Crunchy crust meets airy core
Ooh la la. Our daily bread. Bread has such an essential role in so many cultures. Yet, there are sooooo many different varieties and types, which is funny given that they all have more or less the same few ingredients. Even the way we eat bread differs, depending on where we’re from. While you would think that bread is oh so simple, as it’s generally just water, yeast, flour and salt, the outcomes are incredibly unique. I guess we can all agree though that the proper French baguette is something else: a divine gift from the universe granting us eternal happiness while we eat it.
Let’s talk a bit about flour, shall we? So, anyone who ever ate baguette in France notices how it tastes quite different from that which you can buy in a bakery in your hometown. This is usually due to the flour. The right flour makes all the difference. The perfect baguette has a crunchy crust, a soft, airy core and many, often large holes in the dough. So what is the right flour? To bake the perfect baguette, bakeries in France use type 65 flour. And here comes the bummer: unless you live in France or Belgium, you will probably not find that on any standard grocery store shelf. To make things even more complicated, every country uses a different kind of flour typing and also a different kind of “default flour” (if that term makes sense), i.e., the flour that is most widely available and used for baking. The standard wheat flours you can buy in grocery stores in America are all-purpose flours; in Germany it would be type 405 flour. However, all-purpose flour and 405 flour are not the same. In the UK, the standard is plain flour. While all of these are great for cakes in their own way, they are not ideal for bread, especially not for French-style baguette. So type 65 it is, which means you need to find its equivalent in your country. You want to choose a wheat flour with a mid-protein, i.e., 11.5-12 percent. In the US and Canada, aim to use bread flour; in Germany you want to use 630 or 550, for example.
The other magic ingredient to make your baguette turn out perfect is time, time and time. Let the dough rest, give it time, don’t rush, slow down, shhhhh. If this is a challenge, consider baking baguette as a meditative act of mindfulness in a world full of chaos, stress, rushing to appointments and full to-do lists. “Savoir vivre” as the French say – know how to live right. Slow down a little. It’s worth it. At least for the outcome of the bread, but probably also in general in life.
Ingredients for 1 large or 2 medium baguettes
- 2 1/4 cups (300 grams) flour, type T65/type bread flour/type 550
- 7 ounces (200 ml) of warm water (not hot though)
- 1 teaspoon (approx. 10 grams) of fresh yeast
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 pinch of sugar
- A bit of flour to roll out the dough
- TIME TIME TIME
Mix the water and yeast until the latter has fully dissolved. Then add the salt and sugar and stir it once or twice. Thereby, you make sure the salt and sugar have dissolved and are also able to fully infuse the entire dough. Next, slowly drizzle in the flour and mix it all together using a spatula. Once everything is well-blended, form a dough ball and sprinkle some additional flour on top. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 1.5 hours. Halfway through, fold the dough over once or twice, cover it up again and continue to let the yeast work its magic.
When the 90 minutes are up, shape the dough into a baguette shape and form one or two loafs.
Now you are approaching the finish line. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius. While the oven is heating up, cut diagonally into your baguette and rub a bit of water on top. I recently learned about an amazing trick – instead of using a knife, cut the dough with scissors; I have to say, the bread turned out soooo much better after I applied this little manoever. The scores should be about 1/3 inch / 1 cm deep. It’s crazy how sometimes the smallest little adjustments to a routine are a total game changer. Cutting into the baguette dough is necessary for the bread to expand during the baking process and to allow for a more even outcome, as the dough has a clear direction to move in.
Lastly, drizzle a bit of flour over it… and now let the magic happen. I like to place a little casserole dish with water in the oven as well, as it adds a bit of moisture to the exterior of the bread and makes for a better crust. Alternatively, you can sprinkle some water onto the baguette before letting it retreat into the oven for baking.
Bake your bread for 25 minutes (if you made 2 loafs out of the dough) or 30 minutes (if you made 1 loaf) and voilà… you’ve just created a tasty, crunchy yet airy baguette.