As with any other recipe, start with the ingredients. They include 1 ½ cups of water, 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, 1 ¾ teaspoon of salt, and 2 cups of flour. These are all you need, contrary to what others may suggest. Fortunately, you can buy them in any grocery store, even here in Paris. Once you've got them all, prepare your kitchen for a lot of dusty flour, gooey dough, and even perhaps some spilling or two.
Start the recipe by mixing the yeast, flour, water, and salt all in a bowl. Stir it with a wooden spoon until it becomes thick and sticky, pretty much your standard bread dough. Besides the texture, you'll know you're done when you no longer see any flour residue in the bowl. That means all the ingredients have mixed well with each other and it's time to beat it out to make it even stronger.
When it's finally all thick and sticky, start kneading it. You can either do it in the bowl itself or on a flat surface dusted with flour. Both are good but it's been proven that the latter may be more effective. Do so repeatedly until it becomes soft and smooth, though expect the surface to still be a little rough. If you prefer using a bread machine, put it on the dough cycle. This will inevitably make it the right kind of dough for a baguette.
Once you have your dough, place it in a bowl (or leave it there if you kneaded it inside the bowl) and cover it with a plastic wrap. When it's all sealed, place it inside a turned-off oven to let it rest and rise. Hopefully, it will double in size while it's inside. You'll only need to leave it there for about 45 minutes. Some might suggest that you leave it for about 12 to 14 hours but that's only if you're planning on making many loaves.
After it has risen, put the dough on a flour-dusted surface and let it deflate for a bit. Once it's in the right size, it's time to pat it down to perfect. If you're planning on baking multiple loaves of baguette bread, however, cut them up now before you start padding. Each loaf deserves all the attention you give it, especially if you want them to end up nice and tasty, perfect for with some butter and a hot cup of coffee.
As you pat and roll the dough down, start stretching it to form the famous baguette shape. Yep, it's actually you who will need to form the shape. It doesn't magically get to its signature form without the baker doing his/her own part. The standard size is 38 centimeters, which is approximately 15 inches. Though you can go for longer if you want, do know that the more you roll it, the smaller it will end up becoming. And this means less baguette bread for you.
Once you've achieved your desired form and size, place them greased-up parchment-lined sheet pans. Make sure each log is evenly placed and none are sticking to each other. And once they're well-positioned already, leave it to rest again. You should allot 1 to 1 ½ hour for it—this will ensure it will double in size just like it did in the covered bowl. When you see that it has, it's time to place them in the oven to bake!
Before placing your dough inside the oven, make sure you preheated it at 260° C (500° F). At the same time, place a bowl of water—around 1 ½ cups, at least—and let it boil as the oven preheats. You should also spray water on your dough logs as well. This will ensure that they'll bake nicely whilst in the oven. In fact, you should also do this with other French pastries you plan to bake.
Right before you place your dough in the oven, slash them up first. At 45° angle, tilt your knife just so then slash each dough log. Depending on the size, around 4 to 5 slashes each will do. once you're done with that, place them in the preheated oven to bake. Leave it inside until it's golden brown, which will probably take 15 minutes, more or less. Always remember that it's supposed to look golden brown when it's all done and nothing else.
When the loaves are finally done baking, take them out and let them cool for a bit. When you can finally touch them without getting burned, gently take each loaf out of the parchment paper and into your plate. Then, it's time to take a bit! You can enjoy them however you want, be it with some nice French cheese paired with your finest red or perhaps some sweet filling like fruit jam, butter, and more!
Baguette bread may seem like a complicated thing to bake but it isn't really! You don't need to be some gourmet chef in Paris to make a few loaves of your own. You just need the ingredients and some patients and you can whip it up just as nicely as a Parisian bakery!
If you're already in Paris, what's stopping you from baking some baguette in your luxury home here? It's as fun as buying some in a nearby bakery, that's for sure!