Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The 4-Hour Baguette

I've made the famous no-knead bread a few times now, and while the concept is great, the reality is I'm always a little disappointed with the results.  Even though there's no kneading involved, it's still a multi-step recipe that can take 20+ hours to finish, and while the texture of the ensuing bread is great for a home cook, it's kind of lacking in flavor.  So I'm pretty excited to have found a recipe for bread that only takes 4 hours from start to finish, still has great texture, and is packed full of flavor.

I pretty much followed this Genius Recipe from Food52 for Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette but I applied some of the concepts I learned from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast and added some diastatic malt powder.  According to the King Arthur Flour website, the malt powder promotes "a strong rise, great texture, and lovely brown crust".  You can certainly make this bread without it; I just used because I still had some left from making croissants that one time.

What I love about this recipe is that it doesn't call for any special equipment.  Don't have a stand mixer?  You can knead the dough by hand.  Don't have a pizza stone?  Use a rimless baking sheet or an upside-down baking sheet to bake the loaves on.  Don't have a baguette pan or a baker's couche?  Just use parchment paper and something long and weighted on the sides to help shape the loaves as they rise.  Don't have a bread lame?  Just use a sharp knife or even scissors!  As you can see, while I could definitely use more practice with shaping and scoring baguettes, I'm quite pleased with the results considering it was my first time!

The 4-Hour Baguette (adapted from Dan Leader's recipe on Food52)
makes 3 loaves

1 1/2 cups warm water, about 115°F
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour (if you don't have any bread flour, just use all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
Oil, for greasing bowl
1/2 cup ice cubes or 1 cup water

Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.

Add the flour(s) and malt powder (if using) and stir by hand with the dough hook until all the flour has been absorbed.  Let sit for 20 minutes to allow the flour to hydrate.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead using the dough hook attachment on medium speed, until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.  When done, wet your hands and reach underneath the dough and grab about a quarter of it.  Gently stretch this section of the dough up and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough.  Rotate the bowl 90° and repeat 3 more times.  This process is called applying a fold.  Transfer the dough seam side down to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a cold oven until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

After it has doubled, apply another fold, cover, and return to the oven again.  Let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the oven and place an oven-safe pan on the bottom rack.  Place a pizza stone or a rimless or upside-down baking sheet on the rack above.  Preheat oven to 475°F.

Lightly flour a large piece of parchment paper and place on another rimless baking sheet or cutting board.  Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and cut the dough into 3 even pieces.  Shape each piece into a rectangle and fold the longer sides in to make a narrower rectangle, sealing the seams with the heel of your hand.  Gently roll the rectangle into a 14" log.  Place the logs, seam side down, onto the parchment paper about 2-3" apart from each other.  Lift up the paper between the logs to form pleats and hold them in place with foil/plastic wrap/parchment paper boxes on either end.  This helps shape the baguettes as they rise so that they expand up instead of out.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

When fully proofed, remove the plastic wrap and flatten out the parchment paper to space out the loaves.  Using a super-sharp knife, scissors, or bread lame, score the top of the dough in long, diagonal slashes.  Trim the parchment paper, if needed, so that it is about the same size as the pizza stone/baking sheet in the oven.

Pull out the oven rack with the stone or baking sheet on it and, using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone or pan.  Place the ice cubes or water in the oven-proof pan (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms).  Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes; cool before serving.

Next:  Will It Puffle?
Previously:  Tropical Pulled Pork on Griddled Banana Bread Sandwiches
Last Year:  Chocolate Mochi Snack Cake
Two Years Ago:  Dan Bing (Taiwanese Egg Crepe)
Three Years Ago:  Happiness Cake
Six Years Ago:  Mama Huang's Secret Beer Duck Recipe
Seven Years Ago:  Cincinnati Chili 


  1. That looks amazing! i want to try. :) I agree with you about the no Knead bread - I was always disappointed with the lack of flavor.

    1. Thanks! I hope you have as much success as I did with this recipe!