This is a relatively quick French baguette recipe that can be made in 2 to 2 1/2 hours if needed. This dough also makes a fantastic pizza dough.
6 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sea salt
3 cups warm water
Start by mixing your warm water, yeast, and salt in a bowl. Let the yeast and water sit for 5 minutes or so to allow the yeast to start working.
Next, add in 5 cups of flour and mix until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a chopping block or work surface, and knead in as much of the remaining cup of flour as is needed. The dough should be slightly sticky, and not too dry.
Knead the dough until it starts to resist (about 10-15 minutes), and then set aside in a covered bowl to rise for about 1 hour (or until it has about doubled in size). After the first rise, punch the dough down, then recover it, and allow it to rise for another hour (or until it has doubled in size).
Tip (optional): At this point you could place the dough in the refrigerator overnight, then proceed with the remaining steps the following day. This will improve the flavor and texture of the finished bread. If you decide to go this route, remove the dough from the refrigerator on the day of baking, and allow to come to room temperature (and rise again).
Once the dough has risen, divide into equal portions (there should be enough for 3-4 loaves), then flatten and shape one of your portions into a rough rectangle on your work surface. You’re essentially going to be rolling the dough in on itself, lengthwise, at this point.
Start by folding the top edge to the middle of the dough (where a line would bisect it) and push it down firmly. Repeat the process for the bottom edge, then repeat the process for the top edge 2 to 3 more times. Finally, roll the top edge so that it meets the bottom edge of the dough and press it firmly to seal it. You’ll also want to check the seam and close any openings that you might see by pinching the seam together.
Once this is done, you’ll be left with a rough cylinder that you can then roll out into a longer baguette shape. When you have the length and shape that you’re looking for, set the loaf on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with corn meal (or semolina), and allow it to rise for approximately 15 minutes. Thin baguettes don’t need to rise for very long, or they’ll tend to lose their shape, however if you have a baguette pan (or use a folded cloth method) you have more leeway.
When your loaves are ready, dust them with flour, make several slits along the top, then bake them in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your loaves.
It’s also a good idea to spray a bit of water in your oven just as you put the loaves in, which will help form a better crust.
When the baguettes are done, let them cool for 20 minutes or so before cutting them and enjoy.