The Many Faces of Baguettes

Click on a picture to see its recipe. The baking method described in the recipes may differ from what I discuss here. That’s because those were the ways I baked them initially. But in the last 6 months, I’ve taken to standardizing my flour blend(s) and formulas. I vary the technique to achieve different results.

I’ve been very open that my favorite bread to make is the baguette. But as you can see, I bake several different types. But with just a few minor exceptions, I bake all my baguettes pretty much the same way: 12 minutes with steam @ 475°F, 15 minutes @ 425°F. The only difference is with sourdough baguettes that go both longer on steam (20 minutes) and a little longer – 25 minutes – at 400°F for curing. As for the other types, as you can see from the pictures of some of the batches I’ve baked just in the past few months, they show different crust colors, almost as if they were baked differently. I can guarantee you that they weren’t.

And to drive the point home further, except for the Tartine baguettes, the rest of them obeyed the same, basic formula:

Flour100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt2.00%

So what differs between all the different types of baguettes are the dough development and fermentation techniques employed for each different type. The most significant effect on crust color comes from fermentation. The darker crust baguettes are not the result of longer bake times, but rather the amount of sugar released into the dough due to the longer fermentation times of either the whole dough or preferment.

For instance, the Baguettes a l’Ancienne, Sourdough, Pointage en Bac baguettes all undergo very long and cold bulk fermentation times. This allows more sugar to be released into the dough than can be metabolized by the yeast. Those crusts caramelize nicely and hence have the darkest crusts. The Tartine-Style baguettes are a little lighter as less sugar is released as the combined preferments only account for 28% of the total flour. The Poolish baguettes are fairly close in color to the Tartine-style, but they’re just a bit lighter as the preferment accounts for only 25% of the total flour. And finally, the Baguettes de Tradition are the lightest as very little sugar is released into the dough. This stuff is SO very cool!

To be honest, seeing how dough can be affected by so many different variables never ceases to amaze me and keeps me completely obsessed with dough; pushing me to try different things to see their effect on the finished bread.

As far as baguettes are concerned, I used to think that a baguette was a baguette. And though intuitively and intellectually I knew there were differences, it wasn’t until I started baking different kinds that I really knew just how different they could be – even from the same formula! It’s stuff like this that keeps me baking!

Delayed-Fermentation Baguettes Using Pain à L’Ancienne Technique

When I first started making baguettes, I learned the pointage en bac method of making my baguette dough. To date, this is my most-used method for making baguettes. The slow rise significantly slows the yeast activity and allows the amylase enzymes to break down the starches in the flour and release more sugars into the dough than can be processed by the yeast that would otherwise be converted to alcohol and CO2. Plus it allows the lactobacillus and acetobacillus bacteria to release organic acids into the dough as well. With that method, I start with a dough temperature that is about 76℉-78℉, so when I finally put the dough into the fridge, fermentation has already started then gradually slows as the dough temp equalizes with the fridge temp.

But there is a bread called pain à l’ancienne whose fermentation is retarded at mixing using ice-cold water. Once mixed, the dough is then put into the fridge overnight. The dough is then removed from the fridge in the morning and allowed to come to room temp; thus, delaying fermentation and benefitting from the other microbes not having to compete with the yeast. But the two techniques differ in that with the pointage en bac method, the dough is immediately shaped out of the fridge as opposed to the pain à l’ancienne that is allowed to wake up for a period of time before shaping.

It actually makes a bit of sense to allow the dough to wake up because fermentation was delayed from the start. The cool thing is that when fermentation is allowed to proceed in earnest, the yeast have plenty of sugars on which to feed since the amylase enzymes had time to break down the starches overnight. Plus, the organic acids released into the dough will make it much more extensible. All good!

I did a riff on the pain à l’ancienne technique with my latest batch of baguettes and they turned out fabulous!

Formula

Flour100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast (instant)0.38%
Total %178.38%

Final Dough

Kamut Flour (sifted)190g
AP Flour569g
Water (35℉ – 40℉)577g
Salt15g
Yeast3g
1353g
4 X ~335g loaves
As you can see above, I used a blend of sifted Kamut and AP flour. This is a 25% Kamut/75% AP blend.

