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. Josey

    I made these yesterday and the crust and crumb are incredible. I only used sourdough and they didn’t rise as well as I hoped but I am more than happy with the outcome. Next time I’ll ass some hours of cold fermentation to enhance the tangy flavour. A winner recipe again!

    Reply
  2. Tinydancer

    I just returned from Paris where the hotel I stayed at served mini sourdough baguettes on the breakfast bar. There was either rye or caraway seeds in the bread. I am just starting out on a journey to learn to create a sourdough starter, but I also want to know how to make mini-baguettes, roughly four inches in length, and how to add rye seeds to the dough mixture. I am craving these baguettes, which I buttered and added sliced salami.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      What a lovely vacation you’ve had! You can try to recreate these mini baguettes, starting with using a traditional baguette recipe, like our Classic Baguettes. If you’d like to add caraway seeds, consider adding them near the end of mixing. (In the Classic Baguettes recipe, this is step 2.) Use about 1 to 3 tablespoons of caraway seeds, depending on how strong you want the flavor to be. Consider crushing them to release the flavor better.

      shaping a full-sized baguette but start with a smaller amount of dough. (Start with about 2 ounces or about 56 grams of dough and then adjust the quantity based on what you’re looking for.) Reduce the baking time by about 20-25% when baking these mini baguettes. They should look golden brown, feel crisp, and be light to the touch. We hope this helps you re-live your vacation, mini baguette in hand! Kye@KAF

  3. Kathleen Shoemaker

    Another question/clarification. No. 9 says to remove the loaves, then crack the oven open, and return the loaves to the cooling oven. The sequence is confusing. How long do the loaves stay out of the oven before they are returned? Do you mean, remove the loaves from the oven and the pans they were cooked in, then return the loaves to the oven (without the pans), and close the door all but a crack, letting them cool in the turned off oven?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad you brought this to our attention, Kathleen. We’ve asked our Recipe Team to provide more clarity on this step as we can see how it might be confusing. After the baguettes are done baking, remove them from the oven just long enough to turn the oven off and then remove the baguettes from their pan. You’ll then place them back in the turned-off oven with the door cracked until they’re fully cooled. We hope this helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. Kathleen Shoemaker

    Was pleased to read I can halve the recipe, but I’ll still have unused baguettes. Any special advice on freezing and reheating leftovers? Thanks in advance for your helpful advice!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Wrap up any leftovers, Kathleen, and freeze them for up to three months. Let them thaw on the counter, wrap them in foil, and bake at 350°F for 5 to 10 minutes to reheat. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  5. Michael

    I can never get my dough to absorb the flour that is dictated in the recipes, even the lower end. I activate my yeast with warm water and sugar before adding to the other ingredients. Could this be effecting the absorption of the water?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Michael, it sounds like you might be measuring your flour by scooping it directly from the bag. This often compacts the flour into the cup, and you end up with more flour that you need. To avoid this, try measuring your flour by weight with a scale or gently fluffing and sprinkling the flour into the measuring cup like this. When you use just the right amount of flour, your baguette dough should be tacky to the touch. As for your question about the yeast, you’re welcome to continue including this step if you prefer (it won’t compromise the dough), but we’ve found it’s not necessary in order to activate the yeast. (Learn more about activating yeast in this article on our blog.) We hope this helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  6. 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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