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Rest, rise and steam: how to make the ultimate French baguette

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The French baguette is one of the most useful recipes to have in your baking repertoire.

The versatile bread can be teamed with butter and jams for breakfast, topped with all sorts of fillings, or served alongside soups, pasta and salad for lunch or dinner.

They are also surprisingly easy to make – you only need four ingredients to create four medium-sized batons, and the preparation is equally straight forward.

To get you started, the experts at Aubaine have shared their favourite recipe with Stylist, along with a few top tips. 

The golden baguette baking rules

Do give yourself plenty of time – this recipe includes over two hours of resting and rising, and yet more time for kneading and baking.

Do use a baking stone (£16.39, lakeland.co.uk) – this will give the crust the perfect bite.

Do place a medium-sized metal tray on the floor of the cold oven, then add a cup of hot tap water once you're ready to bake – this trick will help the dough to rise.

Don't use old yeast – your baguettes will have the best chance of rising successfully if you use the fresh version (£1.80, ocado.com).

Don't add too much flour when kneading – this will lead to a dense bread that might struggle to rise.

Don't knead the dough for longer than 10 minutes – this could lead to to a dry baguette.

Making a French baguette

The ultimate baguette recipe

Ingredients

  • 340ml warm water
  • 400g all–purpose flour
  • 10g fresh yeast
  • 8g salt

Method

1. Mix the water and fresh yeast in a bowl, and then let the mixture sit for 15 minutes – this will activate the yeast.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, then slowly add the water and yeast mix.

3. Knead the dough until it’s all mixed together and feels slightly sticky – if it's hot outside, you might need to add a little more water to achieve this consistency.

4. Place the dough in a large mixing bowl, cover with cling film and let it rest for 15 minutes.

5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it again until it's smooth and elastic. If it's too sticky, add a little extra flour. Do not knead for longer than 10 minutes.

6. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover it with cling film once again. Let it rest in a warm place for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and cut it into four equal pieces; roll and shape each piece of dough into an oblong shape, each approximately 15cm in length.

8. Place a dish towel on a baking tray, dust it with flour and then place the baguettes on top, equally spaced apart from one another.

9. Cover the baguettes with a wet dish towel and let them rest again for one hour, or until they double in size.

10. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C and place a baking stone on the middle shelf to warm through. Place a medium-sized metal tray on the floor of the oven.

11. Using a sharp knife, slash the top of each baguette with two diagonal lines.

12. Carefully slide the baguettes onto the hot baking stone and pour a cup of hot tap water into the tray on the oven floor – this will produce steam and help the baguettes to rise.

13. Bake the baguettes for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

14. Remove the baguettes from the oven, and serve while they are still warm.


Images: iStock

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