Breadmaking 101: French Baguettes

BREAD! What can I say, we all love it—and making it is not that hard. I have never really made bread because the whole process seemed a little daunting. But since I've started doing it, I've learned to love the procedure of it (and, of course, the finished product).

Did you know yeast is alive? I certainly didn't realize that at first. But in breadmaking, you rely on your living yeast to help make your dough rise. Throughout the process you bring the yeast back to life—pretty biblical and awesome if you ask me. Working in a bakery at Whole Foods, I eat a good amount of bread. But to make your own bread is an act that's deeply satisfying. The first time really made bread was during last summer's Sustainability Education Program at Better Farm. Greg taught us how to make bread and that was when I realized how much I loved it. Once I came back home I started to really work on my skills of baking so I been starting out easy with a French baguette and I just keep make same thing. Here are some easy instructions on making your own. Trust me, each time you do it, it will get easier!

Making French Baguettes
All you need to make a baguette are four simple ingredients: yeast, flour, salt, and water. Here are step-by-step instructions:

2 1/4 tsp. (1 packet) instant yeast
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. warm water (120º - 130º)   

  1.  Put 3.5 cups of all-purpose flour (not bread flour) into a bowl.
  2. Add 2.25 teaspoons of salt in the bowl with the flour it mix it in.
  3. Take 1.5 cups of warm water and add the yeast to the water. Let sit for about a minute.
  4. Slowly add the water with the yeast in to the bowl of flour and salt and mix for 5 minutes. I have a bread hook on my mixer but if you don't, just do this step by hand.
  5. After five minutes, take the bread out of the bowl and let sit for about two minutes. 
  6. Clean the bowl, then coat the bottom of the bowl with a teaspoon of olive oil so the dough does not stick. Return the dough to the bowl and let it sit, covered with a clean dish towl, for 3.5 hours.
  7. Deflate the dough by folding it over. Put the dough back in the bowl for another 2 hours.
  8. Take the dough out and cut into three loafs. Let sit for five minutes.
  9. Now you get to shape the loaves—my favorite part! I watched a video of JuliaChild making a French baguette to learn some techniques and would recommend you do the same if you're new to all this. Don't forget to put three or four slices into your shaped loaves!
  10. Put your shaped loaves on a lightly floured baking sheet and let sit for other two hours.
  11. Slide your loaves onto the bottom rack of a 450-degree oven and bake for 25, spritzing the loaves with water (in a spray bottle) every two minutes for the first six minutes. After the sixth minute, move the bread to the top rack of the oven for the remaining time.
Photos of my bread-making process over time:

first time making it
second time
third time

One the questions people always ask me is, What's the key to baking bread? I think the answer love. If you put your heart into making it, it shows.