This simple straight dough French bread (not sourdough) is the perfect baguette recipe for new bread bakers.
Note: If you're a beginning bread baker, you might find my Ten Tips on How To Bake Better Artisan Breads at Home helpful. And if you've been longing to learn how to make your own sandwich bread, my popular Farmhouse White Easy Basic Sandwich Recipe (which can also be made with whole wheat flour) is a great place to start.
While e-mailing back and forth six years ago, I asked Daniel Leader, founder of the renowned Bread Alone Bakery in New York and my bread baking hero, to recommend a summer picnic bread from his new book, Local Breads. He immediately suggested I try the very first recipe, Parisian Daily Bread, or what he calls The Four Hour Baguette.
"It's simple, it's foolproof, and it's delicious," he said, and he was right. I've been baking it ever since.
I credit Daniel's wonderful first book, Bread Alone, with turning me into a bread baker, and I've been recommending it for years to anyone interested in learning how to bake their own bread. After 20 years it's still in print, and considering there are thousands of new cookbooks published each year, that's really saying something.
My original copy of Bread Alone is in four pieces. My second copy was signed and sent to me by Daniel himself when he learned my first one was falling apart, which of course thrilled me to no end. (Sidenote: one of my favorite novels is also called Bread Alone, written by my good friend and fellow Daniel Leader fan, Judi Hendricks.)
Fourteen years after he wrote Bread Alone, Daniel came out with Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers. It's the culmination of dozens of trips to Europe over two decades in search of bakers who are still using time-honored methods and ingredients to create loaves unique to their towns and cities.
Part travelogue, part bread making class, and part gastronomic history lesson, the book is full of colorful stories of local artisans and 80 of their authentic treasured recipes.
Beginning bread bakers needn't shy away from Local Breads. The first 60 pages are packed with detailed information on equipment, ingredients, and techniques, all of it clearly written and easy to understand. Even better are the several dozen Q&As throughout the book, which are Daniel's responses to the questions most frequently asked by his students at the Culinary Institute of America and other places where he teaches bread making.
The only trouble you might have is ever making it past this first recipe.
Recipe below. . .