Mix. Thoroughly mix ALL dry ingredients together until fully combined. For the ice water, I just filled a bowl with ice water then used a strainer when adding it to the dry ingredients. Mix until you have a shaggy mass with no large lumps. Cover the mixing bowl, then place it in the fridge for 30 minutes to maintain the dough temp. After 30 minutes, take the bowl out, then stretch and fold the dough until smooth.

Retard. Return the dough to the fridge and let it sit for at least 8 hours. There will be yeast activity during this time, but it will minimal.

Bulk Fermentation. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to wake up for 1-1 1/2 hr. During this time you still won’t see much expansion of the dough mass, but that’s okay. There’s actually a lot that has happened overnight. All in all, you should see about a 50% expansion of the dough from its original size.

Divide and Preshape. Divide the dough into 335g pieces. Letterfold each piece, then roll up the piece perpendicular to the seams like a jelly roll. Alternatively, you can create rounds. After preshaping, place the piece on a well-floured couche and let the pieces rest for 30 minutes. This is an important step because the dough is still cool at this point and needs time to relax. After that time, if you pick up a piece, it should feel billowy and the dough should give.

Shape. Rather than write down the process, here’s a GREAT shaping method that Martin goes into in detail.

Final Fermentation. This last part is a little tricky in that it really require a bit of feel. But because the dough started out cold, the minimum final fermentation would probably be one hour. But when I baked these today, my kitchen was 72℉ and it took a little over two hours to finish final fermentation. Use the poke test to determine readiness. With this dough, the indentation should remain, but still eventually fill in. If your poke disappears completely, the dough isn’t ready. It’s really critical that you give final fermentation plenty of time as shaping will have degassed the dough slightly. Final fermentation will allow the holes to reform.

Bake. Bake at 475℉ with steam for 12 minutes or until the crust is set and you start seeing color. Remove steam, then finish baking at 425℉ for 15-20 minutes. This bread really benefits from a full bake.

If you’re wondering what the difference between this type of baguette is and a standard baguette, look at the pictures below:

On the left are the baguettes made using the pain à l’ancienne technique and to the right are a recent batch of Baguettes de Tradition. They were both baked in pretty much the same way, at the same temperatures. But notice how the pain à l’ancienne style baguettes are darker. This is because of the carmelization of the sugars that were released into the dough overnight. Baguettes de Tradition, on the other hand, are processed all within a few hours time; not enough time for sugars to be released.

Recipe: 25% Kamut Baguettes With Kamut Poolish

Kamut flour has become a staple in my flour blends. It adds a nuttiness to the flavor of the bread and as it has a different kind of gluten than wheat gluten, provides a softness to the crumb that is very pleasing. You don’t get a really open crumb with Kamut since it is a whole-grain flour, but as it has under 12% protein, you’ll still get some very nice oven spring and expansion.

For baguettes, my flour blend is as follows: 50% AP Flour, 25% Bread Flour, and 25% Kamut. I use half of the Kamut (unsifted) to make a poolish and I sift the other half for the final dough. Let’s get to the recipe!

Formula

Flour100.00%
Water75.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.38%
Total %177.38%

Poolish

Kamut Flour (unsifted)105g
Water105g
Yeast @ 0.3%0.31g
Note: This is more than what’s needed just to make sure there’s enough.

Final Dough

Kamut95g
Bread Flour191g
AP Flour381g
Water @ 95°-100°F477g
Salt15g
Yeast (instant)3g
Poolish @ 25% of Total Flour191g
Total Yield1353
4 X 335g loaves
Total Flour763
Total Water572

Make the Poolish. Combine the ingredients and mix well, then cover and set aside, until poolish about doubles. It’ll be ready when it passes the float test. This can take up to 6 hours on cool days. With a Kamut poolish, you won’t see a lot of bubbles on top, but you will see lots of bubbles on the sides and bottom of your container.

You can also make the poolish the day before and stick it in the fridge. This will allow the organic acids to really develop. Not only will you get lots of flavor from this, but it will also add extensibility to the dough.

Mix. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (yes, even the yeast and salt) and mix well until everything is nicely distributed. Add all but about 50g of water and make a shaggy mass that has no dry ingredients. Cover and rest for 15 minutes, add the reserved water, and work it into the mass. Once all the reserved water has been incorporated, mix until you have no large lumps in the dough.

Bulk Fermentation. About 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Look for about 50-75% expansion (not doubling)

Folding. Fold the dough twice within the first hour.

