How to make real French baguettes at home
“Pain Tradition” is a standard baguette bread available at any Boulangerie (Bakery) in France. Its taste is so incredible it can be eaten with nothing else. I fell in love with this baguette when I first visited France and have looked everywhere for a way to make it at home in the states.
This recipe is adapted for American at-home bakers from this French video on the same subject. I’ve made this recipe over and over and went through numerous attempts before finding the American products and measurements that produced the same results.
This recipe takes some commitment as you’ll need to invest in a few small tools and a bit of patience as the dough rises, but once you’re ponied up, the ingredients are dirt cheap and make for easy entertainment.
*Optional but recommended
- 4 cups white flour.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour.
- 2 tbsp salt, Sel du Guerande or another gray salt is recommended.
- 1 1/2 packets Fleischmann’s yeast, regular, not quick rising.
- 2 3/4 cup filtered water at 100–110º F.
- 1/4 cup of sugar.
Flour is already very affordable, so don’t go cheap! I recommend King Arthur’s brand and their “Bread Flour” for the white flour.
When I make this recipe, I use two mixing bowls to pour out the contents of the flour for handling. You’ll be accessing the flour more frequently than you think and having them open and ready makes the preparation much easier.
In a bowl, mix the yeast, water, and sugar and let sit for ten minutes
After ten minutes, add salt and mix well.
Pour mixture into a larger bowl and mix well until the dough is combined well and is a little sticky. Add dough or water if needed to allow mixture to be handled. From this point on, only use whole wheat flour for dusting surfaces or dough for handling.
Cover the bowl with a cloth and let sit for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a large cutting board or hard surface. Use your dough scraper to fold the dough in half like a taco one or two times. With this procedure, you’re trying to move the yeast aroud and trap bubbles in the dough. In general, try to trap air as you manipulate the dough.
Let the dough sit, covered by a cloth, for 20 minutes. Repeat this turning and 20 minute wait four more times.
Cut the dough into three equal pieces. These will become your baguettes. Don’t worry if they still look small, they still have more growing to do. Push these lightly into circles. You don’t want to handle them too roughly or flatten them completely as you will push out bubbles and end up with thicker bread (bad). Let these sit for 20 minutes.
If you want to be even more exact, use a scale to measure out each baguette at 40g
Roll up the circles as you would a with a poster going into a tube. Before completing the roll, dust the dough well so that the last bit of fold will let the dough expand into the crevace in the oven. It’s worth pointing out here that with some bread a “lame” (LAHM) is used to cut diagonal lines into the bread. These lines facilitate expansion as the bread rises. We will not do that with Pain Tradition as the fold itself will allow for this expansion.
With your hands, roll the dough out into long baguettes. Make them long enough to go the length of your baguette tray minus an inch or so on each side. If the baguettes spill out too far off the tray, they can bake around the edges and believe me, it’s not fun.
Begin preparing the oven. Your oven will need to be 500º F. You read that right. You’ll also need the oven’s air to be humid. To do this, fill a glass bowl with water and place on the lower shelf of the oven, not the shelf that will hold your bread. Leave this dish in there for the duration of the baking process. Despite the photo showing otherwise, keep your baguette tray out of the oven while it heats as it will need to be cool enough to handle.
Place the baguettes in your proofing cloth by creating little folds and valleys for the cloth to touch most of the bread. Use any remaining cloth to cover the top of the bread.
Let sit for 20 minutes.
Use your baguette transfer board to flip the baguette onto the board, and flip again onto the baguette tray. We use the board because the proofing cloth gives it a nice smooth shape. If we don’t use the board, the bread will wrinkle. The cloth also wicks away moisture from the outside of the bread giving it a nice crispy exterior.
Place the bread in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven once the exterior is a dark brown. The bread cooks quickly, so I usually keep an eye on it minute by minute.