Okay, so if you know me at all, you know I love sweet things, right? Like chocolate. Or cake. Or chocolate cake. And vanilla pastry cream. And dulce de leche. And cookies. Aaaanyway, you get the point: I like sweet things. Howeeeeever, I’m hardly a dessert victim. I can easily pass on a brownie. Especially if I didn’t make it myself. Same with cookies. Bland supermarket cookies? No thank you! Greasy supermarket pound cake? Yikes! I’m not that desperate for sugar…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means a purist. Sometimes, only a Magnum Strawberry White will do, regardless of the fact that it’s loaded with artificial strawberry flavoring. And even though I’m a home baker who knows what real buttercream tastes like, I can still appreciate those little star-shaped cookies filled with… what, exactly?? If you’re not Dutch, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about, but let me tell you: they’re good!
But in general, I’m not a dessert victim. I can say no to certain sweet things!
Not so much with bread, though. When it comes to bread, fresh out of the oven, I’m completely and utterly defenseless. Whenever the Rocking Rebel and I buy bread (which is every few days), I immediately stuff it in the freezer before I get the urge to eat the entire thing at once! What can I say: I love carbs! And what do you do when you love carbs? You make homemade bread. And not just any kind of bread. No, you make the best, most gorgeous little French baguettes in the entire world!
I’m not even exaggerating! The Rocking Rebel refused to believe that I made these babies myself. He was convinced that I got them from the cute little bakery that’s just around the corner from our place. Which I took as a compliment, of course…
So what do I like about bread? Well, for starters it tastes and smells amazing! Everyone loves the smell of fresh bread. Then there’s the fact that you can eat an entire loaf without ever feeling full. I’ve tried the same thing with cake, but somehow cake isn’t good for munching. Bread is much easier to wolf down like a starving maniac. Plus, great bread is good on its own, but you can also put stuff on it, like cheese or peanut butter. I loooove lightly toasted whole grain bread with a thick layer of peanut butter. Or white toast with a thick layer of Nutella. And what about a fresh baguette with brie or smoked salmon and capers?
To. Die. For.
And I think summer is the perfect season for bread. Because summer means heat, and heat means long summer nights filled with delicious food. Like wine and pasta. Or beer and hamburgers hot off the barbecue. You can’t have a decent barbecue without bread… Everyone knows that!
Personally, I love small French baguettes like these on days that are particularly hot, when the Rocking Rebel and I are too lazy to cook and wish for nothing more than a cool beer, a hunk of bread, pickles, boiled eggs and whatever else we can find in the fridge!
Sometimes I think those are the best dinners. Especially when there’s Serrano ham and olives involved!
And these little baguettes really aren’t that difficult to make! You start by making an easy starter dough, which basically means throwing together yeast, all-purpose flour, a little sugar and water. You leave the starter to do its thing in the fridge before adding more flour, salt and water. Mix, mix, mix, knead, knead, knead and you’ll have a sticky wet dough that’s virtually impossible to handle. Don’t despair! As it turns out, water is what makes bread delicious. Not the yeast. Not the salt. The water! Remember that.
And – bonus, bonus – a slack dough (a wet dough that’s incredibly sticky and sloppy) will result in a bread that not only has great flavor, but also great texture. Just don’t try kneading this dough by hand. You’ll need a mixer! Take it from someone who has tried kneading it by hand. It’s messy… And I’m the kind of girl that doesn’t mind messy, so that’s saying something! If you own a stand mixer, use the flat beater to mix this dough. Or maybe the dough hook. If you only have an ordinary hand mixer – like yours truly – just use the dough hooks. If you have neither: first get yourself a cheap hand mixer.
Mine cost about as much as eight Snickers bars…
Seriously guys, these baguettes are sooooo good! With or without olives. Although everything is better with olives, right? Right? Well, maybe not… Olive ice cream? Olive chocolate? Eeuw…
But I like olives!
So here’s the recipe:
- a heaped ½ teaspoon of instant-dry yeast
- 300ml (or 1¼ cup) cold water
- 325g (or 2½ cup + 5 teaspoons) all-purpose flour
- the starter dough
- 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon of table salt
- 1¾ teaspoon instant-dry yeast
- 300ml (or 1¼ cup) cold water
- 500g (or 4 cups) all-purpose flour
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the yeast, water and flour. Stir until a sticky dough forms.
- Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 4 hours at room temperature (alternatively, you can put it in the fridge and leave the dough to rise overnight).
- In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar, salt and yeast in the water. Add the risen starter dough and the flour and mix to combine. Using a hand mixer with dough hooks or the flat beater of a stand mixer, knead the dough until very elastic, about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes of kneading, the dough should still be very sticky, so don't be tempted to add more flour!
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 90 minutes.
- Once the dough has risen nicely, divide the dough into 8 equal chunks. Generously dust your counter with flour and plop the chunks on top. Dust the dough chunks with more flour, then start shaping the dough: using your hands, press each chunk of dough down into a flat rectangle and roll each rectangle into a baguette shape.
