Ultimate Sourdough Baguettes: NOT for the birds.

How does this…

Become this…

…and then this?

It’s the MAGIC of sourdough!

Sourdough starter may put you in mind of ultra-sour, San Francisco-style sourdough bread. But it’s SO much more versatile.

Basically, sourdough starter can be used in any recipe where you combine flour with water or another liquid.

Pancakes and waffles? Classic and delicious. Cake? You bet. Pizza? SO good…

And sourdough baguettes? They’re a natural. The baguette’s simple flour/water/yeast/salt dough, when made with sourdough starter, acquires deep, nuanced flavor impossible to obtain from “straight” dough: one made without a starter.

That richly flavored, crusty loaf, so wonderful when fresh, quickly loses its glamour, though. A sourdough baguette straight from the oven? Heaven. Next day? Well, unless you reheat it… meh, not so good.

Which isn’t to say it’s for the birds. Day-old or stale baguettes make remarkably good crostini – “little toasts,” in Italian.

Cut the baguette into thin crosswise slices; spray or brush with olive oil, if desired; and toast in the oven until crisp. Top with a dab of caponata; a dollop of soft cheese, or a drizzle of imaginatively flavored oil.

Instant appetizer!

First, though, come the baguettes. Ultimate Sourdough Baguettes. Let’s do it.

Start with a batch of sourdough starter. It should be cream-colored, about as thick as very thick pancake batter, and, if you’ve fed it, nice and bubbly.

Why would you use UNFED sourdough starter?

If you feed your sourdough before using, the loaves will rise better; but if you’re in a hurry, unfed sourdough will simply lend its flavor, while the yeast in the recipe takes care of the rise.

Combine the following in a mixing bowl:

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 cups sourdough starter, about the consistency of thick pancake batter; fed, or unfed
4 1/2 to 5 cups (17 to 21 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten*

No vital wheat gluten? Leave it out; your baguettes won’t rise quite as high, but will still taste fine. Or substitute King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour for the all-purpose flour.

Stir everything together to make a rough dough. Then start to knead (using a stand mixer, or your hands), adding only enough additional flour as necessary; a slack (sticky)  dough makes a light loaf.

The dough will probably stick to the sides of the bowl (or your work surface) at first; scrape it off the sides, and continue kneading for about 7 minutes in a stand mixer; or 8 to 10 minutes by hand.

Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, cover the bowl…

…and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into six pieces (for thin baguettes) or three pieces (for thicker Italian loaves).

Shape each piece into a 16″ long loaf (or 15″ loaf, if you’re using baguette pans). Here’s how:

Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape it into a rough log. Fold it lengthwise, and use the heel of your hand to press the edges together. Fold it lengthwise again, and again press the edges together; you’ll notice that during this folding process, the dough has naturally lengthened.

Turn the log over so the seam side is down, and gently roll it into a 15″ to 16″ log.

Place the logs onto two greased or parchment-lined baking sheets; or into two lightly greased baguette pans. Cover them gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let them rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until they’re nice and puffy.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F.

If desired, gently brush the loaves with egg yolk glaze – 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water. Sprinkle them generously with Pizza Seasoning, Artisan Bread Topping, or the toppings of your choice. If you’re not brushing the loaves with egg yolk, spray them with olive oil spray; this will help them brown.

For a classic look, make three diagonal slashes in each loaf, cutting about 1/4″ deep. For taller, rounder baguettes, don’t slash.

Bake the baguettes for about 25 minutes, or until they’re a rich golden brown.

Remove the loaves from the oven. Turn off the oven, crack it open a few inches, and return the loaves to the cooling oven, without their pans. Letting the loaves cool right in the turned-off oven helps preserve their crunchy crust.

Remove the loaves from the oven when they’re cool.

(If you can’t wait until they’re cool, go ahead – rip right into one while it’s hot. But leave the others in the cooling oven.)

Break one open; enjoy its lovely, hole-riddled interior.

The loaf on the right was slashed; on the left, unslashed. Your choice.

OK, what about those other five baguettes, the ones you didn’t wolf down right away? Unless you’re having a party, you probably won’t eat six baguettes in one day.

Whatever you don’t enjoy the first day, either reheat in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, lightly tented with foil, to restore the loaves’ crunchiness; or slice and make into crostini.

Crostini are a great snack to have on hand for unexpected holiday guests. Add cheese, or olives, or guacamole, or any kind of topping, and you’re good to go, appetizer-wise.

Slice stale baguettes about 1/3″ thick. Brush or spray with olive oil, if desired. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 minutes or so, until crostini are crunchy and starting to brown.

