French Baguettes

Recipes

Sep 15

These are the best baguettes you will ever taste, and we’re letting you in on all the secrets.

And if you’ve never done this before or are pretty new (we all were, you know) watch the videos! There’s even a correct way to measure flour.

Ingredients

Starter (poolish)

  • ½  cup water, cool
  • 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast*
  • 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*

Dough

  • 1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons water, lukewarm
  • all of the starter
  • 3 ½  cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
  • 1 Tablespoon Celtic Sea Salt salt

Notes

This is a French recipe, and the word “poolish” is how the French say Polish. This is a starter that sits for at least 14 hours, and bubbles up (ferments). It’s easy to do, you just have to wait a day to taste these delicious baguettes.

We used King Arthur’s West Coast Artisan ™ French-Style flour. We love the King Arthur company because it is employee owned. And they use the best ingredients, have many organic versions, and have support people there to help you. They know me by my first name now.

Instructions

Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.

To make the starter: Mix everything together to make a soft dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have expanded and become bubbly.

To make the dough: Mix and knead everything together — by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. If you’re using a stand mixer, knead for about 4 minutes on medium-low speed (speed 2 on a KitchenAid); the finished dough should stick a bit at the bottom of the bowl.

Proofing

Proofing in baking is the period you allow your dough to rise. We’re going to proof them FOUR times, at 45 minutes each. I learned a lot of tricks from this retired baker on, but he doesn’t start with the poolish, and that makes a lot of the difference.

In the video, he covers his bowl with a “cling wrap.” There are two things on planet earth I should never be allowed to handle, cling wrap and superglue. It never turns out well.

I use Tupperware. It’s so easy and much less frustrating.

Additionally, watch the way he gently handles the dough. In the old days, when I was growing up, I thought my mother was angry at the dough. She slapped it, pummeled it, and threw it down on the breadboard like she was part of the World Wrestling Federation.

From King Arthur Baking we learned:

Handle dough gently during shaping. Forget all you’ve heard about punching and slapping your dough. When you’re deflating dough at any point during its fermentation process, simply fold it over gently onto itself. And when you’re shaping, you don’t want to expel all the air; just make sure the dough is smooth, without huge air pockets.

The first three proofings will be turned out onto your board, but your board is wet. It’s only after the fourth and final proofing that the board has loose flour on it.

After the fourth proofing, we’re going to separate the dough into THREE equal parts (yes, the video creates four, but this recipe is slightly different).

We have created a process that avoids one of the steps in baking baguettes, and that’s the couching them, allowing them to rise and then placing them into the oven. It was very simple. We bought a baguette baking pan.

Here is his baker’s couche. You can use a diaper or a large hand towel, and we tried all sorts of things, but the thing was, we had to lift them into the oven and that always seemed to screw things up. So we purchased this baguette baking pan. And we didn’t care that it was “non-stick,” especially because most non-stick pans and such are toxic.

We did not care if the pan was non-stick or really stick hard, because we baked our baguettes on lightly oiled baking parchment and sometimes, just parchment. A floured loaf does not stick.

After your final proofing, you’ll lightly flour your board and work with the dough on that. Separate your dough into three equal parts and press each with your fingers, shaping them into a very small, roundish loaf, keep sprinkling a bit of flour over each, and cover them with a slightly oiled cling wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.

Place parchment over your baguette pan.

Take your three equal parts and form them into a baguette as he did in the video. On your board sprinkled with flour, you’ll press down with your fingers, stretching out the dough, then rolling it up towards, and finally pressing it all together with the butt of your hand. Keep the seam on the bottom of the baguette and place on the parchment covered baking pan. Make sure to sprinkle a bit of flour on them.

Now cover them with a large towel and let them rise for 20 minutes.

At the end of 20 minutes, set your over to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On the bottom shelf of the oven, place a steel pan and fill it with boiling water. Set your timer for another 12 minutes, or until the oven reaches 400 degrees.

When the oven is ready, so will your baguettes be ready. And you can just put the pan in the oven. But first you have to score them. We’ve found that a razor blade is the best tool for this, and make sure to spray the baguettes with a bit of water. As our chef friend in the video tells us, spraying with water makes them score more easily.

Put the pan in the oven, and give one last spray.

After eight minutes, turn them round so they bake evenly.

Then bake till they’re golden brown.

The best time to eat a baguette is right away, but that’s not possible when you’ve planned to share them with company a bit later.

They can sit out for one full day. Then you’ll want bag them for another day. Then put them, bagged, into the fridge.

Serving

You loved the crisp crust and soft, melt in your mouth inside the moment you bit into your still warm baguette, and you’ll want to reproduce that again for your guests.

Heat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit and then place the baguette straight onto the rack. Ten to fifteen minutes is all you need and now you can serve the perfect baguette.

Options

Of course we had to experiment and this turned out heavenly. I took half a cup of garlic cloves, the large ones were sliced in half, and a half a cup of chopped up Kalamata olives. When I pressed out one loaf, I tossed all that inside and rolled it up. Yes, pieces kept popping out and I kept putting them back in. It was a struggle but look how it turned out.

We made up a nice creamy garlic butter to spread over them and, as one friend put it, “Mmmmmm.”

How to Measure Flour

We made up a nice creamy garlic butter to spread over them and, as one friend put it, “Mmmmmm.”

When you get these down, experiment experiment experiment. Try some sundried tomatoes, a variety of spices, or cheeses. Just remember, being a great baker is more important than being a great lover. (Who said that? Dunno. I guess I did.)

Question?

And if you have questions or suggestions, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT. This is how we learn . . . together.

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