Classic Baguettes

Updated Oct. 11, 2023

Classic Baguettes
Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Laurie Ellen Pellicano.
Total Time
1 hour 45 minutes, plus 20 hours’ resting
Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook Time
1½ hours plus 20 hours’ resting
Read community notes

Producing a classic baguette with a thin, shattering crust and tender, slightly sweet interior at home requires both practice and a few pieces of special equipment (see Tip) — using a scale is highly recommended — but it’s an incredibly rewarding process. For the greatest flexibility, start the recipe in the morning the day before you want to bake and refrigerate the dough overnight. You can bake the loaves at any point the next day.

Featured in: The Best Baguette Is the One You Make Yourself

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Yield:3 baguettes

    For the Poolish

    • teaspoon active dry yeast
    • 60grams/7 tablespoons all-purpose flour, with 10 to 12 percent protein content (such as King Arthur all-purpose flour)

    For the Dough

    • ½teaspoon active dry yeast
    • 500grams/3½ cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour with 10 to 12 percent protein content, plus more for dusting
    • 10grams/1 tablespoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) or fine sea salt
    • Semolina flour, for dusting
Ingredient Substitution Guide
Nutritional analysis per serving (14 servings)

152 calories; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 0 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 0 grams sugars; 4 grams protein; 97 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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  1. Step 1

    Make the poolish: The morning of the day before you plan to bake the baguettes, combine the ⅛ teaspoon yeast and 60 grams/¼ cup water (at 75 degrees to 80 degrees) in a plastic lidded container (preferably quart-size, or anything with straight sides and a similar capacity) and stir briefly to dissolve the yeast. Add the flour and mix, scraping along the sides of the container, until thoroughly combined and you have a thick, sticky paste. Smooth the surface, cover and mark the height of the mixture on the side of the container using a tape or rubber band. Let sit at warm room temperature (preferably around 75 degrees) until it triples in volume, and the surface, which should teem with fine bubbles, is slightly domed, 6 to 7 hours (but possibly more or less depending on the ambient temperature).

  2. Step 2

    Mix the dough: When the poolish is ready, scrape it into a large bowl and add 375 grams (a scant 1¾ cups) water, at 75 degrees to 80 degrees, and ½ teaspoon yeast. Stir to dissolve the yeast and as much of the poolish as you can, then add the flour and salt. Using a bench scraper or flexible spatula, mix, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, until all of the flour is moistened and you have a soft, shaggy dough.

  3. Step 3

    Holding the bowl stable with one hand, use your other hand to knead the dough, grasping a handful at the edge of the mass, pulling it upward and pressing it back into the center. Continue to knead, rotating the bowl as you work, until the dough has firmed up slightly and starts to give you some resistance, about 5 minutes. At this point, the dough will still be sticky and textured but should somewhat hold its shape. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then, scrape all the dough into a straight-sided lidded container with a 4-quart capacity, if available to you, coated with a bit of water or very thin layer of neutral oil to prevent sticking. If not, scrape the dough into a single mass in the bowl. Cover the container or bowl and use a piece of tape to mark the height of the dough on the side.

  4. Step 4

    Bulk fermentation: Let the dough sit at warm room temperature (preferably around 75 degrees), for 1 hour, then give it a series of folds: Uncover the dough and, using damp hands, scoop underneath the dough along one side of the container or bowl with both hands and slowly lift it up and out of the container or bowl to stretch it, then lower it back down so it folds onto itself. Repeat this folding process three more times, rotating the container or bowl 90 degrees each time and rewetting your hands to prevent sticking. (You’ll notice the dough will now feel stronger and smoother and hold its shape better.)

  5. Step 5

    Cover the dough again and let it sit, repeating this series of 4 folds every 30 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, has grown about 50 percent in volume and has lots of bubbles beneath the surface, 1 to 2 hours. Give dough a final series of folds, then cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

  6. Step 6

    Finish bulk fermentation: On Day 2, remove the dough from the refrigerator and take a look at it. If it hasn’t doubled from its original size during its rest in the refrigerator, let it sit out at room temperature until it reaches this point, 1 to 2 hours. If it looks doubled right out of the fridge, proceed to the next step.