Remove from the oven, cool completely, and store airtight; they stay fresh and crunchy for weeks. Serve with toppings of your choice.

And pat yourself on the back for being OH-so-ready for impromptu holiday entertaining!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Ultimate Sourdough Baguettes.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. piercesb

    These look great! I’m always looking for new recipes for my starter. Can this dough be made in the bread machine?
    You can definitely mix the dough in your bread machine, but if you’re looking for something similar in texture to a baguette, baking the dough in your bread machine will not give you that. ~Mel

    Reply
  2. "Bobbi Krasuski"

    Those loaves look awesome…I am wondering why mine tend to spread more than puff when rising & baking…have I not added enough flour? They do taste great though! Thank so much!
    There are a few reasons your loaves may be spreading more than rising during the proofing stage. A too-wet dough can cause the dough to not hold it’s shape. Overproofing during the final rise can also cause the dough structure to slightly deflate and look wider rather than higher. If your dough is under or over-kneaded, the gluten is either not developed enough or basically “broken” if overkneaded. If this happens, the dough does not have the structure to hold the air and can deflate causing a flat loaf. If you have specific questions, please give us a call on the Baker’s Hotline and we’ll be happy to help! ~Mel

    Reply
  3. Roberta

    This looks great, and I’m going to give it a try soon ! When I printed the recipe, I noticed you gave “Baker’s Notes” for cutting the recipe in half. First off, I really appreciate that, since I have a single-person household. My question is that your instructions say to cut all the ingredient amounts in half, except for the yeast, which stays at the original full-recipe amount. Is that a good rule of thumb for cutting all bread recipes in half? Thanks in advance !

    Yeah, usually the yeast stays the same, Roberta, whether you halve or double a recipe. Although I have to say, when I halve, I do cut back the yeast a bit; I think in this recipe, I’d use 2 1/2 teaspoons. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  4. dmurray407

    Could I bake this in my long covered baker? Should I use the full recipe or the half recipe-I think the recommendation for the baker is to use a 3 cup flour recipe . . .
    Thanks!
    Deb
    Deb, you can halve the recipe (be sure to check out the notes about halving in the “tips from our bakers” section–leave the yeast at 1 tablespoon) and then bake in the long covered baker. Just keep in mind that it will be more of an “Italian-style” loaf instead of a baguette. ~Mel

    Reply
  5. mitzimuffins

    My loaves don’t brown as nicely as the one pictured. The loaves are baked but don’t brown. What’s the secret?
    Have you checked your oven temperature lately? If it’s not exactly as hot as the dial says, that could play a part. You could also try leaving them in a few minutes longer, or place your pan on the uppermost rack in your oven. You can always give us a call on the Baker’s Hotline too and we’ll be happy to help troubleshoot! ~Mel

    Sourdough can be very tough to brown; if it goes too long during its rises, the yeast completely consumes any sugar in the dough (or sugar it’s converted from starch), and there’s nothing left to brown. As the recipe suggests, try brushing the loaves with an egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, or with olive oil; both will help with browning. PJH

    Reply
  6. kim smith

    Really An Ultimate One ! how cool was that to prepare for long period of time. Yummy to have for the entire day.

    Reply
  7. nursemary

    Dang! I just got my order from KAF and the box appears to have been dragged here behind the truck instead of inside it. The cap of the bottle of Fiori di Sicilia was smashed and it soaked everything. My jar of sourdough starter was under the bottle of boiled cider, smashed with the starter inside the plastic bag instead of the in the jar. The aroma of the Fiori di Sicilia is finally leaving the house but we were coughing while trying to sort out what was salvageable from what wasn’t. I don’t think I’ll need scented candles for a long time! I was so hoping to make sourdough soon. Anyway, the good news is, the person I spoke to at KAF is replacing the damaged items and she didn’t even want to see the pictures I took. I am always delightfully surprised these days when I get excellent customer service and this was one of those occasions. I will be making this and my fruitcakes as soon as my replacement ingredients arrive.

    Thanks KAF!

    Mary O’Brien

    So sorry for your troubles, Mary – how unfortunate! I hope you get your replacement ingredients ASAP – it’s fruitcake time for sure! PJH

    Reply
  8. "Cookie Munster"

    From Roberta’s post I learn the yeast should not be halved along with the other ingredients. Does the rule of not halving the yeast apply to all yeast bread recipes- specifically, the Classic Baguettes, Soft White Dinner Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls?

