Classic Baguettes Bakealong: Challenge #11

bakealong-logoWelcome to our June bakealong challenge. Each month, we’ll announce a new recipe for you to try, along with helpful tips and step-by-step instructions here on our blog. We invite you to bake this month’s recipe, Classic Baguettes, then share a photo of your creation, tagging it #bakealong. Enjoy!

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.

Take the challenge!

Are you ready to take the Classic Baguettes Bakealong challenge? Follow this post on your tablet or laptop, or print the recipe. And when you’re done, remember to post your photos, tagged #bakealong. We’re looking forward to seeing your gorgeous baguettes!

Bakealong LIVE

Be sure to like our Facebook page and join us on Thursday, June 8 at 7:30pm EDT — we’ll lead a LIVE baking class, teaching this month’s recipe, and answer your questions on-air.

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. Eric

    Is this recipe in your normal recipe format where you can select weight or volume for the ingredients?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, Eric! It sounds like you’re looking for the full recipe link, where you can change the units in which the ingredients are displayed. Happy baguette baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Mariam

    Hi! It’s my first time baking baguette; I’m a little reluctant because my husband is quite the bread connoisseur! He likes a baguette I buy from the local grocery store which has slightly sweet overtones. Is it OK to add sugar into this recipe? If so when?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Mariam! Feel free to add a tablespoon of either sugar or honey when you’re mixing up the dough itself. Keep an eye on your dough as it may rise a bit faster than the recipe suggests with the added sugar. If anything pops up, give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE (2253). Your husband will forget all about the grocery store baguettes! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Karolina

    Made this for the first time and it looked like straight out of a bakery! Very good recipe, but came out as a little bit dense, how could I make it airy the next time? Overall, very happy with this!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Karolina, the key to a light and fluffy loaf is high hydration. Try holding back about 1/4 cup of your flour next time. Annabelle@KAF

  4. Heather

    My kitchen runs cold (like 60F) does this make a difference when making the starter and letting it sit for the 14 hours?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Heather. It might take just a couple hours longer, but it will be more noticeable when the finished dough and shaped baguettes are rising than with the starter. Just follow the queues from the dough itself rather than the clock and they’ll be beautiful! Annabelle@KAF

  5. Lisa Alvarado

    I love this recipe and techniques. On my first try I didn’t get the cut right on the bread(see your photo of finished loaves), I wanted that textured opening. I think I over kneaded when I shaped the loaves.

    So now I want to try my second batch but cut the recipe in half. Can you reply with measurements to adjust to a half batch?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Lisa. In the words of PJ; “It’ll work; but for all the time and effort, maybe you could consider freezing two of the baguettes for later. Or even giving them away to friends or colleagues? Whichever way you go, enjoy — it’s a fun process with a delicious result.” Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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