Mix the starter ingredients till smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.
Next day, mix the starter with the remaining ingredients, kneading until the dough is nice and springy, but not totally smooth. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and again after 2 hours.
Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a rough oval. Wait 15 minutes, then fold each oval lengthwise, sealing the edge, and use cupped fingers to gently roll each piece into a long (about 17") log.
Place the loaves onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined pan, cover, and let them rise until they're puffy but not doubled, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
VERY gently, use a sharp knife or razor blade to make three diagonal 1/3"-deep slashes in each loaf. Mist the loaves heavily with warm water (or add steam to your oven; see "tips," below).
Bake the baguettes for 22 to 28 minutes, until they're golden brown. Take the baguettes off the pan and place them right on the oven rack. Turn off the oven, crack the door open about 2", and let the baguettes cool completely in the oven.
Tips from our Bakers
- For baguettes with enhanced flavor, cover the shaped loaves, let them rise for 30 minutes, then refrigerate overnight. Next day, take them out of the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature, covered, for about 3 hours, or until they're nice and puffy. Then bake as directed above.
- For extra-crusty crust, add steam to your oven as follows: While the oven is preheating, place an empty cast iron frying pan on the oven rack below the stone. If possible, adjust stone and pan so that the pan isn't directly under the stone, making it easier for steam to reach the baking baguettes. Once you’ve placed the baguettes in the oven, pour about 1 cup of boiling water into the cast iron frying pan. Steam will billow from the pan upwards to envelop the baking baguettes; be sure to wear good oven mitts to shield your hands and arms. Quickly close the oven door to trap the steam.
Join King Arthur baker Martin Philip and his family as they bake French Baguettes together, start to finish. Watch Martin Bakes at Home - Baguettes now.