Have I mentioned that baguettes are my nemesis? I have yet to bake one that I’m happy with. This recipe is currently a work-in-progress and will be until perfected.
Why is the recipe here in the first place? Well, it’s not like the bread is bad. It tastes great, and the crust has good color and is crunchy. I’m after a baguette with a lighter crumb, one with larger random air pockets than it currently has. The baked loaf needs to look better too.
At this point this recipe is a work in progress. Hydration was changed from 75% to 78% so the finished baguettes look a bit better. The proofing was a bit sluggish and so yeast was increased from 1.5% to 2.25%.
Developing the Recipe
What is a French baguette? It’s a long (about 70 cm or 27 1/2 in.), narrow (about 6 cm or 2 1/3 in.) loaf of bread with a very crunchy crust and a final weight of about 250 g (or 8.8 oz.).
First off, using my home oven I’m limited to about a 15 inch baguette. I’ll need to use less dough than when baking a standard size baguette, only about 55%. So, the final weight of a 15 inch baguette is 4.84 ounces. We need to start off with a larger weight of dough because water in the dough evaporates while baking. The weight of the final loaf is about 75% of the weight of the unbaked dough, which means we’ll need 6.45 ounces of dough per baguette.
Overnight bulk fermentation to maximize flavor.
Need more yeast for bulk fermentation in the refrigerator.
Shape baguettes after dough has tripled and before it begins to sink.
Additional yeast means less time needed during final proofing.
Higher hydration means more supple dough allowing it to expand more.
Slash baguette to allow it to easily expand.
Create steam in oven to keep outer dough soft and it leads to crispy crust.
French Baguettes, Just Shorter
- 3.54 ounces bread flour 50%
- 3.54 ounces all-purpose flour 50%
- 5.52 ounces water 78%, heated to 90 to 95 degrees F
- 0.14 ounces salt 2%
- 0.16 ounces instant dry yeast 2.25%
- 1/2 cup ice to steam oven
- Combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, and water in a bowl with either a Danish dough whisk or a spoon just until all ingredients are combined. Cover and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes to autolyse. The autolyse step allows the flour to better absorb the water and in addition activates enzymes in the flour.
- Flatten the flour and water mixture and sprinkle salt and yeast on top, then fold the dough (using hands, bowl scraper, dough whisk or spoon) to incorporate. Continue until all the salt and yeast have been added and throughly incorporated.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and over the next hour fold the dough every 20 minutes. After the last fold place the dough in the bowl and covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for 21 hours.
- Take the dough from the refrigerator the next day and divide the dough in two, preferable by weight. Let sit for an hour covered with plastic wrap.
- Cut parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. Shape the dough into baguettes after sitting for an hour and place the formed loaves on the parchment paper. Support the baguettes while they rise using two rolled up towels on either side of the loaves. Let the loaves rise for an hour.
- Allow the oven enough time to preheat before the loaves have finished rising.
- Place one oven rack in the bottom-most position and another in the middle. Place a steel or cast iron pan in the center of the bottom rack and a pizza stone, steel, or inverted sheet pan on the middle rack. Preheat the oven at 475 degrees F. When using a pizza stone or steel they should be preheated a minimum of 45 minutes.
- After the loaves have risen for an hour and are ready to be baked, add 1/2 cup of ice to the steel or cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven. Remove the rolled up towels and score the tops of the loaves with a razor or lame 4 or 5 times. Spray the loaves with water. Pull the loaves, one at a time, onto the pizza stone, steel or inverted sheet pan, by the parchment paper.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The crust will become dark brown and a little black.
- Take the loaves from the oven and place on a rack to cool for 20 minutes.