  7. Step 7

    Divide dough: Lightly dust your work surface with flour, then gently scrape the dough onto the floured surface. Use a bowl scraper, bench scraper or knife to divide the dough into 3 equal portions. (To ensure even loaves, use a scale; each should weigh about 330 grams.)

  8. Step 8

    Preshape the dough: Very lightly flour the surface of each piece of dough. Working one piece at a time and, using floured hands, gently pat the dough into a square measuring about 6 inches across. Working from the side farthest from you, roll the dough toward you into a tight cylinder. Place the cylinders on the floured work surface seam-sides down, leaving several inches of space between them, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rest for 20 minutes.

  9. Step 9

    Prepare the oven: While the dough is resting, arrange one oven rack in the center position and another in the lower third. Place a 20-inch-long baking stone on the middle rack and a large cast-iron skillet on the lower rack. Heat the oven to 500 degrees.

  10. Step 10

    Prepare the cloth: Place a thick kitchen towel (or, if you have one, a linen couche) on a rimless baking sheet that’s at least 18 inches long (or, if you don’t have one, an upside-down rimmed baking sheet). Generously dust the towel with flour and set aside.

  11. Step 11

    Shape the baguettes: Lightly flour the work surface, then use the scraper to quickly lift one of the cylinders and turn it over onto the floured work surface so it's seam side up on the floured surface. Very lightly dust the dough with flour and use floured hands to pat it down gently, popping any larger bubbles and flattening it into a rectangle with the short ends oriented to the left and right. Fold the long end opposite you down over the bottom half, leaving the lower third of the dough uncovered. Rotate the dough 180 degrees, then fold down the uncovered third of dough (the side farthest from you) so you have a long cylinder of dough with a seam running through the center. Starting at one end and working your way to the other, fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the top half down over the bottom and pressing firmly along the seam to seal. Throughout the shaping process, if the dough sticks to your hands or the surface, dust with just a bit more flour. Applying light downward pressure with both palms and starting in the center and working outward, roll out the dough to a length of 18 inches, doing your best to make it as even as possible and tapering the ends.

  12. Step 12

    Transfer the shaped dough to the floured towel, placing it seam side up in the middle. Pleat the towel on either side of the dough to create a barrier, then repeat the shaping process with the 2 remaining portions of dough and place them on the floured towel on either side of the first so all 3 pieces are sitting snugly next to one another. Fold the ends of the towel up and over the dough to cover. (Use a second towel if necessary.)

  13. Step 13

    Proof the baguettes: Let the baguettes sit at warm room temperature (preferably around 75 degrees) until they’re about 50 percent expanded in size, 30 to 60 minutes. To check if they’re proofed, poke the dough gently: If it takes a couple of seconds to spring back and holds a slight indentation, it’s proofed. If the dough springs back quickly, it’s not quite ready, so let it go longer.

  14. Step 14

    Boil water for steam and prepare the parchment: While the dough is proofing, bring 1 cup water to a boil in a kettle or saucepan, then set aside. Place a piece of parchment paper about the size of your baking stone over a rimless baking sheet or a thin wooden board and dust lightly with semolina flour.

  15. Step 15

    Transfer the loaves: Uncover the dough and pull on the ends of the towel to flatten the pleats, separating the loaves. Lightly dust the tops of the dough with flour. Working one at a time and using the towel to help you, flip one of the outer baguettes onto a thin wooden board measuring about 20 inches long and 4 inches wide (also called a baguette transfer peel; you can also have one cut at your local hardware store) so it’s seam side down, then slide it gently onto the parchment paper, orienting it lengthwise. Repeat with the remaining loaves, spacing them out evenly on the parchment. (If the dough is covered with lots of flour from the towel, gently brush it off with a pastry brush, then brush it from the parchment.)

