When I think of Paris, I think of roaming the romantic café-lined streets, with a baguette in one hand, and a wheel of cheese in the other, while the Tour de Eiffel imposes gently in the background to the playful tune of accordion music.
Making Baguettes (meaning wand or stick) requires time. Sadly, you cannot wave your magic baguette wand or take any shortcuts. In fact you’ll need to set aside a good 24 hours, as each step in the process is vital for a perfectly golden-brown crisp baguette bread.
There are many different calculations, ratios, and theories out there. The levain, the poolish, the flour, and the rise times all make a very big difference to the end result. We are by no means professional bakers but we tried and tested the recipe with the ratios below and were rewarded with wonderful results. It’s fun to experiment with this until you achieve the flavor and crust that you fall in love with most.
If you follow our recipe, you’ll need the following:
- I suggest using a digital scale as it offers the most accurate measurements
- A pizza stone. We believe it offers a better crust. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can use an oiled pan (but a pizza stone is a great investment anyway)
- Oven-proof ramekin with water for the baking (think: steam)
- T65 Flour. This is a strong high-protein flour with the right gluten structure for a baguette. We sourced ours from a specialty baking supplies shop and it was delivered the next day (If you live in Germany, I can recommend Ketex). I highly recommend you use organic flour (to avoid chemical residue from the bran)
- Levain – which denotes a sourdough starter. You can make this at home (which you need at least for), or purchase it in specialty baking supply stores
- Active yeast for the Poolish
- Salt, tepid water, a few spoons and some bowls of course!
- An electric mixer with a dough hook will be easiest to work with this dough, as it needs to stay relatively wet
Step 1: Poolish
This pre-fermentation process is a critical step and will add a lot of texture and flavor to the final baguette. This step requires you to add equal amounts of flour and water with a tiny bit of yeast. We used the following ratio:
Flour: 100 grams
Tepid water: 100 grams
Active bakers yeast: 0.1 grams
Let this mix stand for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature in a bowl covered with plastic film. At the end of the cycle, the mix should be very bubbly and stingy. The resting time is crucial here, as you want the yeast to work its magic. There are several ways to test if the Poolish (and levain) are ready. You can actually over-rest it. If you follow this recipe however, we suggest at least 12 hours. A lot will depend on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen.
Step 2: Levain
Levain offers a truly wonderful flavor with a handsome crust on the outside and an airy inside that makes an excellent match with ripe cheeses. You should start your levain at the same time as the poolish mix. The levain should not exceed 10% of the final dough. We used the following ratio:
Flour: 34 grams
Tepid water: 34 grams
Sour dough starter: 17 grams
Mix this well in a bowl and let stand, covered with film, for 12 to 16 hours. Again, the resting time here is crucial, as stated above with the Poolish also.
Step 3: Final dough
Add the levain and poolish in a mixing bowl. Add the below quantities of water and yeast and fully dissolve the yeast with a whisk or spoon. Finally, add the flour and salt last. Do not mix the yeast and salt together, until the last minute, as the salt will severely impact the performance of the yeast.
Our ratio is as follows:
Flour: 357 grams
Water: 197 grams
Salt: 10 grams
Yeast: 5 grams
Once all the above ingredients are in the same bowl, mix at medium speed for about 12 minutes using a counter top mixer with a dough hook.
The consistency of the dough should change dramatically while mixing. Towards the end of the mixing cycle, you will notice the glutinous and stretchy nature of the dough. If not, then keep mixing until you achieve a very stretchy texture.
As you are working the final dough, please resist the urge to add more flour due to the consistency. Most are used to working dough that is less runny than the one on this recipe. You need a high water content in the dough to keep the center of the bread moist and the crust nice and crispy. Adding flour beyond what is in the recipe will not have the same effect, so please resist your instinct. The secret is to keep working the dough until the dough becomes very stretchy and can be worked.
Finally, place the final mixed dough in a floured large square plastic container with a cover. The square container will help to shape the dough. Let the dough rest for 2 hours.
Step 4: Adding folds
After the 2 hour resting period, place the dough on a floured surface and fold the sides gently up into the center
You should do this to the four sides of the dough, and maybe a couple more folds for good measure.
Add the dough back to the square container, making sure to lightly flour the bottom.
Let rest for 30 to 60 minutes.
Step 5: Forming the baguettes
After the dough has rested, place it once again on a floured surface and split the dough into four equal parts.
Using your hands, roll each piece into baguette shapes and place on a floured towel or dry cloth. There are several good videos online that show you different folding and forming techniques!
Once again, make sure that the size of the baguettes is appropriate based on the size of your oven.
Let rest for at least 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven (with the pizza stone) to 240 degrees Celsius
Step 6: baking
Place the baguettes on a floured surface that is easy to slide into the pizza stone.
Cut slices on the top of the baguettes to allow it to expand while baking.
Placing a small oven-proof ramekin of water on the top tray of the oven will provide some steam during the baking process. We have found this helps!
As stated above, since most home-ovens are relatively small, you may have to do this stage in batches, assuming that three or four small baguettes will fit into the oven at each time.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 240 degrees Celsius – you’re looking for a beautiful golden brown color – so baking time will depend a bit on the size of your baguette, and the conditions in your oven
If you can resist, let it rest for a few minutes before cutting into it… et, Bon Appétit!