sliced french baguette

I hear it all the time — “I can’t make bread, it’s too hard,” “I don’t have the patience to make bread,” “There’s no way I could make that!”

Poppycock. Hogwash. All of it.

I remember myself almost two years ago thinking the very same things. There’s no way I can make bread at home! Me? By myself? With my hands? No bread machine? Pssh, please.

Then, when I realized there were actually cookbooks out there dedicated solely to baking bread at home, I knew that indeed, it was possible. So, I tried it.

And I tried it again. And again, and again, and… well, you understand. And eventually, it worked. I made homemade bread, and it was possible, and it wasn’t that hard, and I did have the time for it.

baguette loaves on baking sheet

It took a lot of practice, I’ll admit it. It took a lot of determination, some tears, some serious frustration and also some elated leaps of joy when, “The yeast actually worked!” or, “Guess what, I made a sandwich loaf!”

Sometimes I still think I don’t have the energy or the time to make bread. But then there are recipes like this fast French baguette from a hero of mine, Mark Bittman, who has proved us all wrong with this one. You can have yummy, fresh-baked bread on your table in two hours. TWO hours. And it’s delicious, too, and very, very easy to make.

overhead view of sliced french baguette

So, no excuses. Get down to business. We’ve got (yummy, easy, quick-to-make, very possible) bread to bake.

Fast French Baguette
Adapted from Mark Bittman

Yields: Two foot-long baguettes

1 cup warm water (about 110 to 115 degrees F)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
2 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk yeast into 1 cup warm water and let sit 5 minutes. Add 3 cups flour and salt and mix, using paddle attachment, until just combined. Switch to dough hook (or remove dough from bowl and knead by hand) and knead on medium speed for about 5 minutes (10 minutes if kneading by hand), until dough is smooth and elastic. Shape dough into ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down risen dough and divide in two pieces. Roll each piece into a foot-long rope and place side by side, about 3-4 inches apart, on a pizza stone or baking sheet lined with lightly floured parchment paper. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Once oven is preheated and dough has risen slightly (about 20-30 minutes), remove plastic wrap and slash each baguette a couple times using a very sharp knife. Place baguettes in oven, reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. The bread should read about 210 degrees F with a thermometer when done. Remove from oven, spritz with water and allow to cool on cooling rack.