  16. Step 16

    Score the loaves: Use a razor blade or bread lame to score each baguette 5 times at a diagonal, angled down the middle of the loaf and parallel to one another. Try to slash deeply, confidently and quickly, as the blade will want to drag through the soft dough. For the best shape, hold the blade at about a 30-degree angle, rather than cutting straight down into the dough.

  17. Step 17

    Bake: Carefully slide the loaves and parchment off of the baking sheet or board and onto the heated baking stone. Slide the lower rack out a couple of inches and pour the 1 cup boiled water into the cast-iron skillet and immediately close the door. (The water will instantly turn to steam, so protect your arms and work quickly so it doesn’t escape.) Bake for 10 minutes, then open the oven briefly to let out any steam. (Some ovens hold steam better than others, so there may not be any left at that point.) Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees and bake until the loaves are deeply browned, another 10 to 15 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to remove the baguettes from the oven and let cool.

  • Baguettes are best eaten within several hours of baking, but you can prolong their life by storing the loaves in a paper bag. To revive stale bread, spray the crust lightly with water and place in a 400-degree oven for about 7 minutes.
  • You’ll need a 4-by-20-inch wooden transfer peel for moving the loaves and a 13-by 20-inch wooden board for sliding them into the oven: Both can be bought online from a specialty baking site, or you can visit your local hardware or home improvement store and have pieces cut from ¼-inch plywood. A rimless baking sheet or a pizza peel also work, but make sure they’re at least 18 inches long and 12 inches wide.


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Cooking Notes

Former professional baker here. The cast iron pan steaming method does not work in domestic gas ovens. Domestic gas ovens are designed to circulate and vent the air inside, which they must do to safely burn gas. They'll efficiently vent the steam you create in the pan before it has a chance to raise the humidity in the oven. It does work in electric ovens, which are usually sealed. To do this in a gas oven, you need a vessel like the Challenger Bread Pan or the Emile Henry baguette baker.

Emile Henry makes a ceramic baguette baker that is worth every penny if you plan on making baguettes with any frequency.

I made a peel from the side of a cardboard box. It works just fine and costs nothing.

And 10 grams of fine sea salt is going to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons (1/2 tablespoon).

Too complicated! 500g any flour, 1t yeast, ~380ml warm water, handful of starter.Mix until moistened. Rest 15 m. Sprinkle 1t salt. *Pull dough over from edge to center, all the way around, 15-20 pulls. Let rest 30 min, then pull again.* Repeat from * 3-4x. [Optional: Can refrigerate now.] When ready to bake: Rest 1hr.Shape into rough baguettes on floured surface, don’t overwork. Let rest 15 min, slash. Bake 20 min at 400°, tossing in 1/2c water on oven floor at 0 and 10 m. Interior 205°=done.

There’s a video she made with the NYT explaining rationale for unit measurements and providing more tips, explainers, and ratios!

No need to dissolve yeast in water. Instant dry yeast can be added to the dry ingredients. (Maybe second time is a charm with this comment.)

The temperature is in Fahrenheit. 75 Celsius would be a very hot room.

Following up on my earlier comment to note that my baguettes came out beautifully despite a number of missteps in the shaping and handling. I’m very happy with the results and encourage anyone who is hesitant about the number of steps to try the recipe regardless. I found the process much easier to follow with Claire’s video. Wish I could post a photo!

wow, wow - the dough turned out so smooth and light. Great crust and a great taste. My go-to baguette recipe

I'm a home baker since before it was cool and my achilles' heel has always been baguettes. I've tried 100 recipes and none gave me that perfect open crumb, shattering but slightly chewy crust...until now. This is the perfect recipe. Don't be intimidated by the number of steps. It's not a lot of active time, and if you have any doubts about any of the techniques, absolutely watch Claire's video. It's perfect in showing exactly how to fold, pre-shape, shape and even transfer the dough. Perfection.

