How to Make French Baguette

This classic French baguette recipe breaks down the step-by-step process to achieve artisan homemade baguettes! This recipe produces authentic French baguettes with a crusty outside and a fluffy, chewy inside. Pin it for Later »

Close up of french baguettes

This recipe was developed in partnership with Red Star Yeast. Thank you for being supportive of me working with brands I use and love. For more recipes, yeast baking tips, and coupons visit RedStarYeast.com and check out their social media pages for more yeast bread inspiration! Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google +

French Baguette Recipe Overview

Skill Level: Advanced | Techniques Used: Pre-Ferment (Poolish) & Stretch & Fold Method for Bread Making

Baguette is a classic French loaf of bread that is characterized by its long, thin shape and crispy crust. French baguette is a lean dough, meaning there is no fat present in the dough, which creates a chewy texture inside of the loaf. The word baguette in French means baton or stick, and therefore is sometimes referred to as “French stick bread.”

The process of making an authentic French baguette recipe takes a little time and some understanding of bread technique. However, the best way to perfect the baguette craft is to practice. Making this simple rustic bread is extremely rewarding.

Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

  • To truly get a full understanding of the whole process of making French baguette, read the entire post and recipe through before starting to make the bread. This will ensure a complete understanding of the timing and techniques.
  • While most of the special equipment used to make bread dough is optional and can be mimicked with other kitchen items, a kitchen scale is the one piece of equipment that is very highly recommended. A scale is a small investment and by far the best way to accurately measure ingredients for bread dough.
  • The water used in this recipe is slightly cooler (90 F, 32 C) than in most bread recipes. This is due to the long fermentation period needed.
  • French baguette dough is a very wet dough. It is important not to add more flour than the recipe states. Keep your fingers damp when working with the dough to prevent sticking.
  • Due to the high hydration ratio, this dough is essentially a no-knead bread. In order to form the gluten structure that kneading produces, the bread is fermented for a longer period of time with several brief stretch and folds throughout.

Red Star Platinum Yeast with french baguettes

How to Make French Baguette

There is not one single authentic technique for making French baguette, rather many ways to approach it. This technique will produce artisan loaves that have a thin crispy crust with characteristic large holes in the chewy center.

Note: I prefer to utilize Red Star’s Platinum Superior Baking Yeast for my baguettes because it increases oven spring and creates a beautiful texture for the bread. However, you can also use their quick rise yeast. Active dry yeast can be used in place of the instant or rapid rise yeasts, but the fermentation period needs to be increased. See recipe notes.

Mix the Poolish

Most French baguettes start out with a baguette starter, also known as a pre-ferment. This means that some of the water, some of the flour, and a little yeast is mixed together and allowed to ferment before the final dough is mixed.

This recipe utilizes a poolish, which is a French pre-ferment that has a high ratio of water to flour. The advantage of adding a poolish to the dough is that it greatly improves the flavor and texture of the dough. The poolish is mixed together at least 6 hours before and up to 10 hours before making the dough. I recommend doing this the night before making the bread.

Poolish after fermintation

Mix the Dough

After the poolish has fermented, it is combined with the rest of the ingredients for the dough. A baguette is a lean dough so it literally only contains 4 ingredients: water, flour, yeast, and salt.

Stir together all of the ingredients for the dough. At first it will seem like there isn’t enough water and you may need to use your hands to lightly knead the dough in the bowl. The dough will come together. Do not add more flour or water. The dough will look shaggy at this point, but you do not want to knead it after all of the flour is hydrated.

Shaggy french baguette dough before fermintation

The Stretch & Fold

Baguette dough is a very wet (high hydration) dough. Because of this, the dough is not kneaded as it is with many other bread doughs. Rather, it is allowed to slowly ferment with a series of brief stretch and folds.

The stretch and fold technique serves three purposes: redistributes heat within the dough, puts yeast back in contact with its food source, and layers the gluten to build the gluten structure within the dough.

The dough will ferment for 2 hours, with 3 rounds of brief stretch and folds between each 30 minutes. To stretch and fold, lightly damp your fingers (this will help the dough not to stick) and pull up on the side of the dough and fold it back down on itself. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Do this until you have stretched and folded all 4 sides of the dough. Turn the dough over, cover, and allow it to ferment for 30 more minutes until the next round.

Demonstrating the stretch and fold technique for french baguettes

Prep the Oven

To prep your oven you need a surface to bake the loaves on as well as a surface to create steam. The oven should be preheating for at least an hour before baking so that every part of it is extremely hot.