Divide and Preshape. Scale-out 335g pieces. Shape either into taut balls or roll into jelly rolls, then set aside on a well-floured couche. Rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F

Shape and Final Fermentation. Shape into baguettes and place onto a well-floured couche. Check the loaves at 45 minutes. When you poke test, the hole should fill in slowly.

Bake. Bake with steam at 460°F for 12 minutes. Remove the steaming container, and reduce oven temp to 400°F. Bake for 15-20 minutes to harden the crust and bake out most of the water from the crumb.

Baguettes Using Ken Forkish’ White Bread with Poolish Recipe

Last night, my wife told she was going to be attending a potluck dinner party this evening and asked me if I could bake something for her to bring. Of course, any excuse to bake bread is just fine by me so I told her I’d make baguettes. I was going to make my standard pointage en bac baguettes where I mix everything together then cold retard the bulk fermentation but decided instead to make poolish baguettes.

But I didn’t want to do my standard poolish baguettes where the poolish flour was only 25% of the total flour. I wanted to challenge myself a little. Then I remembered the white bread with poolish recipe from Ken Forkish’ Flour Water Salt Yeast book that uses 50% of the total flour for the poolish! That’s a challenging dough because it is SO easy to get the poolish wrong; that is, over-ferment it, as it calls for an overnight ferment at room temp. And as ambient temperatures vary wildly, I’ve had some real poolish fails in the past.

But luckily the weather is turning cooler and Ken’s requirement of a 65°-70°F temp is now possible. In fact, the temp in my house dropped even below 65°F overnight, so when I woke up this morning to check the poolish, it wasn’t yet ready. Whew! I could catch it at its peak!

To be honest, I hadn’t made baguettes with this dough yet. But at 75% hydration, I had a feeling this would be perfect dough for making baguettes! I wasn’t wrong. They turned out beautifully, with a crisp, golden crust, and a light, airy, and buttery crumb! Here’s the recipe!

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water75.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.43%

Poolish

Bread Flour 25% (96g)
AP Flour 75% (286g)
382g
Preferment Water382g
Yeast Weight0.3g

As I always recommend, make a little more poolish than you need because you will lose some weight due to processing and evaporation. In this case, I’d do 400g flour water each.

Final Dough

Bread Flour 25% (96g)
AP Flour 75% (286g)
382g
Water (~100°F)191g
Salt15g
Yeast3g
Preferment763g
Total Yield1353g
4 X 335g, 60cm loaves
6 X 225g, 40cm loaves

Make the Poolish. The night before you bake, make the poolish and place it in a cool place where you can maintain about 65°-70°F. At that temp, it’ll take about 10-12 hours to be ready. Just like with a levain, the poolish will be ready when it passes the float test. Visually the poolish should be a bit more than doubled, its top mottled with bubbles, and the top surface slightly domed.

Mix. Thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour the water around the edges of the poolish to help release it from its container. The poolish will then slip right out of its container. Add the poolish to the dry ingredients then mix thoroughly until you form a shaggy mass with no dry ingredients remaining.

Bulk Fermentation. 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours depending on ambient temp. My kitchen was pretty cool this morning, and even though I put the dough in my oven with the light on and door slightly cracked, it still took 2 1/2 hours. Bulk fermentation is done when the dough has expanded 50%-75% its original size.

Ken Forkish has his dough go out to 2 1/2 to three times volume. But he has a VERY short final fermentation at 30 minutes. I prefer to take the dough only as far as 50% and having a longer final fermentation to let the dough recover from shaping.

Folding. Fold three times in the first hour after mixing at 20-minute intervals.

Divide and Preshape. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then gently tug it into a nice, even rectangle. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. For this recipe, scale each piece to 335g for 60cm loaves. Alternatively, you can make six 40cm loaves. Scale those out to 225g. If you have any leftover dough, just cut it into pieces and distribute to the pieces. Preshape the loaves into small logs by letter folding them, then rolling them up like a jelly roll. Rest the logs seam-side-up on a well-floured couche for 20-30 minutes or until the dough has relaxed.

Shape. Shape each piece into a baguette, then place each shaped loaf onto a well-floured couche for final fermentation.

Final Fermenation. 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hour, depending on ambient temp. As I mentioned above, my kitchen temp this morning was pretty cool, and it took and hour and a half for the loaves to be ready to bake. The loaves will be ready when you do the finger dent test and the hole fills in very slowly.

