how to make the perfect baguette from the experts, I think I have found an incredibly tasty, solid recipe to hold me off until then. The baguettes turned out so well with crispy but chewy golden brown crusts and soft, airy bread inside. I took two of them two work (the recipe makes three) and basically ate half of one while sitting at my desk…

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Food52 mentions that you can make the baguettes if you forget to buy one for a dinner party plus you get bragging rights! While I think it’s beyond crazy that someone would have 4 hours to make baguettes but not go to the store, I completely understand bragging rights. These are really great baguettes AND you made them by yourself AND it only took 4 hours! It’s basically a combination of all things awesome: homemade + baguette = endless compliments on your skillz.

And if you’re not about getting all the compliments (you humble baker, you) at least you’ll have some really awesome bread in your kitchen!

If you didn’t catch the links above:

wishing you the best in your food adventures,