A baking stone or baking steel are by far the best surfaces to bake bread on. If you do not have one of these, then you can use a sheet pan turned upside down. Position your baking surface on the middle rack in your oven.

To create steam in your oven, preheat a cast iron or other oven proof skillet on the very bottom rung in your oven. You want the skillet to get very hot so when you throw ice cubes into it in the oven it will immediately start evaporating, creating steam. This helps with oven spring and the texture of the bread.

Pre-Shape and Rest the Dough

After the dough has fermented, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Next, pre-shape the dough. The point of this process is to start creating tension in the dough so that it will rise up instead of spread out.

Pat the dough into a rectangle and then pull out on the short sides. Bring the short sides into the center and press with your finger tips to seal. Then bring the long ends into the center and press to seal. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes to let the gluten relax before the final shaping.

Demonstrating pre-shaping french baguette dough

Shape the Dough

After the dough has rested, shape the dough by folding down on the long sides and sealing in the center several times until a tight log forms. Keep your fingers damp while doing this to prevent the dough from sticking.

Demonstrating shaping french baguettes into tubes

With the seam side down, roll the dough into about 14″ (35 cm) long loaves. Transfer the shaped loves, seam side down, to a lightly floured lint free cloth or baker’s couche to rest. Push the cloth up around each loaf to create folds that will help the dough hold its shape.

French baguettes proofing

Let the Baguettes Rise

Cover the baguettes and let them rise until about double in size. This should take about 45 minutes.

Transfer & Score the Baguettes

Once the baguettes have risen, transfer them onto a parchment lined pizza peel, unrimmed baking sheet, or sheet pan turned upside down. This way you can slide the parchment right onto the hot baking surface.

To transfer the dough, use a baguette board, or a small cutting board. I have a small wooden cutting board that I use to flip the baguette onto it by pulling up on the towel and then flip it back onto the parchment paper.

Transferring french baguettes to bake

Using a sharp knife or a bread lame, score the top of the baguettes. The cuts should be going vertical at a slight angle down the baguette about 1/4″ (0.5 cm) deep. The start of the next slash should overlap slightly with the end of the slash before it.

Scored french baguette loaves

Bake the Baguettes

Fill a bowl up with about 2 cups worth of ice cubes and set it near the oven. You will need to work quickly and carefully.

Open the oven and slide the parchment with the baguettes onto the preheated surface. Pour the ice cubes into the hot skillet and quickly close the oven door. Bake the baguettes until they are golden brown and sound hallow when tapped.

Baked french baguettes

Perfecting the art of making artisan homemade French baguettes takes practice. But even imperfect ones taste incredible and each attempt unveils a deeper understanding of the process.

Classic French Baguette

Yield: 2- 14" (36 cm) Baguetts
Prep Time: 11 hours
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 11 hours 40 minutes
This recipe produces authentic artisan French baguettes with a thin, crusty outside and a fluffy, chewy inside. This recipe creates two baguettes about 14" (36 cm) in length. 

Ingredients

For the Poolish

  • 89 gr (3/4 cup) bread flour
  • 89 gr (6 TBSP + 1 tsp) filtered water, slightly warm (about 90 F, 32 C)
  • 1 gr (1/4 tsp) Red Star Platinum Yeast or Red Star Quick-Rise Yeast

For the Final Dough

  • 209 gr (1 3/4 cup) bread flour
  • 62 gr (2.2 oz, 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 163 gr (1/2 cup + 3 TBSP) filtered water, slightly warm (about 90 F, 32 C)
  • 1 gr (1/4 tsp) Red Star Platinum Yeast or Red Star Quick-Rise Yeast
  • 6 gr (1 1/4 tsp) Morton Kosher salt (use the same amount by weight of other kinds of salt. If using Diamond Kosher, the same amount would be about 2 2 1/2 tsp)