- Place the baguettes seam-side down onto a baking sheet (or two baking sheets!) lined with baking parchment. Make sure to space the baguettes so they can rise. Using your hands, rub a generous amount of all-purpose flour into a tea towel and loosely place it flour-side in over the baguettes. Leave the baguettes to rise until they have doubled in size (mine took about 70 minutes!).
- In the meantime, preheat your oven to 240°C/460°F (standard oven setting) and place a heatproof bowl with about half a cup of water in the bottom of the oven. This will ensure the baguettes will get a crispy crust!
- Once the baguettes have doubled in size, brush them with water (I used my hands for this) and use a sharp knife to score the baguettes any way you like, then place the baguettes in the middle of the oven.
- As soon as the baguettes start to brown a bit, lower the oven temperature to 200°C/390°F (without opening the oven door). In total, bake the baguettes for about 30 minutes. You can test for doneness by carefully lifting one of the baguettes off the sheet and tapping the bottom. A hollow sounds means the baguettes are done!
- Serve warm (with some of that delicious Cinnamon-Brown Butter Spread) or allow to cool on a wire rack first.
I love making small baguettes like this to make sandwiches out of, so good! (Still working on liking olives though…) How did the crust turn out on these? Crusty or more chewy? It looks like they browned up nice. Can’t wait to try these!
Hi Jana, the crust on these baguettes was deliciously crusty! The crust does soften and become more chewy if you keep the baguettes for a day or two, if that’s more your thing 😉
These were so yummy ^_^ I used the mini-baguettes for sandwiches and left a bunch of the mini-loaves on my friend’s doorstops (because I couldn’t possibly eat them all by myself!).
You’re welcome Hannah! I’m so glad you liked them 🙂
Just made these and they are absolutely delightful! It’s unbelievably dry here in Missouri so I added a tablespoon of water to my starter and ended up only needing three cups of flour instead of four for the dough (crazy, right?!). These baguettes are pairing perfectly with slow-cooker pepperoncini beef and some homemade horseradish sauce. Thanks for the recipe!
The Tough Cookie says
Nice to meet you Ashlyn! I’m so glad you like the recipe 🙂
Hello. This is a real gem of a website. Very well done and Thank you.
I discovered you while looking for classic Swiss and Italian meringue buttercream recipes. Quite obviously, you are a very talented and knowledgeable cook.
Myself, I am what the French call a TOC, which stands for Trouble Obsessionnel Culinaire. I’m mostly old school, Escoffier, Careme, Savarin etc etc and classic French and Italian cuisine but including Indian, Mexican and Thai as well. I do also spend a fair amount of time pestering friend’s grandmothers for their secret recipes and knowhow.
Basically, like yourself, a serious foodie who can spend days in the kitchen preparing a deboned stuffed duck (Dodine de Canard aux Pistaches), for my foodie pals. A real labour of love, but worth it.
I have been baking my own breads for years now and I’m lucky to be in France where there many different types of flours available for bread and pastry making. Typically, I make 1 kilo loaves and chop off about 150g of the dough which gets reserved in the fridge as my starter for the next loaf. This poolish starter is kept in an lightly oiled, loose topped jar marked Thing, because it is “Alive” and often tries to push its way out of the jar. I worry that it will escape and come and murder us in our bed one dark night!
My typîcal mix is 500g flour, 12.5g sea salt (2.5%), a tiny pinch of sugar (if Thing is feeling sleepy), and about 325g or
so of water (about 65% hydration). I too like a slightly wet floppy dough so the hyration percentage changes according to the type of flour in use and if its winter or summer etc. I know I’ve got it right if the dough wobbles like a jelly. Bernard, my friendly baker across the road has been helping and encouraging me develop my baking skills, in return for slices of English Christmas cake, Mince pies, home made jams and bottles of Sloe Vodka etc etc etc
Once the dough is smooth, stretched and elastic I throw it in an oiled bag in the fridge for a minimum of 15 hours to develop it’s flavours before shaping for the final rise which can take several hours the next day. So my bread making usually starts at about 4pm the day before I bake. For my baguettes I use French type 65 strong bread flour, and for soft white rolls and sandwich bread I mix 200g all purpose with 300g strong, and the liquid is 325g of full cream milk and water 50/50 and 10g melted butter.
Bread baking is really an addiction and there are so many kinds to try. Tortillas, Arab and Indian flat breads, Italian breads, it is fantastic. I’m building a clay oven in the garden so I can have proper wood fired loaves and pizzas.
Enough about me. Since you are a serious foodie, you might enjoy looking at some of the chefs I follow.
You can Google and YouTube, Raymond Blanc and also Michel Roux, both Michelin starred chefs in England, and then there is a brilliant website called FX Cuisine too,
Depending on how good your French is there is also: chefsimon.lemonde.fr who is a fantastic chef and reference website for almost any classic recipes and techniques.
So, got to run, but thank you again for your brilliant website.
The Tough Cookie says
Hi Ian, thank you so much for your bread recipe! I can’t wait to try it out 🙂 As far as my French goes, I only know enough to order a croissant in a bakery, but I love Raymond Blanc! He’s so talented and funny. I tried his galette de rois recipe a few years ago and it was absolutely delicious!
Thanks again for stopping by 🙂