100% Sourdough Baguettes Using a Rye Starter

As I’ve mentioned many times in previous posts, the bread I love to bake the most is the baguette. The reason is that what makes a great baguette boils down to technique. Whether you use yeast or a starter to raise the dough, the dough itself is simple and straightforward. But the dough development and shaping techniques – for lack of a better word – are unforgiving. And on top of that, I’ve found that making baguettes requires using quite a bit of intuition and feel, much more than other types of bread I bake.

With more standard loaves like rounds and ovals, I tend to focus on building dough strength during fermentation. As long as I do that, shaping is pretty easy. Baguettes, on the other hand, are a different animal altogether. Dough strength is important, but timing and observing certain telltales with the dough are critical to getting a good result. And when using a sourdough starter, the process is a little slower than with commercial yeast, so the telltales are important. I’ll discuss those below.

As for these particular baguettes, the rye flour adds incredible flavors that really enhance the taste of the bread. You get the rye grain flavor as about 12-15% of the total flour comes from the rye. But I’ve also found that a rye starter creates a nice sour tang. It’s not really strong, but it’s noticeable.

And at least in the case of my mother starter, the yeast absolutely loves rye flour. In fact, if I add my mother starter cold from fridge into the rye flour and water mix, it will peak in less than 3 hours! I don’t know what that may be due to, but there must be something in the rye that makes my yeast go wild!

Overall Formula



Rye Flour125g
Water @ about 100℉125g
Mature Starter50g

Final Dough

Bread Flour418g
AP Flour228g
Water @ about 95-100℉ to get a 78-82℉ dough temp464g
Levain (30% of total flour)228g
Total Yield4 X 40cm-335g loaves

Initial Mix. Reserve 50g of the water. We’re going to do a Tartine-style autolyse by combining the flour, levain and water. Mix well and make sure all dry ingredients are incorporated with no large lumps. Personally, I do the initial mix with a mixer with the dough hook. Let rest in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes. We don’t want fermentation to really get going.

Incorporate the salt. Dissolve the salt into the reserved water, then mix it into the dough. You can use a mixer for this, but salt will tighten up the dough and it will quickly climb up the hook. So I just mix the salt in by hand. If you do it this way, wet your hand often. Transfer dough to another container to do your bulk fermentation (I use a 6L Cambro).

Bulk Fermentation. No time on this. You’re looking for a 30%-50% rise from the original dough mass. Using my active starter, this usually takes about 2 – 2 1/2 hours total with a dough temp of 80℉.

Folding. This only needs two folds within the first hour and a half. In each session, stretch and fold until you can pick up the entire mass. After the second fold, just let the dough ferment until you achieve 30-50% rise from the dough.

Telltale: Before you start folding, check the dough. You want to get good extensibility out of the dough. It should stretch very well but not tear. By the time bulk fermentation is complete. your dough should feel velvety smooth and luxurious.

Divide and Pre-Shape. Divide the dough into 335g pieces. You can refer to my baguette dough development process. Let rest for 20 minutes or until the dough as relaxed.

Shape. Roll pieces into logs, then transfer each to a well-floured couche.

Final Fermentation. Especially with sourdough baguettes, it is critical to leave them alone once you start final fermentation. You want the shaped dough to expand to almost double in volume or until the indentation of the poke test comes back very slowly. You’re taking the dough out to almost full fermentation.

Bake. Bake a 475℉ for 12 minutes with steam, then 425℉ for 12-15 minute or until the crust is the desired color. I prefer a slightly darker crust without getting too crunchy.


2 thoughts on “100% Sourdough Baguettes Using a Rye Starter

  1. It’s always a pleasure to read your articles. I shall copy this for my next bake.
    Can I make a couple of comments by way of just muttering some thoughts aloud?
    ‘Modernist Bread’ did a lot of tests with Autolysis. They concluded that it was of little benefit to the home baker. It was developed for small commercial bakeries to reduce the amount of mixing time and thus reduce the oxygenation for the dough. However 30 minutes allowing the flour to hydrate, as you do, is of tremendous advantage.

    The other point is why are you using Fahrenheit? Yes, yes, you were brought up on it, so was I. Centigrade is so much more intuitive. 0C water freezes. 100C water Boils. etc. It is so much more easy to get the feel of the temperature. As you probably know professional Chefs are fully on Metric in the States and have been for quite some years. It’s just so much easier. No big thing, it just surprised me.

    Thanks for this. As usual it is so well conceived.
    Wishing you the best.

  2. Yeah, I normally include both Celsius and Fahrenheit. 🙂 I was just being lazy this time around. As far as autolysis is concerned, I personally just use it, as you mentioned, to simply hydrate the flour. I never saw the sense in doing those 4-hour autolysis sessions. Who has the time?

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