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Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette

Quiche'n'Tell
A 4-hour baguette that's crusty with pillowy insides.
Prep Time 3 hrs 40 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 4 hrs

Ingredients
  

  • 390 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 355 ml lukewarm water 47 degrees C
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • Oil for greasing the bowl
  • 6-7 large ice cubes

Instructions
 

  • Whisk the yeast into the warm water in a large bowl, cover and set aside for 10 minutes for the yeast to get foamy.
  • Using a fork, mix in all the flour (it will be quite sticky), cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for 20 minutes. This will help hydrate the flour and autolyse the mixture.
  • Once the water has been absorbed into the flour, add the salt and transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface. Lightly oil your hands and knead the still quite wet mixture for about 10 minutes. To knead, push the dough away from you using the heel of your palms, fold the dough over once and push again. Repeat this action (using extra dry flour as needed but be careful not to use too much because a dry dough will yield a very dense loaf; the dough must be slightly sticky but handleable) till the dough forms a smooth ball. Transfer it to an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, place in a cold oven and allow to double in volume for about 45 minutes.
  • Once the dough is nicely aerated and swollen, place it again on a lightly floured surface and using gentle pressure with your fingers, shape into a rectangle roughly measuring 8 inches x 6 inches. Then fold in the two 8-inch sides (like an envelope) first and then the two 6-inch sides. Put the dough back into the bowl (with the folded side facing down), cover with cling film and set aside in the oven to double for a further 1 hour.
  • Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured counter and cut into 3 equal portions. Using the flat palms of both your hands, gently roll each portion into 14-inch long tubes (similar to a sausage shape). Lightly dust a large enough sheet of baking parchment and place the tubes side by side on the sheet leaving enough gaps in between to create partitions by gently lifting the parchment (see picture). This helps to keep the tubes in place and allows them to rise upwards rather than sideways to get the shape of a baguette. Place a rolled tea towel or rolling pin to similarly secure both ends. Rest these for 50 minutes for the last rise.
  • Meanwhile, place an iron skillet or thick steel pan at the bottom of the oven and set a rack to fit just above it. Place a baking stone or an upside down baking tray on the rack and preheat the oven to 245 degrees C. It will take at least 50 minutes for it to become super hot (although you can decide based on the size and heating of your oven).
  • Once the dough has proofed, using a pair of sharp scissors, make 4, 4-inch long cuts at a 30-degree angle on the top of the baguettes. Carefully slide the parchment onto the upside down baking tray and drop the ice cubes into the iron/steel skillet at the bottom (the resulting steam helps form the crust). Bake the baguettes for 20 minutes till they are nutty brown and crisp on top.

Notes

Adapted from Food 52