June 12, 2012

La Baguette

There is one type of loaf that every serious home baker has to bake at least once in his own home kitchen, and that is the baguette. For one reason or another, baguettes, these long, elegant, yummy bread sticks, are very intimidating. Every single home baker I have talked to over the years keeps postponing the day when they will make the big attempt.

I felt a little bit intimidated myself this past Sunday, despite the fact that I have baked tons of these babies in my deck oven at the bakery. I can think of a number of reasons why baking baguette in a home oven is less than ideal:

  1. Obviously, your baguette will have to be a lot shorter than the traditional 26 inch of a usual French baguette. I ended up doing mine at only 16 inch long. 
  2. A shorter baguette means fewer slashes. The French slash their baguettes as many as ten times. That's crazy! And beautiful at the same time. At the bakery, we always slashed ours five times only, and on these short babies, I managed only four slashes. 
  3. Baking in your home oven will mean that you only have a limited amount of dough in the oven, and that, combined with the lack of proper steaming, means you'll have to try really hard to achieve that perfect crust.
But hey, this is not supposed to be a post about why you shouldn't bake baguettes at home. The bottom line is, I had tons of fun baking the baguettes and the results where quite alright. Just look at that super-awesome open crumb! And no, this is not a baguette I bought at my favourite bakery and took home for a photo-shoot.

Don't postpone any further and give it a shot. You will get a lot of satisfaction out of this. After all, anyone can bake great baguettes in a commercial kitchen, using a professional deck oven. So I dare you to try this at home!

And, by the way, I am happy to share my own baguette recipe with everybody out there. I've been told numerous times that it's a damn good one. Enjoy.

The "Secret" Formula

(prepared 12 hours in advance and left at room temperature)

80 gr water
60 gr all-purpose flour
20 gr rye flour
1 tsp sourdough culture

(prepared 12 hours in advance and left at room temperature)

80 gr water
80 gr all-purpose flour
1 gr yeast

Final Dough

248 gr water
400 gr all-purpose flour
20 gr whole wheat flour
12 gr salt
1 gr yeast
1 gr malt

Mix all your ingredients except for the salt and do a 20 minute autolyse. Add the salt and knead to fully develop the dough. Bulk ferment for one hour, then stretch and fold and ferment for another hour. Divide (I scaled mine at 200 gr), pre-shape into logs, cover and let sit for about 30 minutes. Shape into baguettes (there must be some awesome YouTube video out there that shows you how it's done) and proof for 45 minutes to an hour. Bake at 475 F for 20 minutes. VoilĂ .

We will share this post on YeastSpotting as well.


  1. Very beautiful looking baguettes.
    Your crust and crumb look perfect.

    Can I ask what type of malt you used and did you use instant yeast in the poolish?

    1. Thank you. I was very pleased with the crust myself. I am using bricks to bake on, rather than a pizza stone; and the added thermal mass makes a big difference.

      The malt in the formula is a diastatic malt powder (I should have made that clear from the beginning); I used to buy it in 5 kg bags at my former bakery. Now I just get about a hundred grams at a time from them whenever I need it.

      The yeast that we use is the active dry variety. It does a good enough job. You can use any type of yeast you like, just adjust the quantity based on the particular type.

      You should try this formula as well. I bet Mookie would just love it. Cheers.

  2. I just made these after having made my first sourdough this week. Came out looking fantastic, and they were also really really tasty. Best I ever had in fact. Thank you so much for giving my bread baking a great boost! Love from Norway