In the world of bread, the humble baguette can’t be beat. The versatility of this crusty, yet soft, thin loaf could pair up with any weeknight (or weekend) dinner. French dip in the crockpot? Cut large pieces of baguette as your roll. Going lighter with a salad loaded with veggies and protein? How about some crisp toasted baguette slices or croutons? Name any soup under the sun, and I’ll guarantee you the baguette could go alongside.
And for as simple and tasty as baguettes are, I don’t hear of many people making them. Maybe it’s the strange looking pan that they’re baked on? But that’s actually not needed (just nice to have for a rounded loaf). Or perhaps the French name gives people the impression that it’s difficult. Either way, I’m here to tell you that baguettes don’t have to be hard to make. In fact, it’s as easy as mixing five ingredients in a bowl, letting them sit, and eventually shaping that dough into two loaves. Slide in oven. Boom. Done.
The Whole Grain Baguette
Around here, I do like to use freshly ground whole wheat flour when I can. This recipe can be made using all whole wheat flour. As you would expect, this can lead to a heavier baguette. If that’s your thing, go for it. In the case of the baguette, I do use a little unbleached flour to lighten them up and give a bit more crunch to the crust. Whatever you decide (all whole wheat, some, or none) this recipe is delicious! The original recipe was given to me by a friend, and back then I just used all-purpose flour. I’ve grown in my whole-grain ways though, and now I use one part all-purpose to three parts whole-wheat. You can even throw in some Italian herbs and parmesan for a little variation.
The recipe makes two baguettes. One for now, one for later. Or two for now, none for later. Your choice. Once these loaves come out of the oven at our house, kids (and the husband) come out of the woodwork. Butter slathered chunks are inhaled and loaf one ends up as an appetizer. So, I’m not going to judge how many loaves your family eats in one day.
3 cups whole wheat flour (freshly ground, if possible)
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour (I love King Arthur)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon yeast
2 cups warm water
- Stir yeast into one cup of warm water; set aside and let it dissolve. (Reserve your 2nd cup of warm water for later.) While the yeast is blooming, measure flour and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine.
- Stir in yeast/water mixture and reserved cup of warm water. Mix well. The dough may be wetter than a typical bread dough, but that’s okay.
- Cover your dough with a clean cloth and let rise for 4 hours. I usually let my dough sit covered in the microwave, since there’s no draft and it tends to be a bit warmer than the rest of the kitchen. Disclaimer: the microwave isn’t on, so if you need to warm something up, simply take your dough out, nuke your food, and put it back when you’re finished using it. After four hours, take dough out of bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough, so it’s easier to cut and shape.
- Using a pastry cutter or butter knife, divide dough in half. Then gently shape dough into two thin loaves. They don’t have to be perfect, so no worries! Place your loaves on an oiled baguette pan (if you have one), or a large cookie sheet. Cover the loaves again with the kitchen cloth while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees. You can also place a small pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven; this creates a moister baking environment and a crisper crust. (I usually use my smallest pyrex baking pan half full of water for this.)
- Once the oven is heated, remove kitchen cloth from the loaves and use a sharp paring knife to cut small slits across the top of your loaves. This will give your loaf extra room to rise in the oven.
- Finally, place your loaves in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are golden brown on top. (For an extra crispy top crust, you can lightly spray the tops of your loaves with water every five minutes during baking.) Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes on the pan; then place them on a wire rack to finish cooling.
What you’ll have are two delicious loaves that go with almost any dinner, lunch, or appetizer. They’re super simple to make, and with only five ingredients (one of which is water), they’re much healthier than the store bought variety that has an endless list of ingredients. If you only need one loaf, wrap the other loaf in tin foil after it’s cooled and freeze it. Simply pull the frozen loaf out when you need it and heat in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes (keep the tinfoil on while heating in the oven).
I’d love to know what your favorite way to use a baguette! We’re pretty simple with our butter, but bruschetta is always fun too. Let me know your favorite treat with these crispy loaves. Have a great week!