Baguettes Plus

This is a simple all-purpose dough that we use for baguettes, and also pizza and calzone. The recipe also makes wonderful rolls that freeze well. The rolls come out of the freezer and go into a 375 degree oven on an ungreased pan for 15 minutes and are almost better than when first baked. Note the simple ingredient list. While the instructions are lengthy, the process is really quite speedy. I can mix this dough up within about five minutes. I specified fifteen minutes for prep time to allow for becoming familiar with a new recipe.

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1 cup WaterTepid; may need a little more for the dough to work well
1 tbsp YeastI buy yeast in a bottle. By packet, one packet would work.
cups Flour, All Purpose, Unbleached
1 tsp White Sugar
2 tsp Salt
2 tbsp CornmealOr enough to cover the baking sheet(s)


1 Measure the water and add the yeast. I use a two-cup glass measuring cup that works well for this.
2 In a large mixing bowl, measure the flour. Add the sugar and salt. Whisk these ingredients all together. Make a well in the middle by using a large spoon and pushing the mixture away from the middle to make an indentation.
3 Pour the water/yeast mixture into the well. With a large spoon mix the dry and wet ingredients together until they form a somewhat stiff dough. If needed, add water one tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together and can be mixed without too much difficulty. The dough should be somewhat stiff, but have some give. The best way I can tell it's about right is when the dough holds together quite well and there's a slight softness when pressed with the mixing spoon, a slight indentation that "bounces" back.
4 Just leave the dough in the mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk. Depending on the weather, this may take anywhere from an hour to two. To speed this process I have turned the oven on to its lowest heat setting for about five minutes, then turned the oven off, and then have placed the dough in the oven. (One time by doing this, we got home at 5:30 and had our pizza out of the oven by 7.)
5 When ready to shape the dough, have it near a rolling surface dusted generously with flour.
6 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
7 Coat a baking sheet with an even dusting of cornmeal wherever the items to be baked are to be placed.
8 For shaping the dough, it depends what you are baking:
9 For pizza: divide the dough into two larger or three or four smaller pieces. Dust each piece with flour for ease in handling. Stretch each piece from the middle pulling gently with your fingers. When the dough is about half the size you're looking for, you may use a rolling pin to finish the shaping, rolling and turning the dough, adding flour as needed to keep the dough free from sticking, until the dough is the size and thickness you would like. (In regard to thickness, remember that the dough will rise as it's baking.) Without a rolling pin you may continue by pulling the dough gently with your fingers to your preferred size and thickness. If the dough breaks, just try your best to pinch it together to repair the hole. Place the dough on the cornmeal covered pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Add the desired toppings and bake for about 17-20 minutes.
10 For baguettes: divide the dough in half. Stretch and roll around each half gently with the palm of your hand until it becomes a log about ten inches long. Fold the ends under with floured fingers to shape as you like. Put the two loaves on the cornmeal cover sheet and let the loaves rise for ten minutes or so, until they begin to look fuller. During the rising, "throw" four or five ice cubes into the oven to produce some steam which adds to the crustiness of the bread. Just before baking, using a bread knife, make two or three slits diagonally along the top. Bake the bread for about 15-20 minutes, until it looks golden brown. For rolls, cut the logs into 8 pieces. With floured hands, use your fingers to pull the dough from the top to underneath folding it under until each piece becomes a nice round roll shape. Follow the directions for baking the baguettes. However bake the rolls for a shorter time, perhaps 15 minutes.
11 For calzone: I change the amount of ingredients to make two calzones. Here are the changed amounts: 1/2 cup tepid water, perhaps a tablespoon extra; 2 teaspoons of yeast; 2 cups flour, scant; 1/2 teaspoon sugar; 1 teaspoon salt; Mix the dough according to the directions above and shape it using the instructions given for "Summer Calzone."