Bake. Bake at 480°F with steam for 15 minutes. Remove steaming container, reduce oven temp to 425°F, then bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust becomes a deep, golden-brown. These really benefit from a full bake!

Recipe: Traditional Poolish Baguettes

I’m surprised I haven’t posted a recipe for my poolish baguettes after all this time! I suppose I’ve been making pointage en bac baguettes for so long I completely forgot about these. But this evening after dinner I thought about what I’d like to bake and it occurred to me that I hadn’t made poolish baguettes in a long time. So I prepared a poolish for a nice 10-12 hour ferment. I can’t wait to bake them tomorrow morning!

What’s so special about using a poolish? The standard answer is that it adds flavor as the long fermentation time of 6-18 hours allows longer enzymatic activity adding to the complexity of the flavors of the dough. Plus, with the very small amount of yeast used, the bacteria have some time to do their thing and release organic acids into the dough. That adds flavor, but the acid also helps in making the dough more extensible. Cool stuff!

With these baguettes, the flour of the poolish represents 25% of the total flour of the recipe. Or put in simpler terms, the poolish weight is 50% of the total flour.

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water75.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.43%

Poolish

AP Flour200g
Water200g
Yeast0.2g

Final Dough

Flour – You can use different flour blends. It doesn’t have to be only bread and AP flour.571g
Water381g
Salt15g
Yeast1g (cold ferment)
3g (room temp)
Preferment381g
Total Yield1353g
4 X 335g 55-60cm loaves
6 X 225g 40cm loaves
Optimal Dough Temp78°-80°F

Make the Poolish. Though the recipe only calls for 381g of poolish, I recommend making 400g, as there will always be some loss in the process. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic and let sit overnight at least 6-8 hours. The poolish will be ready when it’s nicely bubbled on top and passes the float test (it could be doubled, but don’t necessarily rely on that). Note that in cooler weather, the poolish will take longer to mature, sometimes up to 18 hours.

Please see my Baguette Dough Development Process for a more in-depth discussion on developing baguette dough.

Mix. Mix all the ingredients together to form a shaggy mass.

Bulk Fermentation. 1 1/2 to 2 hours or 6-18 hours in the fridge. Bulk fermentation is finished when the dough has expanded about 50%.

***If you want to do a long, cold bulk fermentation, I recommend using no more than 1 gram of yeast. Technically, you could forego the yeast altogether as the poolish will be full of yeast.***

Folding. Whether doing a cold bulk fermentation or not, stretch and fold the dough every 20 minutes in the first hour. By the third fold, the dough should be smooth and luxurious and will be highly extensible.

Divide and Pre-Shape. Divide the dough into 4 pieces at 335g or 6 pieces at 225g. Once divided, letter fold each piece by stretching one side, then folding it to the center, then stretching the other side and folding it over the body of the piece. Then roll the piece up like a jelly roll perpendicular to the folds, seal the seam, then place the piece seam-side-up on a well-floured couche.

Shape. I use Master Chef Markus Farbinger’s shaping technique. There are others out there, but this is the one I know. Feel free to use one with which you’re familiar.

At this point, it’s probably a good idea to preheat your oven to 475°F.

Final Fermentation: Depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen, final fermentation can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. To determine when the loaves are ready for the oven, poke a floured or wet finger about a half to three-quarters of an inch into a loaf, then pull your finger back quickly. Observe the rate at which the indentation comes back. If it doesn’t come back at all, pop the loaves into the oven immediately – you’re extremely close to over-fermenting the dough. If it comes back quickly, and almost fills the indentation back up, give it a bit more time. If it comes back quickly, but immediately slows down, then you’re ready to bake!

Score. See below…

Make sure your cuts overlap 1/3 of the previous cut!

The important thing to note with scoring (and unfortunately Chef Markus doesn’t mention this) is that you have to make sure that the angle of your blade is extremely shallow (almost flat) because you want to create a flap. Also, your cut doesn’t have to be deep – no more than 1/2 inch. So, as the chef says, your cuts need to be as parallel as possible down the loaf, and your blade angle needs to be as shallow as possible to create a flap.

Bake. Transfer the loaves to a transfer board and score (see below). Bake at 475ºF with steam for 12-15 minutes or until the loaves start taking on color. Vent the steam and remove your steaming container, then bake for 12-15 minutes at 425ºF or until the loaves turn a nice, deep, golden brown.

