A hot bowl of soup with piece of crusty bread on the dinner table , on a cold winter night , makes me a very happy girl indeed !! Now that is not entirely true, I for one could go for soup and bread any day of the year. Baguettes are our choice of bread to accompany the soups – they have these crispy crunchy exterior and the wonderful chewy interior. These textural quality and contrasts are not easily achieved at home but I do have something that comes fairly close and tastes way better than the usual store bought variety.
I love the crunchy crust of the baguettes , did I mention that already ??. I am happy with the crust of my store bought baguettes , but they seem to lack the complex flavors of the sourdough versions. It took me some time to get this recipe the way I wanted it – but the whether the experiments were a hit or miss in terms of texture , the taste was always spot on. Leftover pieces for breakfast next day slathered with marmalade and a hot cup of joe , perfect breakfast heaven !!!
This recipe , by no means, is the ultimate version, but comes pretty darn close and the best part is that you can make it using the standard home kitchen appliances.
Here are a few good things to have when making this recipe –
- Pizza stone
- Baker’s peel
- Bench scraper
- Baguette pans
- Baker’s couche.
Do I use any of these in this recipe ? No. These are all good things to have, but the life does not end just because one is short on gadgets.
It is crazy that all this goodness comes out of essentially 4 ingredients – flour water salt and yeast. I use my 100% sourdough starter for this recipe. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix (mixer/spatula) till a shaggy mass is formed. This dough has high water content (70 to 75% hydration in bread speak). The high hydration makes it easier to mix with a spatula. No elbow grease – yet !
Once all the flour is absorbed into the dough cover the bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes (autolyze for bread geeks).
Uncover and knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes till it becomes smooth and elastic. The dough tend to stick to your hand as you start kneading but as you knead it begins to lose its sticky nature. By the end of the kneading cycle the dough will come together as as single unit. It will still be wet and floppy but holds itself together as a cohesive unite.
If using an electric mixer – 2 to 3 minutes of kneading on low setting should do the trick. After kneading the dough should stretch easily without tearing at this point. Form into a ball and place in a bowl and keep covered in a warm area to rise until doubled – 2 to 4 hours at around 70°F. If the dough is rising too fast, transfer to the fridge to slow it down. You could oil the insides of the bowl to prevent the dough from sticking. I do not oil , and find that with careful scraping there is very little dough sticking to the sides.
See the trapped air bubble in the picture – it is a good indicator that everything is going well :-).
Once the dough is doubled transfer it to a floured work surface and form into a rectangle. Fold it over itself into thirds starting from one short side , and place back in the bowl. cover and let rest for 30 minutes and repeat the process.
Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces. Place each piece on a floured surface and gently stretch out a little . Pinch the sides toward the middle to form a long log . Make sure to pinch all the ends tightly.
How do I make these maintain their shape without a baker’s couche or baguette pans ? What I have in this picture above is my baguette rising station made with parchment paper and baking tray. Here is how I do it.
- On a baking sheet place a long sheet of parchment paper.
- Place a rolled towel under one edge of the parchment and place a shaped baguette next to it on the parchment sheet.
- Pull the long side of the parchment toward the loaf before placing the next shaped loaf one on it .
This keeps the loaves from spreading out and helps it to rise vertically, just like a baker’s couche. Cover with a parchment or moist kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes, until almost doubled.
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F. Place a thick bottomed cookie sheet on the middle rack. Let the cookie sheet heat up as the oven gets preheated. Place another cookie sheet or ovenproof dish on the rack below it . When the baguettes have risen slashes the tops . A sharp paring knife dipped in water does the job very well. Spritz some water on the loaves and slowly slide the parchment paper with the baguettes on to the hot cookie sheet – this is where a rimless baking sheet or pizza peel comes handy.
Place a cup of ice cubes on the trey below and close the oven door . Reduce the temperature to 400°F. Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes , check and bake for a few more minutes to achieve the desired color. . Remove from the oven , cool on a rack and enjoy !!
Tips to get the classic crunchy texture
- High hydration or wet dough.
- Hot oven
- Moist heat
Use this recipe as the starting point in your baguette journey – increase the hydration as you gain more experience.
Here is a simple baguette recipe that is easy to master. Baguettes take only 4 ingredients but the technique and proportions are what give it its characteristic appeal. With a little bit of patience and practice it will taste and look better than the store bought ones.
- 3 1/4 C High Protein AP Flour or Bread Flour (400g)
- 1 C Sourdough Starter (200g)
- 1 C Water (250g)
- 1 3/4 Tsp Fine Sea Salt (9g)
- In a large mixing bowl add the starter, flour, salt and water. Stir using a spatula till everything comes together into a shaggy mass. Cover with a towel and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Uncover and knead for 5 to 10 minutes the dough feels smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl and lightly oil (optional) the insides. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place till doubled - 2 to 4 hours depending on the room temperature.
- Punch down the dough. Flour a work surface and transfer the dough to it . Form into a rectangle and fold in thirds toward the middle starting from one one short side. Pinch the ends closed. Place the dough back in the bowl and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat this process once more .
- Divide the dough into 3 to 4 pieces depending on the size of the baguettes you want to make. Place each piece on a floured work surface and form baguettes (see pictures) . Cover a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet with a long sheet of parchment and place the shaped baguettes on it (see pics). Cover with a moist kitchen towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.
- While the baguettes are rising preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a thick cookie sheet in the middle rack and and oven safe rimmed pan on the rack below.
- Once the baguettes have almost doubled , make slashes on the top with a sharp knife. Spray some water on top of the loaves and transfer into the hot baking sheet. Place a cup of ice cubes in the bottom tray and close the oven door. Reduce the temperature to 400°F and let the bread bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes check and bake a few additional minutes till the crust reaches desired golden brown color.
- The volume measurements are approximate
- Use fed and active sourdough stater.
- The starter is at 100% hydration i.e. equal parts flour and water by weight. Here is how to make your own starter.
Here are a few recipes that these baguettes are great with :
Originally published on Jan 2017. Republished with updated pictures and edited content.