King Arthur Baguette Recipe

From “Magic in the Making” in the November/December 2010 issue of Victoria magazine.

Yields 2
This Baguettes recipe and steam method are used with permission from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook. For more information, see King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook and The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook–Commemorative Edition.
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  1. 1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
  2. 5/8 cup (5 1/4 ounces) cool water
  3. 1 pinch yeast
Final Dough
  1. 2 3/4 cups (11 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  2. 5/8 cup (5 1/4 ounces) cool water
  3. 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
For the Poolish
  1. The night before you’re ready to bake, combine the flour, water, and pinch of yeast in a medium bowl, and mix until well blended. Cover the bowl tightly, and let the poolish rise for 15 hours at 70°. When it’s ripe, the poolish should be slightly domed and very bubbly and fragrant.
For the Final Dough
  1. When the poolish is ripe, add the flour, water, yeast, and salt, and stir to combine into a shaggy mass. The dough should be somewhat sticky, so you may need to add a bit more water.
  2. Turn the dough onto a smooth, unfloured surface to knead it. Though the dough is sticky, resist the temptation to add more flour. After a short time, the dough will smooth out considerably and feel less sticky to your hands. (You may also knead the flour on the medium speed of a mixer for 3 or 4 minutes.) When the dough is smooth and elastic, return it to the bowl, and cover it well to rise again. The dough temperature should be 75° to 78°. Let rise 11/2 hours, folding once after 45 minutes (or more often, if the dough is very slack).
  3. Divide the dough in two, and gently preform rounds. Let it rest for 20 minutes, then shape into baguettes. Place the shaped bread, seam side down, on a couche or a lightly floured tea towel, and let it proof, covered, until it’s not quite doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
  4. While the loaves are proofing, preheat your oven and baking stone to 500°.
  5. Just before putting the loaves in the oven, slash them. Fill the oven with steam*. You may mist the inside of the oven chamber once more during the first 5 minutes of the bake, then turn the oven down to 450° and bake until done, about 25 minutes total. (Loaves are done when they are a deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before slicing.)
Creating Steam
  1. To create a steamy oven at home, here’s the method we recommend: Place an empty cast-iron pan in the bottom of a preheating oven, on the rack beneath the baking stone. Put a kettle of water on the stove, and bring it to a boil just before it’s time to put the bread in the oven. Before opening the oven door, take time to arrange everything you’ll need—the risen loaf, the kettle of boiling water, and a spray bottle filled with hot water. When you’re all set, proceed swiftly: Open the oven door, slide the loaf onto the baking stone, pour about 1/2 cup boiling water into the cast-iron pan, spray a mist of water into the oven chamber, and close the oven door. (If possible, ask a helper to operate the spray bottle while you are loading the oven.) Be careful: Once the water gets poured into the pan, steam rises immediately and a steam burn can happen quickly.
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