    Yes, that’s right – yeast usually remains the same when doubling and, as I mentioned, I sometimes reduce it a bit when halving – I like to use 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons of instant yeast for a typical 3-4 cup of flour yeast recipe (unless it’s very sweet, in which case you might increase to 1 tablespoon). Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  9. John

    I want to try the recipe for sourdough baguettes and want to know if I can get good results if I omit the gluten and instant yeast if I use my really well fed starter? I am fairly new to sourdough baking but have been getting great results using KA flour and the great pans I bought from you.
    Thank you!
    You can certainly omit those ingredients if you’d like. The dough will take longer to rise without the added yeast, though. ~Amy

    Reply
  10. Sharon

    Thanks for already answering all but one of my questions. Can I freeze some of the dough to use later?

    When it comes to freezing dough, you want to take care that the dough is able to rise somewhat before you freeze it: this ensures that some of the yeast is active and will create a better loaf when thawed and baked. Be sure that you freeze the dough as quickly as possible and then use within 1-2 months of freezing. Also, it should be wrapped well to protect against frost bite (aka freezer burn) and odors in the freezer–airtight, too! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  11. Mary

    I have an older bread machine (Chefmate). It will make a 2lb loaf of bread. I would like to sometimes try the sourdough bread/baguettes etc., in this machine, but since most of the recipes for the sourdough make 2 loaves. How would I revise the recipe to work in my bread machine?

    You will just need to cut these recipes in half to make one loaf!-Jon

    Reply
  12. Steve

    I have a starter made from KA Whole White Wheat Flour. Can I use that for this recipe? How much WWWF can I substitute for the white flour in the bread recipe and still get an airy crumb? Should I switch to KA Bread Flour if I swap out some white with the WWWF flour? My goal is to go all whole grain, where possible, but I still want an airy crumb.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sure you may use your WWW starter for this recipe. I recommend only substituting 1-2 cups of WWW for the white flour so the character is not altered too much. You may need to increase the amount of liquid when making this substitution. Add 1-3 t. more liquid per cup of WWW. The wetter the dough the more open the crumb. Switching to a bread flour will lend a chewier interior and a higher rise. For the first try, stick with AP for the remainder of the white flour in the recipe, Steve. If you are not achieving a nice rise, move towards bread flour. Good luck! Elisabeth@KAF

  13. Katerina

    Hello! I have already started the procedure and I was wondering if I can freeze the dough for future use and at which stage can I do it? Thanks so much!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      You can indeed freeze the dough, Katerina; best to use it within 4 weeks max, though, and the shorter amount of time it’s frozen, the better. Freeze the dough once it’s had its initial rise in the bowl, before you divide it. Good luck – PJH

  14. Bryan Williams

    I’ve tried this recipe twice now, and the flavor and rise are great: It wasn’t until I used ice below the loaves and spritzed the loaves with warm water that I got the crackley crust that love on a baguette. Other than that, a great recipe, and good flavor.

    Reply
  15. Kim

    If I skip the vital wheat gluten and sub bread flour for the all purpose, would it be the same amount of bread flour as all purpose?

    Reply
  16. Tiffany

    Thanks ever so much for this recipe and full instructions. I’ve been making sourdough bread for almost a year now with my very active starter. I bake this bread at least every other day if not every day. I ferment the dough which I’ve mixed in my Kitchenaid mixer (best way by far to do it) for 24 hrs and up to 48 and more before making the bread. As you can see I’ve always got bread dough in the refrigerator fermenting awaiting baking. By fermenting the dough for longer periods in the refrigerator you have just eliminated all the gluten and phytic acid (for us gluten free people; these two things is what causes the problems) and I can eat this bread without any inflammation or arthritic flareups. Thought I should mention this because it seems a lot of gluten free people do not know this about breads. For years made gluten free bread which was okay until I learned about the gluten and phytic acid problems in wheat. I usually bake the fermented dough loaves in a round enameled cast iron pot plus, I never let the bread dough cool, I bake the dough cold and it always comes out perfect. So there are times when you do not need to bring the dough to a warmer state. Just made these baguettes with phenomenal success and in this case, I did bring the dough to a warmer temperature. Did exactly as you instructed and now can’t wait to try one out. They’re cooling now in my “off” oven. Thanks again.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Tiffany. For those who have medical reasons for avoiding gluten, we always recommend you consult your doctor about safe dietary choices. Barb@KAF

  17. Carol Massey

    This is one of my favorite sourdough recipes. Three days ago, I made this as I do weekly, but this time I decided to freeze two small loaves immediately after shaping them. I wrapped them in plastic wrap before freezing. This morning I took out one of the loaves and set Compu-Defrost on the microwave for 2 lb. casserole. I auto-set for 6min and 43 sec. I determined that I would defrost the loaf for only the 43 sec. I turned the loaf over every 10-12 sec, and in less than a minute it was soft all the way through. I made four slits in the top, slathered it was warm butter and placed it in an 85F. oven (turned off). In less than 20 minutes had doubled in size so I took it out and turned the oven to 450F. I cooked it for 23 minutes. It had the best oven spring of any sourdough dough bread I’ve ever made. Just wanted to share this with the group.