NOTE: The bake times are approximate! The temperatures I listed work for my home oven. They may not work for yours. The important thing to note is that within the first 10-15 minutes while the loaves are on steam, the baguettes take on just a little bit of color. If they’re golden-brown to dark in that short period of time, your oven is too hot, or you need to lower your rack a little the next bake. It takes a few times to get the sweet spot.

Alternate Baking Technique. I just started experimenting with a gentler baking temp: 400ºF. 15 minutes with steam, 20 minutes dry. This will produce a slightly thick, crunchy crust and a light, airy and creamy crumb. It’s pretty awesome! And the oven spring is pretty amazing!

My Baguette Dough Development Process

This morning, I was thinking about the several different types of techniques of baguettes that I make: Pointage en Bac, Baguettes de Tradition, Poolish, Levain, Poolish, and Sourdough, Sourdough and Yeast; not to mention varying the hydration and flour blends to achieve different textures. The baguettes pictured above are Poolish and Levain baguettes ala Tartine Bread. They’re a low hydration double preferment bread that produces a crunchy crust and a chewy crumb. My Baguettes de Tradition on the other hand create a light, crispy crust with a light, airy crumb.

In any case, I realized that I use two dough development techniques depending on the type of rising agent I use: One for yeasted and another for sourdough. So I thought I’d share them here so I could just link to them in my future baguette recipes as I’m tired of duplication.

Flour Type

People ask me what flour I use for making baguettes. Traditionally, baguettes are made with white flour. But unless I’m teaching a basic technique or introducing a new recipe, I invariably use a mix of different kinds of flour to affect different flavor profiles in my bread.

Sift Your Flour!

Whether or not you use a blend of different flour, you should always sift it before mixing. This will prevent large lumps from forming during the mixing process.

Yeasted Baguette Dough Processing

Mix. Mix all the ingredients together to form a shaggy mass. With my yeasted dough baguettes, I normally don’t do an autolyse.

Bulk Fermentation. 1 1/2 to 2 hours or 6-18 hours in the fridge. Bulk fermentation is finished when the dough has expanded about 50%.

Folding. Whether doing a cold bulk fermentation or not, stretch and fold the dough every 20 minutes in the first hour. By the third fold, the dough should be smooth and luxurious and will be highly extensible.


Levain Baguettes

Whether I’m making a double-preferment (both poolish and levain) or just a straight levain dough, I use the same process for both, which leans heavily on Chad Robertson’s dough development technique.

Initial Mix. Reserve 50g of the water and set it aside. In a large bowl, dissolve the preferments(s) into the remaining water to create a slurry. Add the slurry to the flour and mix until no dry ingredients are left and you’ve formed a shaggy mass. Cover and allow to rest 30-60 minutes.

Final Mix/Bassinage. Sprinkle the salt over the dough, then add the reserved water to the bowl. Work the salt and water thoroughly into the dough until all the water is absorbed and you can no longer feel any grittiness from the salt.

Bulk Fermentation. 3-4 hours @ room temp. Bulk fermentation is complete when the dough has expanded about 25%-30% in volume.

Folding. Fold up to 6 times every 30 minutes for 3 hours. That said, really feel the dough and check its extensibility before each folding session. This folding schedule is based on the Tartine method which calls for 6 folds over 3 hours. However, I’ve rarely gone past 4 folding sessions with the flour blends I use – they get strong real fast, even if I’m handling them gently!

Once you’ve built up dough strength, you can either proceed to shaping or pop the dough into the fridge for further flavor development from 8-18 hours.


Both Yeasted and Levain Baguettes

Divide and Pre-Shape. All the baguette recipes I post here either make 4 X 335g baguettes or 6 X 220g baguettes. Whichever you choose, divide the dough into pieces of that weight. Once divided, letter fold each piece by stretching one side, then folding it to the center, then stretch the other side and fold it over the body of the piece. Then roll the piece up like a jelly roll perpendicular to the folds, seal the seam, then place the piece seam-side-up on a well-floured couche.

Shape. I use Master Chef Markus Farbinger’s shaping technique. There are others out there, but this is the one I know. Feel free to use one with which you’re familiar.

No matter the shaping technique you use, bear in mind that shaping a baguette is not just rolling the dough into a long, skinny log. The first part of getting it into a cylindrical shape builds skin tension prior to rolling it out. This is absolutely critical to achieve ears on your cuts when you score! I will submit that this particular step is the most important step of shaping.

