Wednesday, May 22

Easy French Bread Recipe: Four Hour Classic Parisian Daily Baguettes (Baguette Normal)

Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguettes, an easy French bread recipe -
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.

Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguettes, an easy French bread recipe (1) -

"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. 2016 Update: Baker's Blues, the third book in the Bread Alone trilogy is out! Click here for a special conversation I had with Judi about food, writing, and her long awaited new book.)

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. . .

Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguettes, an easy French bread recipe (4) -

Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguettes
Makes 3 slender 10-ounce loaves, 12 to 14 inches long — Adapted slightly from Local Breads

Note: You can also double the recipe and make three 20-ounce loaves.

From Local Breads: A version of this straight dough baguette is produced by bakers all over Paris. The first batch goes out when the bakery opens in the morning at around seven o'clock, and a fresh batch is set out every 4 hours after that until closing time, at 8 p.m.

This is a lengthy recipe, but don't let that scare you away. It really is an easy bread to make, and the detailed instructions will allow even beginning bakers to produce beautiful, scrumptious loaves. The success of such a recipe lies in all the little details. After a few times the whole process will become second nature and you won't even need the instructions.

From first step to first bite really is under four hours. The recipe makes three 10-ounce baguettes that are the perfect size for slicing into rounds for appetizer-size crostini or bruschetta, or you can cut one in half lengthwise and make two lovely sandwiches.

This bread has a pleasantly chewy crust that becomes nice and crisp if reheated. It freezes beautifully and is the perfect kind of bread to have on hand since it's so versatile.

Organic flour makes wonderful bread and doesn't cost much more than regular flour. I buy instant yeast in economical 1-pound packages and store it in a glass jar in the freezer where it keeps for over a year.

A baker's peel (also called a pizza peel) is optional but very handy for loading and unloading bread from the oven. I have several different peels and prefer the wood-handled aluminum ones the best; I recommend buying the largest size you can.

A baking stone is a must. It will simulate a stone hearth in your oven and is the secret to making bakery-style artisan loaves and fantastic homemade pizza. It allows your breads to bake more evenly, and the initial, intense burst of heat on the cold dough will help to create high, richly colored loaves and chewy, better-tasting crusts.

My baking stone is 14"x15" and I've been using it for 18 years. I even bake all of my loaf pans of sandwich bread on it. Update: You can now buy baking stones made from steel. I've never tried one, but many bakers swear by them.

Steam in the oven during the first part of baking slows crust formation, which allows for the best possible oven "spring." It also gelatinizes the starch on the surface of the bread so that it develops a thin, glossy, beautifully brown crust, but these baguettes will still be wonderful if you want to skip the steam-making step.

Preparation Time:
Allow 25 minutes to mix and rest
10 to 12 minutes to knead
1½ hours to ferment
45 to 60 minutes to shape and proof the loaves
20 to 25 minutes to bake

Large mixing bowl
Rubber spatula
3 kitchen tea towels or flour sack towels (I love this brand)
Cast iron skillet (for making steam in the oven)
Dough scraper (these are so handy) or chef's knife
Digital kitchen scale (optional but a great investment; I often use mine several times a day)
Baker's peel or rimless baking sheet
Unbleached parchment paper (wonderful stuff for baking and roasting)
Sharp serrated knife


3¼ to 3½ cups organic all-purpose flour (you may need a little more)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1½ cups (12 ounces) tepid water (70°F)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt or organic mineral salt (I love this pink Himalayan salt)

1 cup ice cubes (for making steam in the oven)


Mixed dough ready for a 20 minute rest.

Mix the dough
Place 3¼ cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Add the water and stir just until all the water is absorbed and a dry, clumpy dough forms. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or flour sack towel and let it stand for 20 minutes, to allow the flour to hydrate and the gluten to develop on its own.

Dough after resting and mixing in the salt, now ready to knead.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough and evenly mix it in as best you can. It will fully dissolve into the dough during the kneading process.

Knead the dough
By hand: Lightly dust the counter with flour. Empty the dough and any stray flour out of the bowl and knead it with smooth, steady strokes for 10 to 12 minutes. Dip your hands in flour as necessary so they don't stick to the dough. You may need to add another 1/4 cup or more of flour (depending on your flour, the weather, etc.), but try to avoid kneading extra flour into the dough so your baguettes will be light. Take a 2-minute break if you become tired.