Instructions

  1. Make the Poolish: The night before making your baguettes or at least 6 hours before, make the poolish. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the poolish. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for at least 6 hours, but preferably 8-10 hours.
  2. Combine the Dough: Add the rest of the ingredients for the baguette dough into the bowl with the poolish. Stir until well combined. It will appear as if there is not enough liquid at first, but as you work it together it will become a sticky dough. You may need to use your hands to knead it slightly to hydrate all the flour. As soon as all of the flour is hydrated and you have a shaggy dough with no dry spots, cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let it set at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Stretch and Fold: After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, you will do a series of three stretch and folds with the dough. With the dough still in the bowl, lightly dampen your hand (this will prevent the dough from sticking) and pull on one side of the dough and stretch it up and then fold it down over the top of the dough. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and do the same with the next side. Do this again until you have stretched all four sides of the dough up and over on itself. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 30 more minutes. Stretch and fold the dough for the second round. Cover and let rest for 30 more minutes. Stretch and fold for the third round. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 more minutes. This is a two hour process from when the dough is mixed to when it is ready to be shaped. Four 30 minute resting periods with three stretch and folds in between.
  4. Prep the Oven & Other Equipment: During the final resting period, prep your pans and your oven. Position one oven rack in the very bottom position in the oven and another rack in the middle position. Place a cast iron skillet or another heatproof skillet on the bottom rack and a baking stone, baking steal, or a sheet pan turned upside down on the middle rack. Preheat your oven to 500F (260C). You want your oven and pans to be heating for at least an hour before the bread goes into the oven. You will also need to set up a lightly floured lint free towel or baker's couche to let your shaped dough rise on. Additionally, prepare a pizza peel or an unrimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
  5. Pre-Shape & Rest the Dough: If you have a scale, weigh the dough and divide it in two equal pieces by cutting it (do not tear it). Each piece should be about 305 grams each. You can also eyeball this if you do not have a scale. On a very lightly floured surface, press one piece of dough out into a rectangle and gently stretch the short ends out. Fold each short end into the center and press down with your fingertips to seal. Fold each long end into the center and press with your fingertips to seal, creating a seam in the dough. Set the dough aside and repeat this process with the second piece. Cover the pieces of dough with plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Shape into Baguettes: With the seam side up, press the first piece of dough into a thin rectangle. Starting at the top left edge, begin folding down the dough about 1/2" (1.5 cm) and sealing it with your fingertips, working your way across the top. Repeat this process, continuing to fold down on the dough and sealing to create a tight log. Once you have a thin, tight log, turn it seam side down. Using both hands, roll the dough on the counter-top, working it into a long thin snake shape. Try to keep the dough as even as possible and work it into about a 14" (36 cm) baguette. Move the piece of dough to your prepared towel or baker's couche. Push the towel or couche up on both sides of the baguette to create folds to hold the dough's shape. Repeat this process with the second piece of dough.
  7. Let the Dough Rise: Cover the pieces of dough with plastic wrap and let them rest for 45-60 minutes until doubled in size.
  8. Transfer the Dough & Score: Place a baguette board or a small cutting board right beside one of the baguettes. Gently pull up on the towel to flip the baguette over onto the board. Move the baguette over to the parchment lined pizza peel or unrimmed baking sheet. Gently flip the baguette onto the parchment paper, so that the seam side is down. Repeat this to move the second baguette over. Using a very sharp knife or a bread lame, cut 4-5 slashes in the top of the baguettes.The slashes should go diagonally and at a slight angle, going about 1/4" (.5 cm) deep.
  9. Bake: Fill a small bowl with about 2 cups of ice cubes. You want to work quickly and carefully when transferring the baguettes. Open the oven and gently slide the whole piece of parchment paper with the baguettes onto the preheated baking stone or sheet pan. Quickly pour the ice cubes into the preheated skillet and immediately shut the oven door. Turn the oven temperature down to 475F (246 C). Bake for about 40 minutes or until the baguettes are a deep golden brown and sound hallow when tapped.
  10. Cool: Allow the baguettes to cool before slicing. This will completely develop their flavor. Baguettes are best when eaten the same day. However, leftover baguette can be wrapped in foil and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Notes

  • Using a scale to measure the ingredients is highly recommended for this recipe.
  • Keep fingers damp when working with this dough to prevent it from sticking. It is a very wet dough and you do not want to add more flour into it.

Nutrition Information:

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 370

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35 comments on “How to Make French Baguette”

  1. This is such a thorough and well-written post!! Awesome job. 

  2. Wondering if I can just use all purpose flour instead of bread flour

  3. omigosh I love this! Baguettes are sooo delicious

    Rating: 5
  4. French bakers claim that there are 5 ingredients in a good baguette. Flour, water, salt, yeast and patience. The last one is the bit that most Anglo-Saxons miss. If you don’t believe me try Googling ‘French Baguette’ and see how many recipes you get for instant or quick. Basically you can’t get a tasty quick baguette and this recipe proves it – yummy!!

    Rating: 5
  5. For how long do we stretch and fold each time?

    • Hi Pierre! You only stretch each of the 4 sides of the dough as you go around 90 degrees each time. So this should only take you about 15 seconds. It is a very different process than kneading. If you see the little video clip, I stretch and fold it, while turning the bowl 90 degrees each time. Once you go all the way around once, then stop and let it rest again. Hope that helps!

