Classic Baguettes Bakealong: Challenge #11

bakealong-logo

You’re at your local bakery, and you have the good fortune to nab a fresh, hot baguette. Feeling its warmth in your hands, you simply can’t wait to get home to rip into it. Crisp shards of crust litter the car seat; you don’t care. A just-baked baguette is so worth it.

What if you could skip the bakery, and re-create that experience at home? Pulling a fresh baguette from your oven, ripping it open, a wisp of steam slipping from its holey interior…

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

And there’s a bonus: When you bake baguettes at home, you can hear them “sing:” the properly baked baguette makes a distinctive crackling sound during its first 15 seconds or so out of the oven. This elusive song alone is reason enough to join our Classic Baguettes bakealong challenge.

Call it DIY to die for.

Hot, crusty baguettes made at home? Take the #bakealong challenge and see how it's done! Click To Tweet

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Make the starter (a.k.a. poolish)

Mix the following in a medium-sized bowl:

1/2 cup cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*

*We recommend our unbleached all-purpose flour for this recipe (both starter and dough), as its protein level and other attributes closely mimic the flour used by French bread bakers. But feel free to use unbleached bread flour, if you like; there’s no need to adjust the amount of liquid, the dough will simply be a bit stiffer.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Cover this starter and let it rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have expanded and become bubbly.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Mix the dough

Mix the following together to make a rough dough:

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Knead the dough

Knead the dough — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — until it’s soft and fairly smooth. It should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough.

If you’re using a KitchenAid stand mixer, knead for about 4 minutes on speed 2 (medium-low speed); the finished dough will stick a bit at the bottom of the bowl.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Let the dough rise

Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-sized bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 90 minutes, gently deflating it, pulling the edges into the center, and turning it over after 45 minutes. Deflating the dough redistributes and aerates the yeast, which helps it grow.  

Note: A long, slow rise is an excellent way to develop flavor in simple breads like this baguette. As yeast grows, it releases organic acids and alcohol, both of which are flavor carriers. If desired, reduce the yeast in the dough to 1 teaspoon and allow the dough to rise for three hours (rather than 90 minutes) at cool room temperature (around 68°F). Deflate it twice — once at the one-hour mark, and again at two hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflourShape the baguettes

Round each piece of dough into a rough ball by pulling the edges into the center. Cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes (or for up to 1 hour, if that works better with your schedule).

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflourWorking with one piece at a time, flatten the dough slightly then fold it nearly (but not quite) in half, sealing the edges with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough around, and repeat: fold, then flatten. Repeat this whole process again; the dough should have started to elongate itself.

With the seam side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 16″ log. Your goal is a 15″ baguette, so 16″ allows for the slight shrinkage you’ll see once you’re done rolling.

Taper each end of the log slightly to create the baguette’s typical “pointy” end.

For a great visual of all this see our video, how to shape a baguette.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Let the baguettes rise

Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet; or into the folds of a heavily floured cotton dish towel (or couche).

Cover them loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise until they’re slightly puffy (“marshmallow-y” is the term we use in our baking school). The loaves should certainly look lighter and less dense than when you first shaped them, but won’t be anywhere near doubled in bulk. This should take about 45 minutes to an hour at room temperature (about 68°F).

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Why not let your loaves double in size, as is often the case with pan breads?

When you’re baking baguettes, which usually aren’t supported by a pan, you need to be very careful they don’t rise too long and become fragile. An under-risen loaf will expand nicely in the oven, while one that’s risen too long will deflate. So better to let your loaves under-rise than over-rise.

Prepare for baking

While the loaves are rising, preheat your oven to 450°F with a cast iron pan (preferably enameled) on the floor of the oven, or on the lowest rack.

If you’re using a baking stone, place it on a middle rack. For best results, stone and cast iron pan should preheat for a full hour. 

If you don’t have a cast iron pan, use any metal pan capable of being heated without anything in it; even an inexpensive aluminum pan should do. But don’t put the pan into the oven until just before you add the bread.