Dough after 10 minutes of kneading.

Stop kneading when the dough loses its stickiness, firms up, and feels silky smooth and resilient.

By machine (I always knead by hand, but here are the instructions from Local Breads for those who would like them): Use the dough hook of a stand mixer and mix the dough on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid mixer) for 8 to 10 minutes. It will clear the sides of the bowl, grabbing onto the dough hook, but look lumpy, Pull it off the dough hook and knead it by hand for a few strokes on an unfloured counter until it is very smooth and springy.

Ferment the dough (first rise):
Transfer the dough to a clear, straight-sided 2-quart food grade plastic container with a snap-on lid. With masking tape or a felt tip marker, mark the spot on the container that the dough will reach when it has increased 1½ times (50%) in volume.

Put the lid on the container and leave it to rise at room temperature (about 70 degrees; a little cooler is okay) for 45 minutes. It won't double in volume but should increase somewhere between 25% (halfway to the mark) to 50% (all the way to the mark).

If your kitchen is warmer than 70 degrees and your dough is rising too fast, you can put it in the refrigerator for a little while to cool it down. You can also make your dough with cold water rather than room temperature.

Give the dough a turn
Lightly dust the counter with flour and, using a spatula, empty the risen dough out of the container. Pat it gently into a rectangle about 6 by 8 inches and fold it like a business letter:

1) With the short side facing you, lift the top edge and fold it into the center of the rectangle.

2) Lift the bottom edge and fold it up into the center so that it overlaps the top edge by about 1 inch.

3) Quickly slide both hands under the dough and flip it over so the folds are underneath.

4) Slip it back into the container, pushing it down to fit.

Put the lid back on and let the dough until it again increases between 25% and 50% in volume, about 45 minutes.

Prepare the oven
About 1 hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle rack of the cold oven and (if you want to make the steam) a cast iron skillet on the lower rack. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Never put a cold baking stone in a hot oven or it may crack.

Divide and pre-shape the dough
Lightly dust the counter with flour. Uncover the dough and turn it out onto the counter. With a dough scraper or chef's knife, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces (about 10 ounces) each. (I use my 11-pound digital kitchen scale to evenly portion out dough and weigh everything from vegetables to outgoing packages.)

Gently pat each piece into a rough rectangle about 5"x7" and fold it in half. Sprinkle the pieces of dough with flour and drape them with a damp towel. Let them relax on the counter for 10 minutes.

Shape the baguettes
Cover a baker's peel or rimless baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Shape each piece of dough into a baguette 12 to 14 inches long (make them at least two inches shorter than your baking stone) and 2½ inches wide, using your favorite method or the instructions at the end of this post.

Form the couche

Lightly dust the parchment that is on the peel or rimless baking sheet with flour and place the baguettes on the parchment, seam sides down, about 2 inches apart. Lift the parchment paper between the loaves, making pleats and drawing the loaves together.

Tightly roll up 2 kitchen towels and slip them under the parchment paper on the sides of the two outer loaves to support and cradle the baguettes. Lightly dust the tops of the baguettes with flour and drape them with a damp tea towel.

Proof the baguettes (final rise)
Let the loaves stand at room temperature (70 degrees) for 30 to 40 minutes, or until they increase about 1½ times in size. When you press your fingertip into the dough, the indentation will spring back slowly.

Score the baguettes

Scored loaves ready for the oven.

Uncover the loaves, take away the towels, and stretch the parchment paper out so that it is flat and the loaves are separated on top of it. Score each baguette with a very sharp serrated knife. Starting from the tip, angle the blade 45 degrees to make 3 slashes, about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch deep. Slash quickly and confidently. You can carefully slice back through the slashes a second time if necessary.

Bake the loaves
Slide the loaves, still on the parchment, onto the hot baking stone. Carefully place 1 cup of ice cubes into the hot cast iron skillet to produce steam. Quickly close the oven and reduce the temperature to 450 degrees.

Bake until the baguettes are caramel-colored, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool and store the loaves
Slide the peel or the rimless baking sheet under the parchment paper to remove the loaves from the oven. Slide the loaves, still on the parchment, onto a wire rack. Cool for about 5 minutes and then peel them off the parchment paper (if they come off the paper while taking them out of the oven, that's okay).