    Reply
  18. Sarah

    As long as you are using commercial yeast it is NOT considered sourdough. Sourdough is simply water and flour fermented… Commercial yeast is lab created, unhealthy to use, causes illness, sourdough is naturally fermented, and healthy for our bodies to digest.

    You may have used sourdough starter as an “addition” to making your bread, but you depended on the commercial yeast to make it rise. There is quite a bit of difference there.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks for your feedback, Sarah. Since most bakers don’t make this distinction in terminology, I go with the crowd; and I don’t believe commercial yeast causes illness. Still, some of my fellow bakers here at King Arthur are very loyal to sourdough loaves made without commercial yeast, though for their flavor and rise more than any health benefits. Thanks again for connecting here – PJH

  19. Basma Saleh

    I live in the united Arab emirates where it’s very hot in the summer and temperatures could easily go up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. I tried to do the baguette with the sourdough starter only without any yeast and followed the rest of the measurements exactly but the dough came out runny and couldn’t take a ball shape after adding 5 cups of flour so I added an extra 1/2 cup hoping the dough would hold itself a little bit more. The final dough came out stick, slightly runny and couldn’t really hold a ball shape like yours in the above picture. I placed the dough in an air-conditioned room and set the temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and left it to ferment for like 36 hours. The dough didn’t rise a lot but I still shaped the baguettes and I will wait for 1 1/2 hours before I put it in the oven. So my question is did I act correct or did I mess the whole thing? Please advise on the right way to do the baguette with the sourdough starter only and in such a hot weather.
    Thank you and Best Regards,

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The addition of yeast in this recipe helps in the rise and the development of the over all structure. I must draw your attention to the type of flour you may have access to. It may not be as strong as the flour in this formula creating a slacker dough. If you want to venture away from using yeast at all, be sure you are using a healthy fed starter and the dough is not so slack that you are unable to handle it. Your intuition to add more flour was correct. May I also suggest finding a formula that only uses a starter and no domestic yeast. Good luck! Elisabeth@KAF

  20. Beth

    I’d like to do the initial prep the night before & bake the next day. How would I go about this? Can I refrigerate the dough after its initial 90 minute rise? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Beth, you can refrigerate the dough after the initial rise and after shaping the dough. Putting it in the fridge overnight will slow down the yeast enough to act as a long second rise, as well as heighten the sour flavor of your loaf. The next day it can go right from fridge to oven. Happy baking! Bryanna@KAF

  21. Ixak

    My variation of the recipe above:

    I was trying to coax a little more sour out of my homemade starter, so I thought I’d try an overnight rest in the fridge (as mentioned on the 12/31/15 comment). Used KAF bread flour in lieu of the vital wheat gluten, and used turbinado sugar.

    Fed my room temp (69F) starter about two hours beforehand. Used kitchenaid mixer with a dough-hook for 5-6 minutes and finished kneading by hand. Even with only 4.5 cups of flour, dough wasn’t all that slack, but it felt pretty good, so I went with it. Stuck it straight in the fridge (in an oiled bowl) and it was off like gangbusters. Checked an hour later and it had more than doubled in size already, despite the chill (45F). Punched it down and reworked it into a ball again, and went to bed.

    In the morning 7 hours later it was huge – probably triple original size – so went straight to shaping despite concerns of over-rising. Made two 12″ Italian loaves and three 14″ baguettes, covered with plastic wrap, and let sit for 1.5 hours (room temp still 69F). Fortunately, there was still some rise in them, and they puffed up despite the previous manhandling.

    Egg yolk glaze, some various sprinkles, and into the 450F oven. Started with the loaves on the top rack and baguettes in the middle rack, rotated the sheet pans at the 10 minute mark to account for possible uneven heat distribution (gas oven), switched loaves down to middle rack and baguettes up to top rack at the 15 minute mark, rotated pans again at the 20 minute mark, and pulled them out at the 25 minute mark (all times are approximate).

    As recommended, put baguettes back into the cooling oven with the door cracked to develop crust.

    Final consensus – Still not much sour. Crust developed nicely. Chewy, but otherwise unremarkable crumb with small but consistently-sized aeration throughout. Overall, I’m quite happy with the outcome, and will definitely try again.