Start to heat 1 1/2 cups water to boiling.

If your baguettes have risen in a dish towel or couche, gently roll them (seam side down) onto a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet. If you plan on baking them on a baking stone, roll them onto a piece of parchment.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Using a baker’s lame (a special curved blade) or a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three to five long lengthwise slashes in each baguette. To see this technique in action check out our video, how to slash a baguette

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Bake the baguettes

Load the baguettes into the oven. If you’re baking on a stone, use a baker’s peel to transfer the baguettes, parchment and all, onto the hot stone.

Carefully pour the boiling water into the cast iron pan, and quickly shut the oven door. The billowing steam created by the boiling water will help the baguettes rise, and give them a lovely, shiny crust.

Want to learn more about steam and yeast bread? See our blog post, steam in bread baking.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Bake the baguettes — on the pan, or on a stone — for 24 to 28 minutes, or until they’re a very deep golden brown.

Remove them from the oven and cool them on a rack.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2″, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven. Leave the baguettes in the oven until both oven and baguettes are at room temperature. If the baguettes have baked on a pan, remove them from the pan and place them right on the oven rack, for best circulation.

Classic Baguettes Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

This time of year, with fresh vegetables and herbs so readily available, we like to slice baguettes and turn them into bruschetta. Nothing better!

Baking gluten-free?

The high-rising, light texture of baguettes doesn’t easily lend itself to the absence of gluten. We don’t recommend you try to bake a gluten-free baguette, but instead urge you to check out our tempting array of gluten-free bread recipes.

High-altitude adjustments

Do you live high on a mountainside? Check out our high-altitude baking tips.

Interested in more? See our complete collection of Bakealong recipes.

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. David Glassman

    Third time is definitely the charm! For someone who seemed destined for baking infamy my latest attempt actually looks and tastes like real baguette!

    The only thing I’d like to improve upon is the texture of the crumb. With minor exceptions it seems too uniform. How can I get the variety of hole size and openness in the crumb? My bread looks just like your photos, but even they seem rather consistent in bubble size.

    (I recall eating baguette in Paris that was practically one big bubble inside and was perhaps the closest thing to bread heaven on earth.)

    I’ve minimized the handling when i shape the loaves, and use a transfer board when moving the risen loaves from the couche to the baking pan. Am I not getting enough tension in the dough surface when I shape the loaves?

    Any suggestions?

    .

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi David! Your question is a really good one, and also a really challenging one to answer. A lot of folks spend years of their lives learning how to get those amazing air holes you experienced in France. In general, a higher hydration dough will lend itself to more impressive air bubbles, if that’s an option. This does make the dough more challenging to handle, though. If you’d like to talk through your baking process on a more detailed level, we encourage you to call our free and friendly Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-BAKE (2253). They can help you figure out how to tweak your process to maximize the holes in your dough. In the end, though, it often comes down to experience and practice. Keep baking bread, and you’ll soon uncover what works best in your own home kitchen. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

  2. JMS

    So. I the very first step, you are making the starter (poolish).But you never mention it again. In the next step, you just use dry yeast . This is a bit confusing. Would you please clarify what the is the starter for?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there! We’re so glad you reached out with your question. It’s easy to miss steps and ingredients, and we want to make sure you have success with this recipe. The starter comes back into play in the same step as the yeast, “Mix the dough”:

      Mix the following together to make a rough dough:

      1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
      1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
      all of the starter
      3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
      2 teaspoons salt

      Hope that helps! Kat@KAF

  3. David

    Second attempt to make baguettes was a HUGE improvement.What did I do different
    Weighed the ingredients
    More careful about temperature and proofing times
    Pre heated the oven for 1 hour
    Baked for 26 minutes at 450 – next time will probably reduce time to 20 to 22 minutes
    Need to practice shaping and slashing techniques
    Thank you for your help 👍

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *