If Gustave Eiffel never designed his infamous Eiffel Tower for the World’s Fair in 1889, the baguette would be the unofficial national symbol of France. French culture entirely revolves around this irresistible bread. Every other block in Paris contains a boulangerie, and picnic lunches always include bread and cheese or a sandwich on a baguette. Every café or restaurant begins its meal with a basket of fresh bread, it’s impossible to get on the metro without spotting a Parisian wielding a baguette, and Marie Antoinette never would have said, “Let them eat cake!” if the French didn’t depend so heavily on their bread.
And it’s no wonder. With its crackly outer crust and soft, airy interior, I became addicted to France’s bread the very moment I stepped out of the Charles de Gaulle airport for the first time 9 years ago. If anything, my love only intensified over time, as proven by the sheer number of loaves I consumed by myself on this most recent trip.
Now back home in the states, I miss those boulangeries and patisseries. Getting fresh bread from Safeway or Albertsons just isn’t the same. They don’t have the variety, or even the bread culture. Where else but in France would bakeries display their long golden loaves in wooden baskets on the walls? On top of that, buying all of that inferior fresh bread from the American grocery stores gets to be pretty expensive rather quickly…
I didn’t think I had the time to make my own though until my wonderful coworker shared this amazing bread recipe with me last week. It may not be the most authentic French baguette recipe—no kneading!—but it means I can enjoy fresh bread every night with only a few minutes of prep.
I’m in heaven.
No Knead Artisan Bread
from The Italian Dish
makes two (1-lb) loaves
Because there is no fat in this bread, it is best served the day it’s baked. It can be baked 1-2 days in advance if you don’t cut into it, which would speed up the rate at which the bread stales. Feel free to add your favorite herbs for a special treat!
1½ c. warm water, approx 100°
1 packet rapid rise yeast, equivalent to 2¼ tsp (also called “bread machine yeast”)
2¼ tsp salt
3¼ c. all-purpose flour
- Mix water, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add flour all at once, and stir until all of it is incorporated. Cover the bowl with foil, and allow the dough to rise for 2 hours at room temperature.
- Optional: For the first time, refrigerate the dough in the foil-covered bowl for at least 3 hours, or overnight. You can leave bowl covered in the refrigerator for up to 14 days! Just break off a bit whenever you want to make a loaf and follow the remaining directions.
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Also preheat a baking stone or cookie sheet on the middle rack, as well as a 9×13” cake pan on the bottom rack, at the same time. Note: The baking stone will give the bread a crisper crust on the bottom than the cookie sheet.
- Lightly flour your hands, and split the dough into two pieces. Shape into rounds or long baguettes, and lay on parchment paper. Allow the loaves to rise for 30-40 min. (They might not rise much, but that’s okay!)
- Set a cup of water next to the stove. Slide the parchment paper onto the pre-heated baking stone. Pour the water into the cake pan and immediately shut the oven door. The steam from the water will help give the top of the bread a crisper crust.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust turns a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow loaves to cool completely before serving.