baguettes at last!

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summary: recipe for baguettes made with active dry yeast; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

baguettes My wish was granted and I was given The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum for Christmas. You can’t imagine how thrilled I am that I don’t have to keep taking it out of the library, renewing it, returning it, putting it on hold, taking it out of etc. etc…

Not long ago, as I was leafing through the book to get to the page on braiding techniques for festive bread, I noticed a drawing of a baguette mould and thought, “Hey!! I have one of those!” baguette mould It was given to me years ago and has been hanging on our kitchen wall, serving mostly as a decoration. I did use it a couple of times when we first got it but then foolishly forgot it was there.

Silly me.

Dusting it off and using our flexible silicone sheet as a liner, I shaped the baguettes and allowed them to rise in the baguette mould. And left them in the mould when it came time to bake the bread.

baguettes I know. My slashing technique leaves a lot to be desired. I need to sharpen my knife. (I tried using a box cutter, a serrated knife, a short bladed knife that I THOUGHT was sharp and scissors.) But aside from the slashes, the bread was fabulous. Crusty and chewy on the outside, soft and elastic on the inside (sorry, no photographic evidence of the crumb; we were too busy eating it to get the camera). Nutty flavour. In short, it was wonderful.


Terrific baguettes at last.

The recipe is not unsimilar to the one for “Acme’s Rustic Baguettes” in Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer. We love that recipe, although I have almost always made it into boules, having failed miserably in the past at baguette shaping.

I’m not sure what changed. Was it me? Was it the fact that I actually allowed the dough to rest between shapings? Or that I weighed the ingredients? Who can say?

Whatever it was, it worked. This is what I did to make the baguettes:

based on the baguette recipe in The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

makes 2 baguettes

Starter Dough #1 (Scrap)

  • ⅛ tsp active dry yeast*
  • 60 gm lukewarm water**
  • 58 gm unbleached all-purpose flour***
  • scant ½ tsp seasalt*

Starter Dough #2 (Poolish)

  • ½ Tbsp (~8 gm) yeast mixture from above
  • 68 gm lukewarm water
  • 50 gm unbleached all-purpose flour***
  • 25 gm whole wheat flour***

Final Dough

  • 90 gm lukewarm water
  • ⅛ tsp active dry yeast
  • all of the above starter dough #2 (Poolish)
  • 170 gm (1¼ c) unbleached all-purpose flour**
  • all of the above starter dough #1 (Scrap)
  • 1 tsp (~7 gm) seasalt