      • Thank you for the clarification. I really like your recipe and how you wrote it. I am following the instructions accurately. I hope I don’t screw it up.

  6. Having recently returned from France I decided to become an expert baguette maker. Having never made bread before in my life I did what any reasonable person would do and put my trust in google to help me out. I looked at dozens of recipes and kept coming back to this one as one that seemed the most complete, descriptive and well thought out.

    I followed the directions fairly precisely and cruised through to step 5 before I started encountering “issues”. Not wanting to mess with the ratios the granite countertop i was using to roll the dough to create the logs was very, very lightly dusted. Well, this didn’t work at all. It was just a sticky mess that I couldn’t really get anywhere with so i pushed ahead. Not having a couche, I used floured up a tea towel and set my ‘loaves’ inside, covered with plastic and let them rest for 45 minutes.

    This is where things really got off the rails.

    When it was time to take the risen loaves and get them in the oven i had sticky mess that had no intention of giving up it’s death grip on my towel. Frustrated, I scaped the dough off and quickly reshaped the ‘loaves’, plopped them on the parchment paper on my peel. I didn’t have much hope but attempted some slits which didn’t really hold their shape much at all, so in they went onto the stone in my oven along with some ice cubes in the skillet as I waited nervously for creation to finish.

    After about 30 minutes (I forgot to dial the oven back to 475) they were clearly done so I pulled them out and let them cool for a while before i had my first taste, and let me tell you, these were absolutely delicious. Amazing crust, chewy interior with great flavor. It was great tasting, very ugly, loaves of bread.

    Undeterred I plan to continue my quest for perfection. The one thing i know I did wrong was in using AD yeast but only resting 30 minutes between stretches. This is the most obvious thing I missed, but not sure it’s the only reason I had such a hard time shaping, handling and slitting the loaves.

    A couple of questions:

    1) Do you see any problems or adjustments that I’d need to make to double the recipe?
    2) What would be the effect of letting the poolish sit for say 14 hours? I don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn to have hot, fresh bread for dinner, but also don’t want to have to make bread in the morning if I start the poolish the night before.
    3) Any tips/hints on getting the dough easier to handle, especially on the tea towel for the long rest? I’ll probably invest in a couche at some point but want to get this a little more nailed down before i do. It might be I need to use more flower during shaping phase but I was trying to real careful not to mess up the ratios.

    Thanks!!
    Love this recipe and can’t wait to do it again.

    Rating: 5
    • Hi Mike! I’m so glad to hear you are embarking on the quest to perfect baguettes! They are quite the process and it is a learning curve for sure! Baguette dough, since it is so high hydration, is quite a thing to handle. I would suggest as you are learning to not beat yourself up too much if you do feel you need to add a little more flour. I know I encourage not doing this in the recipe, but a little more flour might help you as you are gaining a feel for the dough. High hydration dough takes tons of practice and adding a little to get your shaping down will not ruin your baguettes. You can dial it back in the future as you become more skilled. You can definitely double this recipe without making adjustments. In fact, this is a pretty small batch for baguettes so a double batch would be a more typical amount of dough. You can let your poolish go for 14 hours and up to 16 hours but I wouldn’t go beyond that unless you put it in the refrigerator. It will begin to get really acidic if it goes too long and the yeast will begin to die. I would suggest using much more flour on your towel to prevent it from sticking if you are having this problem. The dough won’t really absorb that flour into it. And once you transfer the baguettes before they go into the oven, you can use a pastry brush to brush some of it off if there is a great deal of flour on the outside. I hope this is helpful and please let me know if you have any more questions!

  7. Can the poolish sit for a longer period of time? Say 15-17 hrs?

    • Hi Michael! If you let a poolish sit too long the acidity of it will get too high and the yeast will likely begin to die. 16 hours is typically the absolute maximum you would want it to sit out at room temperature. If you do need to let it go much longer, you can refrigerate it to slowly ferment for up to 3 days. Hope that is helpful!

  8. Great information really helped me get a grasp of the process

    Rating: 5
  9. If I substituted 1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour instead of the 1/2 a cup of all purpose flour as indicated in the recipe above will it ruin the baguette?  I would like to add whole wheat for the health of it.  Can this be done without affecting the bread negatively?

