As I mentioned in my recent croissants post I had the good fortune recently to learn a few solid keeper bread recipes from the good folks at The King Arthur Baking School, and French baguettes was one of my favorites to learn!
I was scared heading into the video class that this was going to be a days long recipe, one that was very involved. But I was amazed that so much flavor could be built simply by starting the night before you want your warm bread coming out of the oven.
Yes, one or two of the steps are difficult, in that you have to learn how to work with wet or sticky dough without adding more flour to make it manageable. It is not a comfortable way of working with bread for me, yet. But I’ll get there.
During the class, the instructor shared the history and tradition of French baguettes, which dates back to the early 19th century. The baguette has become an iconic symbol of France and is enjoyed by people all over the world.
As someone who loves to travel and explore new cultures, I was intrigued by the idea of learning how to make such a delicious loaf similar to ones I’ve tasted on the streets of Paris in my own home.
Some parts of the process of making baguettes proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated, and one or two steps were actually easier. The dough requires a lot of time to properly ferment but it is fairly hands off.
Shaping the baguettes took a bit of practice to get right but ended up being fairly easy to understand once you have a professional give you a visual tutorial.
The hardest part for me was working with the initial dough, after adding the poolish. It is a fairly wet dough and not very suitable for traditional style kneading that I had learned from watching my mother many years ago.
However, the end result was worth the effort. The baguettes had a beautiful golden crust and a soft, chewy interior. They tasted just as good (if not better) than the baguettes I had enjoyed during my travels to France.
Definitely better than any bread I tried in Spain.
French Style Baguettes
- 1 baking stone or baking steel baking steels cook hotter than stone, should use different temperatures for each one
- 150 g water
- 150 g all purpose flour
- 1 pinch yeast
- 177 g water
- 312 g all purpose flour
- 3 g yeast
- 10 g salt
- 1 full Poolish recipe from above
- The day before baking, mix the flour, water, and a pinch of yeast in a medium bowl until well combined. Cover the bowl tightly and let the poolish ferment for about 12-15 hours at a temperature of 68°F to 72°F. Once it's fully ripe, the poolish should have a very bubbly and fragrant consistency.
- Once the poolish has ripened, mix in the flour, water, yeast, and salt until they form a cohesive mass. The dough should have a slightly sticky texture, so you may have to add a little extra water.
- Place the dough on a smooth surface that has not been floured and begin kneading it. Even though the dough may be sticky, refrain from adding additional flour. After a brief period, the dough will become smoother and less sticky to the touch. (Alternatively, you may knead the dough on medium speed in a mixer for 3 to 4 minutes.) Once the dough has achieved a smooth and elastic texture, put it back into the bowl and cover it securely to allow it to rise. Ensure that the dough remains at a temperature of 75°F to 78°F.
- Allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours, folding it once after 45 minutes (or more frequently if the dough appears very slack).
- Separate the dough into two (or three) portions and shape them gently into rounds. Cover the rounds and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.
- Form the dough into baguettes. Place the shaped bread with the seam side down on a couche or a tea towel that has been lightly dusted with flour. I use parchment paper so that I can simply slide the bread into the oven when ready. Allow the bread to proof, covered, until it has almost doubled in size, which should take around 30 to 40 minutes.
- While the loaves are proofing, preheat your oven and baking stone to 500°F, or 450 degrees in using a baking steel. At the same time, place cast iron pan on bottom rack of the oven for steaming the loaves once they go in.
- Put the proofed loaves onto a peel or leave it on parchment like I do, and make slashes on them, either traditional slashes or one long slash all the way down the loaf. Transfer the baguettes onto the baking stone or steel. Once the baguettes have been placed in the oven pour 10-12 ounces of hot water into the cast iron pan and quickly close the oven door.Bake the loaves for approximately 20-25 minutes until the crust has a deep caramel color and the sides are very firm.
The first night I made these baguettes I was at home, by myself. And I ate a lot of bread! So naturally I was curious as to what I had just consumed and put together a quick nutritional panel.
Obviously there are not many ingredients in a French baguette, so this panel came together pretty quickly. The only question is how much of a warm baguette are you going to eat? And how much butter are you going to put on that bread!
I did not include any butter in this nutritional panel, and guestimated that one serving would equal 1/4 of one baguette in this two baguette recipe.
Leave a Reply