Traditional Crusty French Frog Baguette
A lot more work but worth it.

This recipe is a traditional baguette recipe that takes awhile.  It uses a starter and long rises to get a more hole-filled bread that holds lots of butter or olive oil.

The Starter
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Unbleached Bread Flour (I use King Arthur brand)
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix the starter ingredients together till smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight is good.

The Dough
All of the starter
1 teaspoon instant yeast or 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water*
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Unbleached Bread Flour *
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

*If you use "bread flour," increase the water to 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 ounces).

Preparing the Dough

If you're using active dry yeast (rather than instant), mix it with the lukewarm water; if you're using instant yeast, there's no need to do this. Combine the starter, yeast, water, flour, and salt, and mix and knead them together -- by hand, mixer or bread machine -- till you've made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface should still be a bit rough. Allow the dough to rise, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface. Divide the dough into three pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel or edge of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15" log . Pace them directly onto the pan (lightly greased or parchment-lined - preferred method). Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8” vertical slashes in each baguette.  Cover them with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they have become quite puffy, but haven't doubled in size; this will take about 60 to 90 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450°F; if you're using a baking stone, place it on the lowest shelf. Roll the risen baguettes from the couche onto the lightly greased or parchment-lined pan of your choice -- or onto a peel, if you're baking directly on the stone. Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.  Place the baguettes in the oven.

Bake the baguettes for about 25 minutes, until they're a golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2 inches, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.   Makes 3 baguettes about 15" long, each.

To make stuffed baguettes: divide the dough into six pieces. Flatten each piece into a 5" square. Layer with the stuffing of your choice—a slice or two of ham or salami, some cheese, mustard—and roll up like a jelly roll, pinching the ends and the side seam closed. Finish as directed above, letting them rise, then baking in a 425°F oven for about 25 minutes, until they're golden brown.

This recipe came from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalogue, Spring through Summer 2001.

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As far as I know all the information presented above is correct and I have attempted to ensure that it is. However, I am not responsible for any errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use or misuse of this information, nor for you doing something stupid with it. (Don't you hate these disclaimers? So do I, but there are people out there who refuse to be responsible for their own actions and who will sue anybody to make a buck.)

Updated 2009-01-23