Parisian Daily Baguettes are best eaten within a few hours of baking. Toast day-old baguettes and spread with butter and jam for breakfast. For longer storage, freeze cooled baguettes in resealable freezer bags for up to 2 months. For storing baguettes and large sandwich loaves (and all sorts of other things), I use 2-gallon zipper storage bags.

Wondering why your baguettes don't look exactly like mine? How your loaves end up looking will depend on your flour, the weather, your oven, and other variables. They may even look different from batch to batch.

For example, the baguettes in the three photos at the top of this post are from two different batches baked last month. The loaves pictured above were baked six years ago in a different oven, in a different house, and using a different brand of flour. The good news is that all versions taste delicious!

These simple, make-ahead Lemony Tuna and Artichoke (no mayo) Cooler-Pressed Sandwiches on homemade baguettes are perfect for toting on picnics or hikes, to work, or just out to the backyard (recipe here).

Can't live on bread alone? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguettes, an easy French bread recipe (2) -

How To Shape A Baguette
Adapted slightly from Local Breads

1. (As directed in the instructions above) Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces as directed above. Gently pat each piece into a rough rectangle about 5"x7" and fold it in half. Sprinkle the pieces of dough with flour and drape them with a damp towel. Let them relax on the counter for 10 minutes.

2. With the longer side of your rectangle of dough facing you, fold the top of the dough down about halfway to the center. With the heel of your hand, press along the seam, using firm but gentle pressure. Fold the bottom of the dough about halfway up to the center and seal the seam firmly.

3. Fold this skinny rectangle in half by bringing the top edge down to meet the bottom edge. Working from right to left, cup your hand over the log of dough and press the heel of your hand down firmly to seal the seam. Dust the counter with additional flour to prevent the dough from sticking.

4. To stretch the log into a baguette, place your hands together palms down, over the middle of the log. Using light, even pressure, roll the log back and forth as you spread your hands apart. Repeat three or four times, until the log is the desired length. Leave the ends rounded. Pat the loaves gently to make them wider. Avoid over-handling the loaves, which will burst their air cells.

©, the flour-dusted foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and there are almost always homemade baguettes in the freezer.


  1. Susan, this is The Best recipe/instructions/directions for French bread. You are so generous to share and explain in such wonderful detail and photos - it is almost like being with you in your kitchen. You have inspired me to give this a try. Thank you a million times for this and the many, many other delicious recipes you have shared (not to mention so much else!)

  2. Hi Susan - I'll echo Bev: best bread ever! I've been using this recipe since I first saw it about three years ago, and whenever I 'stray" to try something new, I always come back. No need to look for another bread recipe when this one is perfect! Thank you, too, for commenting on my card-making blog! A comment from you - someone I admire immensely - brings a sparkle to my day.

  3. Beautifully photographed and written. I'm inspired! I'll have to look for the book now, too. THANK YOU!

  4. I've always wanted to try your French baguette recipe and do believe I just may take the plunge this weekend. Thanks so much for sharing this terrific-sounding baguette.

  5. Hello fellow baker! I have Bread Alone but haven't tried this recipe. I started with James Beard's recipe and have tweaked it around to be a light but grainy sourdough.
    I have owned several baking stones over the years but they have broken (I've found you can't really clean them or subject to sudden temp changes ;) )
    Curious to know what brand/type you use. 15 years? Wow!
    I also tried fire bricks but they were so heavy that they bent the oven racks!
    I've been following your blog for quite sometime and really enjoy the stories and recipes. Thanks for being you and being there!-Allisonthebaker

    1. Hi Allison,
      I'm so glad you're enjoying my blog. Yeah, baking stones don't like sudden temperature changes - you never want to put a cold stone in a hot oven. And after baking, it's best to just let the stone cool down right in the oven, then take it out.

      I'm afraid I don't know what brand my baking stone it, but it's similar to this one. It's flat on both sides (some are ridged on the bottom) so if the top gets too dark or stained, you can just turn it over and it's like having a brand new baking stone.

      I don't wash mine - if any cheese from a pizza bubbles over and burns, I just scrape it clean with my pastry scraper, although now that I bake the pizzas on unbleached parchment paper, like these baguettes, that rarely happens.