Final Fermentation: Depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen, final fermentation can take anywhere from 30 minutes for yeasted baguettes to 2 hours for levain baguettes. In either case, to determine when the loaves are ready for the oven, poke a floured or wet finger about a half to three-quarters of an inch into a loaf, then pull your finger back quickly. Observe the rate at which the indentation comes back. If it doesn’t come back at all, pop the loaves into the oven immediately – you’re extremely close to over-fermenting the dough. If it comes back quickly, and almost fills the indentation back up, give it a bit more time. If it comes back quickly, but immediately slows down, then you’re ready to bake!

Scoring. Scoring should be done in the middle third of the loaf, using fairly straight lines that overlap each other by about a third. The lame or scoring blade should be at an extreme angle to create a flap which will in turn bake into an ear as seen in the picture below.

Don’t cut across the loaf! This will only create diagonal slashes!

Though Chef Markus mentions overlapping the scores, he doesn’t discuss why you need to do it. If you don’t overlap the scores, your baguettes will indeed open at the scoring sites, but they’ll come out as bulges and remain narrow where the cuts didn’t overlap, so the sides of your baguettes will be wavy, not straight.

Baking. Bake at 475ºF with steam for 12-15 minutes or until the loaves start taking on color. Vent the steam and remove your steaming container, then bake for 12-15 minutes at 425ºF or until the loaves turn a nice, deep, golden-brown.

Alternative Baking Method. Bake at 400ºF for 20 minutes with steam. Remove the steaming container, then finish baking at 425ºF for 25-30 minutes. I know it sounds backward, but it actually works great!

Baguettes based on the Tartine Bread recipe.

Yet Another Baguette Recipe from “Boulangerie at Home”

As is our habit after we dine in a particular town, my wife and I ended up perusing a book store where I, of course, sought out the bread books. I ran across this nice book called, “Boulangerie at Home,” and immediately thought to myself, There’s got to be a baguette recipe in there… I wasn’t wrong.

As for the book, it was beautifully laid out with lots of pictures, but though the title implied it was written for home bakers and perhaps even beginners, it’s a bit more advanced than that. I’ve been baking a long time, so I can look at a recipe and work out the baker’s math pretty much in my head. But these aren’t recipes that a newbie could do with ease.

But despite that, I found the baguette recipe and I snapped a picture of it. Then when I got home I started working through the baker’s percentages. The basic formula is below:

Overall Formula

AP Flour (King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill) or T65* flour100.00%
Water71.43%
Salt2.00%
Yeast – Instant**0.25%
*T65 flour is flour with a protein content of 12%-13.5%. You could use King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill bread flour for this, but I myself prefer King Arthur AP Flour at 11.7% protein content. The author calls for the use of high-gluten flour, but T65 is not THAT high. To me, high-gluten flour has protein over 15% (check out Janie’s Mill High-Protein flour – it’s expensive but wonderful).
**The recipe from the book calls for fresh yeast, and if you have some, use 0.7%. For this recipe that would be about 6-7 grams of fresh yeast

Levain

The author called this “liquid starter,” but that just means it’s a 100%+ hydration starter. In this case, it’s a 100% hydration starter.

Preferment Flour % of Total Flour4.80%
Hydration %100%
Preferment Flour Weight37g
Preferment Water37g
Preferment Required for Recipe75g

Final Dough

Flour742g
Water (lukewarm)519g
Salt16g
Yeast2g
Preferment75g
Total Yield4 X 335g loaves
6 X 222-225g loaves
1353g total
Optimal Dough Temp78°-80°F

For dough development, I prefer my own method. The one in the book wasn’t bad, but I’ve been making baguettes for a long time, and the method I’ve developed works for me, so that’s what I’ll share here.

Note that this employs a hybrid rising method that uses both a levain and some yeast to rise the dough. The levain adds flavor and contributes a bit to the rising, whereas the yeast does the heavy lifting. You could use the levain exclusively, but then bulk fermentation will go on for much longer, and I suggest taking a Tartine approach and fold the dough every half-hour for 3 hours. Like any sourdough, depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen, bulk fermentation at room temp could take 6-8 hours.