    • Hi Chris! Yes, you can definitely substitute 1/2 cup of the flour for whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture so I always suggest subtracting 2 TBSP per cup you are substituting. So you would want to replace 1/2 cup (60 gr) of the white flour with 1/2 cup minus 1 TBSP (52 gr) whole wheat flour. Hope that helps! Let me know how it turns out!

  10. This was a fun recipe to make and the family loved it. It was super rainy here the day I baked and I think that caused the recipe to turn out too wet. I subbed the all purpose flour for sprouted wheat and used a sour starter for the polish which both added to some yumminess! My loaves were also really dark after 20 minutes so I took them out. They probably could have taken a few more minutes for the crunchy crust but the interior was amazingly chewy and flavorful! Can’t wait to make it again!

    Rating: 5

    Attachment  Untitled-1.pdf

    • Hi Jonathan! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed making these! They look so good! Do you by chance have an oven thermometer? I wonder if your oven is cooking hotter than it says?

  11. Fix your measurements. They are all messed up. For example in the poolish, 3.2oz is NOT 3/4 of a cup.

    • Hi JP, The measurements are correct. I have checked them many times and made this recipe at least 6 times. 1 cup of flour weighs 4.25 ounces so therefore 3/4 cup of flour weights 3.2 ounces. Perhaps you are confusing volume vs weight? 1 cup is 8 ounces by volume, but what is listed here is weight measurements which varies by cup based on the ingredient. All ingredients are going to weigh a different amount per cup. Let me know if I can help with the recipe in any way!

  12. Is it possible to freeze the baguette dough before it is left to rise for the last time. We will not eat two baguettes in a day. Also I want to give my guests fresh baguettes so it would be useful to be able to freeze them and bring them out the day before to finish them off and bake them.
    Just in the process of making my first batch.

    • Hi Pauline! You can freeze yeast dough, however I have not tried to freeze this particular dough. What I actually prefer to do is to bake both loaves, let them cool completely and then wrap one well and freeze the cooked loaf. The day you want to serve it or gift it let it thaw at room temperature and then get the crust slightly damp. I use a clean kitchen towel and get the towel damp and then wrap the loaf in it for a few seconds. Then put the loaf in the oven at 325 F for about 15-20 minutes. This will refresh and crisp up the crust. If you do want to try freezing the raw dough, I would freeze it after the final shaping before it rises. Allow it to thaw and proof at room temperature. I’m really not sure how long this will take so you may need to experiment with it. I’m sure it will take at least several hours. And once it is proofed then you can go ahead and bake it. Let me know how it goes!

      • Thank you Bettie. I will try what you suggest, and let you know. I have to say for my first attempt the bread was absolutely delicious. My husband and I ate the whole loaf in one go, (I only baked one). Thank you for such good instructions and a great recipe.

  13. You have water listed twice in recipe was that meant to be. My dough never looked like yours in pic was very runny. Had to throw out. I want to try again today but want to check first

    • Hi Marguerite! I’m so sorry for the confusion. My website just got updated to a new recipe plugin and a few things got messed up. I’ve been going through all of the reicpes on my site to make sure they are correct but it is taking me a little time. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I have just updated it.

  14. Hey Bettie great recipe!! I think I’m now embarking on a new bread making journey because of this post!! I’ve made it twice this week but they are still turning out to be a bit dense. I’m not sure how to get more big air bubbles in the bread. What could be some reasons that I’m not getting the chewy and bubbly insides?

    Attachment

    • Hi Jessie! It’s possible that you aren’t building enough strength in the bread during the turns and shaping. You need to get a really nice tension on it so that it holds in the gasses. It is also possible that you just need to proof a little longer. You can experiment with increasing the proofing time after shaped. Another option would be to cold proof them overnight. A long, slow, cold proof can really improve the texture and flavor of the baguettes. I do want to update this article soon to include more information for more advanced techniques, but try increasing proofing time for now. Hope that is helpful!

  15. I used this recipe for making french baguettes for the first time and they came out perfect. The directions are very easy to understand and I was so pleased with the end results. The crust is crunchy and the inside is chewy and flavorful. I did have to cut the cooking time to 20 minutes. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

  16. I used this recipe for my first attempt at french baguette and it turned out quite good. I think my dough wasn’t as strong as it should have been, but I still got a light and airy and chewy interior and an amazing crunchy crust. If such a thing is possible, there is too much crust because I divided the dough into three baguettes instead of two because I wanted to give one away but also have enough for my dinner guests tonight. Good thing, since I’m going to finish one before anyone even gets here…

    See my instagram page for a video in which you can here the crust ‘crackling’ as it cools!

    Rating: 5
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