3 2/3 cups (475 grams) unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup (65 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon (2 grams) SAF Gold instant yeast Available on Amazon
1 teaspoon (3 grams) dry malt (diastatic) powder Available on Amazon
2 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) kosher salt
1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (380 grams) filtered water
French Baguette: In a large bowl combine the flours, yeast, and malt powder. Then stir in the salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the water. (For the formula for calculating water temperature see Headnote). With a bench scraper or wooden spoon, gradually work the flour into the liquid. Then using your bench scraper cut a piece of the dough from the edge and then place it on top of the dough. Turn your bowl and cut off another small chunk of dough and place it on top of the dough. Keep turning your bowl, and cutting off chunks of dough, stacking it on top, until all the flour has been moistened. (The object is just to moisten all the flour. You don't want to knead the dough.)
Then lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough into the bowl and then flip it over so the top of the dough has a light coating of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit (ferment or proof) at room temperature for three hours. Every 45 minutes you need to stretch the dough to equalize its temperature.
To stretch the dough, gently take one edge of the dough and stretch it and then fold it onto the top of the dough. Turn your bowl 180 degrees and stretch the dough in the same way. Then turn your bowl a quarter turn (90 degrees) and stretch the dough in the same way. Then turn your bowl 180 degrees and repeat the process. After that flip your dough so the bottom is now the top, and cover. Repeat the process in 45 minutes and again 45 minutes later. (So this following step needs to be done a total of three times over three hours.)
At least one and half hours before baking your baguettes, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). Have your oven racks in the top and bottom third of your oven. On each rack have a pizza stone. Also, place a cast iron frying pan on the floor of your oven (we will be placing ice cubes in the frying pan to create steam).
Once the dough has fermented for three hours, it's time to preshape our baguettes. Turn out your dough onto a lightly floured surface. You want the top of the dough to now be on the bottom. Lightly floured the top of your dough and with the palms of your hands flatten the dough slightly to break any large air bubbles. Then divide the dough into three equal sized pieces (about 310 grams each). When you divide the dough use a pastry scraper or knife and cut, don't pull or stretch, the dough.
Take one piece of the dough and, on a lightly floured surface, pat into a 6 x 4 inch (15 x 10 cm) rectangle. Fold over the top third of dough (like you're folding a letter) and gently seal (this also increases the surface tension of the dough.) Then take the top of the dough and fold it to the bottom edge of the dough and seal. Place the palms of your hand on the top of the dough and gently roll it back and forth to seal the dough and create tension. Place the log of dough (seam side down) onto a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat this process with the other two pieces of dough. Then cover with plastic wrap and let proof (ferment) (and to relax the dough) for about 30 minutes at room temperature.
Place the three logs of dough (top side down) onto a lightly floured surface. Gently pat the dough into a rectangle, breaking any large air bubbles. Fold over the top third of dough and gently seal. Turn the dough 180 degrees and again fold over the top third of dough and gently seal. Then take the top of the dough and fold it to the bottom edge of the dough and seal. With the palms of your hands gently roll the dough back and forth (also creates tension which makes the scoring of the baguette easier) until it's about 14 inches (35 cm) in length. Place the baguettes (seam side up) on a lightly floured cloth (preferably linen), separating the baguettes by a wrinkle in the cloth. Cover with plastic wrap, and let proof (ferment) for about 30-60 minutes at room temperature (the baguettes should be plump and when you gently press your finger into the baguette it should leave a slight indentation).
Have ready a pizza paddle that has been lightly sprinkled with fine cornmeal or semolina. Gently transfer the baguettes to the pizza paddle, placing them seam side down. Then with a razar or sharp knife, held at an angle, score the top center of each baguette lengthwise with 3 - 2 inch (5 cm) slashes (slightly overlap the slashes). Transfer the baguettes onto the hot pizza stone, spacing the baguettes a few inches (5 cm) apart. Quickly place about 2 cups (480 ml) of ice cubes into the hot cast iron frying pan (this creates steam). Bake the baguettes for about 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown (rotate the baguettes after 10 minutes if you find they are browning unevenly). (If you tap the bottom of the baguette it will sound hollow.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about one and a half to two hours.
Baguettes are at their best the day they are made.
Makes 3 - 14 inch (35 cm) long French Baguettes.
A French Baguette is my bread of choice. This long thin bread has a crisp outer crust with a wonderfully soft and chewy interior. Freshly baked I often just tear off a chunk and eat it unadorned or with a slathering of butter. Other times I like to dip small pieces of the bread in a good olive oil that is laced with pesto. It's also great with soups or stews, or to make a delicious sandwich. You can use day old baguettes to make garlic bread or even croutons.
I went to the San Francisco Baking Institute (SFBI) to learn how to make baguettes. It was a five day bread making class that taught us theory with lots of hands-on bread making, especially baguettes. It was a terrific class and if you're ever in the Bay area I highly recommend this baking school.
First, let me say that there is quite a bit of technique involved in making Baguettes so I recommend watching the video. Now, baguettes are made with the most basic of ingredients - flour, yeast, malt powder, salt, and water. First, the flour. I have seen recipes for baguettes using just bread flour, some using just all purpose (plain) flour, and some with a combination of the two. For this recipe I use mainly bread flour with just a small amount of all purpose flour. For the yeast, I like to use SAF Gold instant yeast. This type of yeast is normally used by professionals as it gives a good rise, especially when making breads with long fermentation periods. An added bonus is that since the grain particles are so small, it doesn't need proofed. We also add some dry malt (diastatic) powder which breaks down the starch and gives sugar for the yeast to feed on. This is especially good for doughs, like this, that have a long fermentation period. Malt powder also aids in browning. For the salt I like to use kosher salt. And lastly we need water. I like to use filtered water. The temperature of the water is very important when making baguettes as it determines the temperature of the dough, which affects the rate of fermentation (proofing). The desired dough temperature (DDT) should be between 74-77 degrees F (23-25 degrees C). To determine the correct water temperature (WT) you need to use this formula WT = (desired dough temperature (DDT) x 3) - (the temperature of your flour (FT) + the room temperature (RT) + friction temperature (FT)). Friction temperature being how much the dough will warm up during mixing. Because we're making this dough by hand and there's no kneading, I use a friction temperature of 2 degrees F (1 degree C). However, if you find your final dough temperature is a little warm you could adjust this number when making the dough in the future. An example is WT = (74 (DDT) x 3) - (77 (FT) + 77 (RT) + 2 (FT)). Therefore your water temperature needs to be 66 degrees F. In Celsuis WT = (23 (DDT) x 3) - (25 (FT) + 25 (RT) + 1 (FT)). Therefore your water needs to be 18 degrees C.
There are many different ways to make baguettes, some use a machine and some are made by hand. Also the amount of time you knead the dough can vary by recipe. Typically the more you knead the dough, the shorter the fermentation period. For this baguette recipe we use what is called a "Hand Mix". This means we make the dough by hand and there isn't any kneading involved. So this means the dough needs a long fermentation period (three hours). This produces a baguette with excellent flavor and texture. Lastly, once baked there is always a temptation to eat the bread while it's still hot. Resist this urge, baguettes need to cool down to room temperature for maximum flavor and texture.