makes two 14-inch (35 cm) baguettes
3/4 oz (20 g) fresh yeast or 3/4 tbsp dried
1 1/4 cup (12 fl oz) 340 ml warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 cup (16 oz) 450 g bread flour (or 14 oz plain and 2 oz strong flour)
1. Dissolve the yeast in a little of the water and leave to stand for five minutes for fresh yeast and 15 for dried.
2. Dissolve the salt in the rest of the water.
3. Put the flour in a bowl, make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix in a little of the flour from the sides of the bowl and then add the salt water. Mix everything to a dough and knead it on a floured board. Cover it with a clean cloth and leave it in a warm place for 1 hour to rise.
4. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) gas 6.
5. Knead the dough again and divide it in half. Form each one into a roll about 30 cm long. Place them on floured trays and leave them for 20 minutes. Make four long diagonal slits down each loaf, using a razor blade or very sharp knife. Brush the loaves well with cold water.
6. Just before you place the loaves in the oven, put a tin of water on the bottom shelf. Put in the loaves and bake them for 1 hour, brushing the surfaces well with more cold water every 15 minutes.
7. When the loaves are done, lift them onto wire racks to cool. Eat slightly warm.
Top quality baguette's require a long baking time; regular brushing with water will prevent the loaves from drying out or burning. If they look as if they are going to colour too quickly, cover them with aluminium foil.