MIXING: Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl. With a rounded plastic bowl scraper, bring the ingredients together into a shaggy mass. Do this by running the scraper down the inside wall of the bowl and bringing the ingredients up from the bottom of the bowl and folding them on top of the ingredients that were on top of the bowl. Rotate the bowl about a quarter turn at most with each stroke, so you are always working on a different portion of the dough. There is no need to empty the contents onto the worktable. Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic. Desired dough temperature is 75°F. When doing the calculations to figure the water temperature (for a discussion of desired dough temperature), remember that there is virtually no friction generated by mixing in this fashion.
BULK FERMENTATION: 3½ hours.
FOLDING: Set a timer for 30 minutes. When it goes off, use the plastic scraper to mix the dough 25 strokes in the same manner as the initial mixing. Use fair vigor, but avoid tearing the dough. Reset the timer and continue giving 25 strokes with the scraper each time it goes off. The folding is done a total of 6 times.
DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into 12- to 14-ounce pieces (for baking on a small pizza stone, scale down accordingly). Preshape gently into rounds or blunt cylinders and let the divided pieces rest on a lightly floured bench, covered with plastic. Allow the dough to relax for about 15 minutes, until it can be shaped with no tearing. Use your gentlest hand to shape. The shaped baguettes should have sufficient tautness to ensure good volume when baked, but strive to shape as delicately as possible in order to retain lots of air pockets within the dough. Sift flour lightly onto a length of baker’s linen and lay the baguettes onto it with their seams up. A slight crust will form on the surface that is in contact with the linen (the eventual top side of the loaf), and this will help give better definition to the cuts once the loaves are scored. The slight sheen of flour on the bread’s surface also gives it a nice rustic appearance. Note that the dough can be turned into oval loaves, round loaves, small rolls, or even pizza dough. In these instances, divide and shape according to your wishes.
FINAL FERMENTATION: 1 to 1½ hours at 75°F.
BAKING: Carefully invert the baguettes so the seams are on the bottom and transfer them to the peel. Score the bread. In the home oven, just steam the oven once, as soon as the bread is loaded. Bake at 500°F for 5 minutes (the high temperature at the beginning will compensate for the heat loss ensuing from loading the bread), then lower the temperature of the oven to 430°F and bake for an additional 18 or 20 minutes, depending upon dough weight.