Baguettes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes

    4

    Baguettes

Appears in

Good to the Grain

By Kim Boyce

Published 2010

  • About

I began my career baking pastries more than bread, so when I first started making baguettes at home I wasn’t sure I could get the crunch and chew I wanted from a home oven. But with a lot of practice, and an increasingly hotter oven, I started putting some great loaves of bread on my counters. The time spent on making bread is a large part of what gives it its flavor and texture, but the time can be managed so it doesn’t overwhelm your day. This recipe calls for a poolish, a wet, goopy, pre-ferment that is started the night before using small amounts of the same ingredients that will be used in the final dough. This way, when you wake up in the morning you’re just a few hours away from delicious homemade baguettes.

Ingredients

Poolish

Dough

  • teaspoons active dry yeast, or the remaining part of the package used for the poolish
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Method

  1. To make the poolish, measure the yeast into the bowl of a standing mixer. Heat 1 cup of water in a small saucepan over low heat to a temperature that is warm to the touch, about 100°F, and pour it over the yeast. Stir to combine. Add the multigrain flour and stir again. The mixture should be loose, the consistency of yogurt. If it isn’t, add either flour or water to adjust it. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise overnight.
  2. The next morning, measure the remaining yeast into a small bowl. Heat ¾ cup of water in a small saucepan over low heat to a temperature that is warm to the touch, about 100°F, and pour it over the yeast. Add this yeast mixture, the sugar, the all-purpose flour, and the salt to the poolish.
  3. Mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated, then increase the mixer speed to medium. Watch carefully as the dough begins to form. At first the mass is wet and sticks to the sides of the bowl. Mix for 1 minute to give the flour time to absorb the water before adding flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl—you should only need 1 or 2 tablespoons. Continue to mix on low speed for 10 minutes; the dough should now be one supple, elastic mass.
  4. For the first rise, scrape the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 minutes. Then, gently pour the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface, allowing it to drop from its own weight.
  5. For the second rise, gently fold the dough into thirds (as you would a business letter), put it back into the bowl, cover, and allow to rise for 30 minutes more.
  6. For the third rise, again pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and repeat the process for the second rise. Meanwhile, arrange two racks at the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place a shallow metal pan on the floor of the oven and preheat to 500°F.
  7. To shape the dough, again pour it onto a floured surface, letting it drop from its own weight. Cut the dough into quarters, leaving some space between the quarters. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. Sprinkle flour on two baking sheets.
  8. After 30 minutes, take one of the pieces of dough and, with floured hands, fold it in thirds lengthwise (as you would a business letter). Keep drawing up the outer edges of the dough, pinching them at the top, until you have a long torpedo shape, 10 to 12 inches long and approximately 2 inches wide. Roll the ends between the surface and your hands so that they form little tails, and lay the baguette lengthwise on one of the trays. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough, placing 2 baguettes on each baking sheet. Loosely cover the baguettes with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  9. Dust the tops of the baguettes by spooning a little flour into a fine sieve and shaking it over the dough. Don’t put too much on; it shouldn’t be so thick that it cakes while baking. Slash the tops of the baguettes, deeply, with a very sharp knife (or, ideally, a razor blade). Make 3 or 4 long, diagonal slices, very quickly and with a sure hand so the dough doesn’t catch and tear. Immediately slide the trays into the oven. Very carefully, pour 1 cup of water into the pan at the bottom of the oven and quickly shut the oven door. The steam from the water helps give the baguettes a nice crust. Resist the urge to open the oven door, which will let the heat and the steam out of the oven.
  10. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the baguettes have a dark golden-brown crust and the little tails are just shy of burning.
  11. Allow the baguettes to cool on a baking rack, preferably for a few hours, so that the flavor can develop and the crumb doesn’t collapse when you cut into it. The baguettes are best eaten the day they are made.