      If you do need to wash it, just scrub it with water, don't use soap. It's porous and works like a cast iron skillet - the more you use it, the more seasoned it gets. After 18 years I still haven't turned mine over yet. :)

  6. delish!!! wow ok i just made these and they are really swell - thanks for sharing

    1. So glad you liked it! Thanks for the feedback. :)

    2. we loved them so much that we made them AGAIN! no really - this is a keeper for sure!

  7. This is my favorite type of bread to make for us! I have been using a recipe that requires an overnight rest in the fridge so I have to try and remember to start it the day before I want bread. I like that this will give the same results all in only 4 hours! I'm a sucker for cookbooks, especially bread books, so I'll definitely have to look for Bread Alone. :)

  8. Hi Everybody,
    Thanks for all your comments! :)

  9. Reading that was such exquisite pain, as I've been taken off wheat for 2 whole weeks! I am however bookmarking it so that when I'm back on it (fingers crossed!) it'll be top of my list of things to indulge in!
    Janie x

  10. This has been a "never fail" recipe and extremely forgiving. I have been distracted during one or the other rising for a long time, added the salt at the wrong time (I do think it is best during kneading as indicated here), wandered somewhere else during autolyse and a zillion other things and it STILL makes fabulous bread. Thank you for taking the time to put this all together again. It remains my favorite baguette recipe. I like the addition of the higher temp preheat, and find it helps get a nice crust. My oven is a bit sluggish.

  11. Baking a baguette seems an impossible task for me, but after read your recipe, give me some hope. It has so many steps, I think I have to print it out and follow it step by step. The outcome in your photos looks so nice. Guess all the works are worth. :)

  12. Leader's Parisian Daily Bread is really my favourite baguette recipe. And it's been always a winner with family and friends. My latest twist: mini baguette. The post is in german but you can still have a look at the picture:

  13. This looks much like the bread my husband learned to make during Easter Break of 1958. While I was finishing up my studies in the UK, he apprenticed for two weeks with M. Maniere, 86, rue des Godrans in Dijon. Since then, we have made many baguettes. We were back in Dijon this May and walked down the rue des Godrans. M. Maniere's wonderful bakery is no longer there.

  14. I've tried, but couldn't get my loaves to form beautiful ears like yours!! I do love your post and thanks for sharing! If you have any suggestions that I can do to create those ears, I'd love to learn!

  15. Thank you soooo much for this, I've just baked these today, came out perfect

  16. This recipe was amazing. Thanks so much! I halved the recipe and still the loaves came out beautifully (if slightly deformed, but that was more my slashing technique.) I don't think we can go back to store-bought.

  17. Hey Susan, they look so beautiful!! I'm intrigued on why you add the salt a step later... Is it for letting the yeast work better on the dough since the salt stops the process? What difference results if you add the salt in the begin along with the flour and yeast?

    Thanks so much for the pictures, very creative way of making the "craddle" for each loaf! :) Now I need a baker's peel...

    I'm trying this TODAY :)

    1. Hi Anushkilla,
      The rest period is called the autolyse, and it greatly improves nearly any type of bread. During this rest, the gluten will relax and the dough will absorb more water, smoothing itself out so that it is moist and easier to shape.

      Since salt causes gluten to tighten, hindering its development and hydration, it should not be added to the dough until after the autolyse.

      You can go ahead and add the salt before the autolyse, but the results won't be quite as pronounced.

      You can read more about autolyse (tip #6) in my Ten Tips for Better Breads post:

      Yes, I just love this simple way of making a parchment couche! :)

  18. I don't know if you still check or respond to questions but here goes. Is the use of parchment paper imperative or can I get away with corn meal on the baking stone?

    1. Cornmeal should work, but you'll want to put something between the loaves (piece of floured canvas, rolled up tea towels, etc. to give them the support of a "couche" while they're rising.

      You may also want to let the shaped loaves rise on something other than your baker's peel or rimless baking sheet so you don't have to slide all three onto your hot baking stone in the oven at once and risk them sliding into each other (been there, done that). :)

      Happy baking!

  19. That french bread's way better looking than the one you can see in some high-end bakery ;)


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

Hi! Thanks for visiting Farmgirl Fare and taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

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