Make the levain. If you have a mature starter already, take 20-30 grams of it then mix it with 100g of flour and 100g of water, essentially making a 1:5:5 (1-part starter, 5-parts flour, 5-parts water) ratio levain. The levain will be ready when it passes the float test. You’re not going to do several builds with this as you want to use a relatively young starter to limit the sourness of the bread.

Initial Mix/Autolyse. Reserve 50 grams of the water, then dissolve the starter in the remaining water. Add this mixture to all of the flour and mix until no dry ingredients are left. You’ll form a shaggy mass. Let this rest (autolyse) for 30-45 minutes. This will get the natural yeasts going.

Final Mix. Sprinkle the salt and the yeast over the dough, add the reserved water, then work them into the dough until thoroughly combined. The dough will still be a little shaggy, but considerably smoother than the initial mix.

Bulk Fermentation. 2-5 hours at room temp (depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen) or cold ferment (39°F to 42°F) for 6-12 hours following folding. If you decide to do a cold bulk fermentation, use half the yeast. Bulk fermentation is finished when the dough has risen about 50% (don’t let bulk fermentation go much further than this).

Folding. In the first hour of bulk fermentation, fold the dough 3 times at 20-minute intervals. After the third fold, let your dough rest and check its expansion. As I mentioned above, you only want the dough to expand about 50%.

Divide and Preshape. Pour out your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently work it into a rectangle, then divide it into 4 X 335g pieces. With each piece, letter fold the left and right sides of the piece (stretch out a side then fold it over the body of the piece, then jelly-roll the piece over the seams. Place each piece seam-side-up on a well-floured couche, the let them rest for 20-30 minutes (or just a little more) depending on how tight you rolled each piece. You want the dough to be nice and relaxed. You may see a little rise out of the pieces during this time.

Shape. Shape the rested logs into baguettes, then place the shaped loaves on the couche for final fermentation.

Final Fermenation. 1-1 1/2 hour or until the loaves have puffed up to about 75-85% – just under doubled.

Bake. Transfer the loaves to a loading board, score them, then bake at 475°F for 12 minutes with steam. Remove the steaming container, turn the oven down to 425°F, then bake for another 12-15 minutes or until the crust is deep, golden-brown. This bread really benefits from a full bake.

I read some reviews of the book online and there were lots of people who wrinkled their noses at the use of commercial yeast in the recipe. The plain fact of the matter is that there are numerous ways to leaven bread. For me, as long as you’re not using chemical additives to leaven dough, you’re golden. But to eschew a technique just because it’s not sourdough, to me at least, lends itself to elitism. There’s more to bread than sourdough, folks…

The same goes for those who won’t bake bread that has a hydration rate of less than 75%. Even Jeffrey Hamelman shakes his head at that in his book Bread, calling it a shame that people cut themselves off from learning different techniques and methods because of this. I get it, though. The thinking is that higher hydration makes it easier to form holes in the dough. And for the most part, that’s true. But a lot ALSO has to do with how you handle the dough.

For instance, look at the picture to the left of the baguettes I made from the Tartine Bread book by Chad Robertson. What a crumb! Really open with lots of holes. Guess what? The dough that came from was 64% hydration! It was my gentle handling of the dough and its thorough development that allowed that to happen, not the hydration.

I have to admit that I was a little incredulous myself when I worked out the formula. But after having made these several times now, I love the technique!

Tartine Bread Baguettes

Yesterday, I wrote a post saying that I had some issues with the Tartine Bread baguette recipe, especially with the yield, which was much more than the two or three baguettes that the recipe said it would produce. It was more like seven or eight baguettes. Not a bad thing, but the inconsistency kind of bugged me. I was also a little dubious about the hydration being only 64% and that the poolish used a seemingly large amount of yeast for such a small poolish amount.

But despite my issues, these baguettes totally intrigued me because Chad Robertson employed both a levain AND a poolish. And unlike most poolish baguette recipes that add a little yeast to the final dough, the rising potential with both types of preferments completely eliminates the need to use any extra commercial yeast other than what goes into the poolish!

Using two preferments was all I needed to know to want to make these baguettes. Chad’s reasoning was that they’d contribute tons of flavor to the bread – they do – but also give the dough lots of extensibility and a longer shelf-life (and I could attest to that because my pure sourdough baguettes will last a week).

But I didn’t want to make as much dough as the recipe in the book yields, so I had to scale it down. To scale it down I had to get the overall formula, then figure out my ingredient weights from that. I shared all this in my previous post, but I’ll put it down here now:

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water64.00%
Salt1.70%

Levain

In Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson says to use a tablespoon of mature starter – it’ll be somewhere around 30-40g of mature starter.