  1. Starter Dough #1 (Scrap) On the evening before making the bread: In a small bowl, whisk the yeast with the lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist). Whisk together until dissolved and creamy looking.
  2. In a medium size bowl, using a wooden spoon stir together flour, salt and 8 tsp (2 Tbsp + 2 tsp) of the yeasted water (reserve the extra for the Poolish). This will create a stiffish dough.
  3. Without adding any extra flour, knead in the air until smooth (about 5 minutes). Place the scrap dough in a clean bowl that is large enough for the scrap dough to double. Cover the bowl and leave it on the countertop in a draught-free area (if your kitchen temperature is warm, leave it at room temperature for about 3 hours, then refrigerate) until the next morning.
  4. Starter Dough #2 (Poolish) On the evening before making the bread: Put the flours into the medium sized bowl used for mixing the scrap dough.
  5. Add water and ½ Tbsp of the yeasted water from the Scrap Dough ingredients (discard the tiny bit of extra) to the flours. Stir with a wooden spoon until the flours are encorporated. This mixture will be quite sloppy.
  6. Cover and leave on the counter (out of draughts) overnight.
  7. Actual Dough On the next morning (the day for making the bread): In a largish bowl, whisk yeast into lukewarm water until the mixture looks creamy.
  8. Stir in all of the above starter dough #2 (Poolish).
  9. Add the flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough pulls away from the bowl and the flour is pretty much encorporated. Cover and set aside to sit on the counter for about 20 minutes.
  10. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto an unfloured work surface. Using your fingers, break the scrap dough up into smaller pieces. If you’re worried about the dough sticking to your fingers, run them under the cold water tap for a moment first. Add the scrap dough along with the salt to the top of the rested dough.
  11. Wash and dry the bowl. This prepares the rising bowl AND gets your hands clean.
  12. Without adding any extra flour, knead the dough until it is silky (about 10 minutes). Let your dough scraper (a spatula works) be your friend if the dough is sticking to the board. Keep scraping any dough that is on the board so the board is always clear.
  13. Put the dough in the clean mixing bowl. Cover and allow to rise in a no-draught area (warm room temperature) for 20 minutes.
  14. After 20 minutes has passed, very lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour. Carefully turn the dough out. If necessary, gently spread the dough out (try not to disturb any bubbles). Using the dough scraper and still trying not to disturb any bubbles, fold the left side into the center, then the top into the center, then the right side, then the bottom. As you lift it into the bowl, fold it in half once more. Try to place it in the bowl smooth side up. Cover and allow to rise in a no-draught area (warm room temperature) for 20 minutes. Repeat this step three times in all. (This step is done at 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes after the first kneading.) It’s usually not until the third time that the dough will look like the smooth soft pillow that is described in books. The amount of dusting flour used in those three maneuvres is not more than a couple of tablespoons and probably much less (sorry, I’ve never actually measured). After the final time, cover and allow to rise in a no-draught area (warm room temperature) until it has doubled
  15. When the dough has doubled, you can shape the dough. A good way to tell if the dough has doubled is to wet your finger and poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn’t risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.
  16. Shaping: To shape the baguettes, turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board. Divide it in two even pieces (eyeball the cut; it doesn’t matter if it’s exact). Gently pat each piece into a narrow rectangle, trying not to disturb the bubbles too much. Fold each one like a business letter: the top third down to the middle and the bottom third up to the top edge. Use your thumbs to seal the seam. Leave them seam side down on the board. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow them to rest for about 30 minutes.
  17. After 30 minutes have passed, working one at a time, gently press (again trying not to disturb the bubbles too much) each piece into a narrow rectangle that is about 8 inches long. Fold like a business letter (end result will be an even narrower rectangle about 8 inches long): the top third down to the middle and the bottom third up to the top edge. Use your thumbs to seal the seam. Repeat with the other piece. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow them to rest for about 30 minutes more until they are soft and stretchy.
  18. Gently stretch each rectangle until it is long enough to fit your baguette mould. Place each piece into a parchment lined baguette mould. Cover with a clean tea towel and place the whole thing into a large plastic bag.**** Put it into the fridge for five hours or overnight (I chose overnight).
  19. As soon as you get up the next morning, take the bag out of the fridge to bring everything up to room temperature. Allow the baguettes to rise until they have almost doubled (about an hour and a half). To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
  20. Baking: Twenty minutes before you are going to bake, turn oven to 450F.
  21. Just before putting the bread in the oven, diagonally slash the tops and then spray them liberally with water. Put the bread in the oven (you can leave it in the mould). Immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes until they are hollow sounding on the bottom. Turn the bread around once to account for uneven heat in the oven.
  22. Remove the bread from oven and allow to cool on a well ventilated rack. Wait til they are cool before cutting them. They are still continuing to bake inside!****
* I weighed the ingredients but every recipe in Beranbaum’s book has measurements by weight (grams & ounces) and volume. She also states the final percentages at the end of the recipe. Because our scale does not register fractions of grams, I used volume measures for the small amounts. Beranbaum calls for 0.4gm or ⅛ tsp instant yeast and 1.2gm or 3/16 tsp salt.

** Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in your hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave.

*** The wholewheat flour is around 13% protein and the all purpose flour is 11.52% protein. (Please note that a Canadian cup holds 250ml, a Canadian tablespoon holds 15ml and a Canadian teaspoon holds 5ml.)

**** Beranbaum suggests oiling plastic to cover the bread. But this just seems wrong to me to use oil for any part of French bread making.

***** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat uncut bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust perfectly.

I think that refrigerating the rising dough overnight was one of the keys to our success. It really was the most beautiful bread, even though the slashes weren’t exactly as I hoped. Next time….

We served the bread with a ripe double cream brie and lentil soup. What a fabulous dinner that was!

Initially, we imagined that we would only eat one of the baguettes. Ha. There weren’t even any crumbs left….

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5 responses to “baguettes at last!

  1. Jude

    Scoring is so hit and miss for me too. Sometimes you’re on, sometimes way off.
    With a double cream brie, there’s no surprise you weren’t able to take crumb pictures.

  2. ejm Post author

    Thank you, Usha! While it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was darn close. Do give baguettes a shot. Even when they aren’t exactly right, they’re still great.

    It is, isn’t it, Tanna? I’m so glad that my memory was jogged. I hope I don’t forget again…. :lalala:

    Susan, you and Tanna are probably right that it was simply practice at dough handling that made the baguettes work. Although, I really do think that this refrigeration overnight helped too.

    Jude, I’m hoping that the scoring will suddenly come to me in the way that baguette shaping did. Although I fully expect both of those to be a bit hit and miss too.



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