Beneath the crisp, brittle crust of a baguette is an airy crumb and a rich, nutty flavor, making it the perfect accompaniment to any meal -- or, in the case of breakfast, the perfect foundation. For more on baking bread, see our photo galleries "By Bread Alone: Making Dough" To and "By Bread Alone: Shaping Dough" and our article By Bread Alone: Baking the Perfect Loaf
- French Dough
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Vegetable-oil cooking spray
Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, keeping remaining dough covered, fold dough in half lengthwise to form a tight, narrow log. Gently press edges with lightly floured fingertips to seal.
Using your palms, roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it's about 16 inches long, rolling more firmly at the ends to create a tapered effect.
Place loaves, seam side down, on a generously floured linen towel or a parchment-lined baking sheet. Fold towel between the loaves to prevent sticking. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise at cool room temperature until loaves have almost doubled and a floured finger pressed into side leaves a slight indentation, 40 to 50 minutes.
Place a skillet on oven rack adjusted to lowest position and a baking stone on middle oven rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If using a linen towel, gently turn baguettes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Before baking, use a lame or razor blade to make 3 slashes on top of each baguette. Pour 1/2 cup hot water into skillet in oven. Slide bread and parchment onto baking stone.
Immediately reduce oven to 450 degrees. Bake until baguettes are deep golden brown, sound hollow when bottoms are thumped, and interiors register 205 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on wire racks. Baguettes are best the day you make them, but they can be wrapped in parchment and then foil, and stored at room temperature overnight (or frozen for up to 1 month; thaw at room temperature before serving.)