    Reply
  22. Kent

    I just received my Emile Henry baguette baker and can’t wait to try it out. I would like to know how much flour to eliminate if using a sour dough starter in a non-sour dough starter recipe. Is there a standard ratio between amount of flour vs amount of starter?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Kent, it depends on the consistency of your starter. If you’re feeding with equal amounts of flour and water by weight, you can decrease the flour and water in the recipe the same way. If you decide to use 8 ounces of starter, reduce the water by 4 ounces and the flour by 4 ounces. Susan

  23. Jeannie Hammond

    I thought the temperature was extremely high, as I usually bake my bread at 375 degrees. But I put it at 450. After 15 minutes I peaked in the oven and the bread was already dark brown. If I had left it in 25 minutes it would have been black. It doesn’t seem that any bread could have stayed in for 25 minutes at 450 degrees without burning.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jeannie, 450 degrees is a typical baking temperature for artisan breads, which tend to contain basic ingredients like flour, water, salt and yeast that can handle the higher temperature without burning too quickly. Smaller loaves tend to bake more quickly than larger loaves, so this may have impacted the timing of your bread baking. It may be that if you brushed the dough with the egg yolk glaze, this contributed to your bread browning more quickly, and it is also possible that your oven is running a little too hot. If you have a convection oven I would recommend baking on “regular bake,” or reducing the baking temperature by 25 degrees. And it’s always helpful to check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is reading accurately. Allow your oven to preheat for 30 minutes and then check the thermometer reading. Simply adjust your setting to reflect any difference in temperature. Barb@KAF

  24. April Bijak

    Can I use the same ratios with gluten free flour? This is my first time making a sourdough bread, so any advice would be welcome. I am looking to make a baguette style, like cheese cake factory. When starting my bread, can I use a greased wood bowl, or possibly a plastic big bowl? What’s my best option. I love a strong sour, and any of the gf sourdoughs I’ve bought, have zero flavor. Any advice on a nice bitter bite?

    Thanks!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      April, trying to convert a regular bread recipe to gluten-free doesn’t work well because so much of the structure and rising of bread depends on the gluten that wheat flour provides. For best results we recommend following a gluten-free bread recipe. We do have a GF sourdough starter recipe to get you started on your GF sourdough journey. While we don’t have a GF sourdough baguette recipe, this GF Sourdough English Muffin recipe is pretty awesome. Barb@KAF

  25. Donneva Crowell

    My Kitchenaide mixer has a metal bowl. I’m assuming I can’t use it to knead sourdough, but would like clarification.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sure you can, Donneva. The bowl is stainless steel, which is totally non-reactive, so go ahead and use your mixer. PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Helen, we like using instant yeast because it can be added right in with the dry ingredients in a recipe, and it also speeds up the rising process slightly. However, you are more than welcome to use active dry yeast if that’s what you have on hand. Just watch the dough closely and move on to the next step only when it’s ready. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  26. Lou

    I have a sourdough starter based on potato flakes, sugar, and water. Can it be used successfully in your sourdough recipes? Also, can I convert it to a flour and water sourdough by replenishing it with flour and water, or am I better off to start with a flour and water based starter?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lou, a potato starter like yours isn’t going to have any gluten to add to the structure of a dough, which will throw the formula way off. We definitely wouldn’t recommend using it as a 1:1 replacement. You’re certainly welcome to try converting it to a flour starter, but it may take a few days, in which case it would probably be easier to start a new one from scratch. We really haven’t worked with potato starters much, but even if you convert the starter to a flour base, we suspect that the ingredients will also ferment differently, resulting in different and potentially off flavors. Mollie@KAF

  27. Joi Inbody

    Could you give directions on baking this recipe in the Emile Henry Baguette Baker? Our favorite bread recipe is the one using the Artisan flour for French style baguettes but now I’m ready to try sourdough baguettes. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It’s a great next step, Joi! This recipe as written will be enough for roughly 6 baguettes made in your Emile Henry Baguette Baker, so you have a couple of options: halve the recipe and make just enough dough for the three baguettes that will fit in your pan OR bake three baguettes in the pan, and three baguettes free form. Follow the shaping instructions in the recipe, but for any baguettes that will go in the pan, roll into a 12″-13″ log, rather than 15″-16″. Generously grease the wells of an Emile Henry stoneware baguette baker, and sprinkle them with cornmeal or semolina, for best release. Place the logs, seam-side down, into the prepared baker. Allow the loaves to rise in the covered baker until nice and puffy. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 450°F. Just before baking, remove the lid of the baker, slash the tops of the baguettes several times, and spritz with water. Return the lid to the baker. Bake the baguettes for 20 minutes. Remove the lid of the baker, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until deep golden brown. Mollie@KAF

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