Three recommendations I have for this technique. 1. Just add the yeast to the dry flour and skip mixing it with the water. 2. Both the transfer peel and oven peel can be cut from corrugated cardboard. Should be without bends. Excellent peels for 1 to 4 uses. 3. Rice flour is far better than semolina and is magic on couche. But be careful not to use when shaping. Wait, one more. 4. Unglazed tiles, such as 6" "quarry" tile make a great oven hearth.

Made recipe exactly as written. Used volume of water measurement for Step 2 and piece of cardboard covered in parchment for the transfer peel (thanks to other comment). The baguettes are delicious, and I appreciate all the detailed steps.

The temperature units are Fahrenheit, in my humble estimation. For Celsius that would be pretty darned hot even for bread! (I bake bread a lot.)

Water temp is in F as dry yeast die above 40 C

Ok, this is the best homemade I have ever made. I am so glad I didn't give up when I got to the shaping stage and started thinking about some other directions I could go with this dough. I had already invested a lot of effort and work at this point so I continued on with the recipe directions. The results are as good as the real deal!

Firstly… I would love to be in the kitchen with Claire. Her teaching style matches my basic learn to cook style. I think she’s funny and sweet and just a joy to watch. Well - I have tried to make baguettes once before- and they were ok… but looked like candy canes. While this was a process. It was fun. My 3 baguettes were pretty dang good- and I definitely will be making this recipe again - like- this weekend when my husband makes paella !

Does anyone use the oven convection fan?

My dough tripled overnight! Where did I go wrong and now what do I do?

My dough tripled overnight! Where did I go wrong? What do I do now?

I abbreviated many parts of this recipe (e.g. all done within a five hour period, only one session working the dough) to fit limited time -- still carefully following every measure otherwise -- and it still yielded the best bread product I've ever made. Extraordinary baguettes.

abbreviated how specifically? thanks

I am bread baker and tried this recipe 3 times, wonderful result, even better after I watched the video. I halfed the dough, made two baguette, used a wooden pizza peel with rice flour to transfer. The other half I formed into rolls really good and the closest thing to Brötchen in Germany for Breakfast

60 grams of water is 3/4 cup (not 1/4 cup). I noticed that the online recipe revised the amount of water to 1 3/4 cup (375 grams) from an earlier version of the recipe.

It would be untrue if one said this recipe was easy. On the other hand, the three loaves were gone in 15 minutes, as my kids descended on them, and there is something very gratifying when it all comes together. One suggestion, the King Arthur has a three-ridge baguette tray. I put it on top of my baking stone. It is easier to get the bread into the hot oven by putting the bread on to the tray and then putting the tray into the oven than trying to slide parchment paper w/3 loaves on to the stone.

just perfect, crusty and light! merci Claire!!

These just came out of the oven and they taste incredible (if a bit less than perfect looking on my first try.) They are light as air and have a crackly fine crust. I read the recipe very carefully and watched the extremely helpful video a few times and tried to follow the instructions to a T. I appreciate the attention to detail and that Claire/NYT didn’t dumb down the content for an “easy” recipe. Thank you Claire!

Um, OK, but it doesn’t have to be this difficult! Unless you have unlimited funds and space, skip the specialized equipment. I use a thick cotton pillowcase for a couche, a serrated tomato knife for a lame, a piece of cardboard for transferring the shaped loaves, and a cookie sheet instead of a pizza stone. King Arthur’s recipe for classic baguettes has sequenced mini videos at each recipe step. The bread recipe itself is timeless and it is worth the effort to make your own, IMO.

Why do you use active yeast and not instant yeast, which is more reliable?

There are a lot of steps, but the dough was definitely had the characteristics of baguette, springy-er than other doughs I've made. Also, the specialized equipment can be problematic for home bakers, but there is always a work around. The scald warning at the end of the process is serious....I deferred to a less ferocious burst of steam, and just put the water into the cast iron early in the preheat stage. Great looking loaves, and delicious!

This was fun and delicious but using my cast iron skillet, which is well-seasoned, was a mistake - it ended up with rust spots. Next time I will try a metal pie pan.

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