Baguettes

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A traditional baguette commonly weighs 250 g (9 oz) and is 6 cm ( inches) wide with the length varying from anywhere up to 100 cm (39½ inches) long! The baguette size you decide upon will obviously be determined by your oven and tray. Baguettes should have a crisp crust without a dry interior, which means a short bake at a high temperature. You can also adapt this recipe to make rolls and mini baguettes.

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Ingredients

Method

To make baguettes, follow the instructions for mixing the white semi-sourdough, until you can create a window. Use a blunt knife or divider to divide the dough into seven even-sized portions, each weighing 200 g (7 oz) each. Shape into balls, place on a floured tray and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.

Working with one ball of dough at a time, flatten it out with the palm of your hand. Fold the flattened piece of dough into itself in thirds, pressing down evenly. Turn the dough so that the folded seam is facing you and start crimping the dough on the side furthest away from you. To crimp the dough, use your fingertips to pull the dough over towards you, pushing it down and inwards in one movement (see pictures). Repeat this process another three times to create more tension. Use the ball of your hand to push down along the seam and repeat the crimping until you have almost made a cylinder. Seal the seam using the ball of your hand to press along the dough seam — you will hear popping sounds when the seam is totally closed. When you turn the cylinder over, the seam should be in a straight line. Now it is time to roll out to a baguette.

Start with the palms of your hands together, lightly resting on the middle of the cylinder of dough. Push down and roll out with your hands to elongate the cylinder — make sure there are no divots, which may happen if one hand, usually your dominant hand, is pressing too firmly into the dough. Turn the baguette so it is seam side down. Repeat the process of rolling and checking the baguette until it is about 30 cm (12 inches) long and 5 cm (2 inches) wide.

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To make the pointy ends, press the ends firmly with your hands, squeezing the dough into thin points. Repeat with the remaining dough to make seven baguettes in total.

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature. At Bourke Street Bakery we prove our baguettes on couche (Belgium linen). At home, you can place a tea towel (dish towel) lengthways on a baking tray and sprinkle flour liberally over the cloth. Place a baguette, seam side up, at one edge of the tea towel, pushing the wide edge of the tea towel slightly over the baguette to form a barrier between the next baguette you lay down. Keep dusting the towel with flour before you lay down each baguette. When you have placed all the baguettes on the tray, cover loosely with a plastic bag and set aside in a warm place (25°C/77°F) to prove for 30 minutes.

To check that the baguettes are ready to cook, press one gently with your finger — it should bounce back. Gently roll each baguette out of the tea towel so the seam side is facing down. Transfer the baguette onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, seam side down.

To slash a baguette you need a very sharp knife. Pinch the baguette gently with your hand, then with your knife in the other hand, make five or six 6 cm ( inch) diagonal incisions along the middle of the baguette at regular intervals. On each following incision, overlap it by a third to create what is known as the bridge. Try not to fuss over your slashing too much. See where you want to cut your baguette and just do it. This is not one of those actions that benefits from a long slow agonising process. Having said that, you still need to concentrate.

Place the baguettes in the oven and spray the oven with water. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the trays around and check that the bases are not burning, and bake for a further 10–15 minutes.

Variation

To make semi-sourdough rolls you can make baguettes, let them rest and then slice each baguette on an angle into five pieces, creating diamond-shaped rolls.

If you want a round roll, you need to divide the dough into 60 g ( oz) weights after the dough has been mixed and bulk proved, then leave them to rest for 20 minutes. Shape them into balls in the cup of your hand and place them on trays to prove for 30 minutes.

If you want tiny little baguettes you can pre-shape the dough into balls of your desired weight and let them rest for 20 minutes. Follow the directions on how to shape a baguette. Place them directly onto trays lined with baking paper. Bake the rolls and small baguettes for 10 minutes, then turn the tray and cook for a further 5 minutes if required.