Mature Starter30-40g
AP Flour150g
~14.25% of total flour
Water150g

Poolish

The book says to use 3 grams of yeast for 200 grams of flour and water. Even if he meant fresh yeast, that’s an awful lot for such a small amount of flour. It’s not necessarily wrong, but the poolish will mature much faster than 3 hours with that amount of yeast and the aim is to get both preferments to peak near the same time.

AP Flour150g
~14.25% of total flour
Water150g
Instant Yeast0.4g
Optimal Fermentation Temp.78°-80°F
Poolish should develop in a warm environment to make the 3-hour schedule.

Final Dough

Bread Flour170g
AP Flour402g
Water286g
Salt14g
Poolish229g
Levain229g
Total yield1330g
4 X 330g 60cm loaves
6 X 220g 40 cm loaves
Optimal dough temp78°-82°F
Yield is just a little more than 1300g which is the target to account for loss due to evaporation or processing (dough sticking to stuff).

Note the relatively high dough temperature of 78°-82°F. This is consistent with Chad Robertson’s method of a warm bulk ferment. You can achieve this by placing your bulk fermentation container in a cold oven with the light on. The light bulb will provide enough heat to maintain that temperature range. But keep an eye on the temp. You don’t want it to get too warm.

This is a fairly straightforward formula. BTW, in case you’re interested, both the Poolish and Levain flour contribute 14.25% each to the total flour. Without further ado, let’s get into the dough development!

Make the Preferments

One thing to note is that both preferments should be made from predominantly AP flour. The reason for this is that whole grain flours will have much more fermentation activity.

Build the Levain

For the levain, take about 30-40 grams of mature starter and mix it with 150g each of flour and water. Your starter should have enough activity where the levain will be ready in three to four hours. Or if you have a regular schedule, try to coincide the peak of the levain with the peak of the poolish.

Poolish

With the poolish, thoroughly mix all ingredients together. Set aside in a warm place to promote yeast activity. Poolish will be ready when it is heavily bubbled on the top.

Both preferments should pass the float test to ensure optimum activity.

Initial Mix/Autolyse. Set aside 50 grams of water. Measure out what you need from both preferments and place in a mixing bowl. Liquify the preferments with the rest of the water, then sift all the flour and add to the liquid. Mix well until there are no dry ingredients and no large lumps in the mix. It’ll be shaggy. Cover and rest for 30-60 minutes.

If you’ve made baguettes previously, you will notice how stiff the dough is. Don’t be alarmed and add more water! The fermentation action of the starters will soften and aerate the dough.

Final Mix/Bassinage. Sprinkle the salt all over the dough mass, then add the remaining 50 grams of water. Note that for this small amount of dough, I just mix it by hand, squeezing the salt and water into the dough. Mix until all the water has been incorporated.

You could use a stand mixer for all the mixing. But if you do, mix only on the lowest setting! I’ve found that with baguettes, you actually don’t want to develop the gluten too much in the mixing stage. You’ll do all that through the folds.


Bassinage Explained

Bassinage is a term you’ll occasionally hear from bakers from time to time. The literal translation of the word is bathe. From the perspective of dough development bassinage is the process of folding reserved water into an already mixed dough; basically bathing the mixed dough. You hold back some water (typically 5%-10%), then mix the dough with the remaining water to start the gluten formation. At a later time, you add in the reserved water.

The idea behind it is actually kind of ingenious. The thinking is that the initial mix will get gluten formation started. Then when the reserved water is added, though some water will obviously combine with the remaining flour, other water molecules will get trapped in the gluten matrix, thus forming little pockets of water, which in turn will help in the formation of a more open crumb.

Given that, especially with a moderately stiff dough like the Tartine baguettes, bassinage conceivably will help with creating an open crumb as the trapped water molecules will form steam bubbles during baking.


Bulk Fermentation. 3-4 hours. As with Chad’s basic country loaf, you’re looking for about 25-30% dough expansion. Even though it was pretty warm in my kitchen, I let the bulk fermentation go for about 4 hours.

Folding. Fold every 30 minutes within the first three hours for a total of 6 folds. Truth be told, I got to the fourth fold and the dough had plenty of strength, forming a nice windowpane. As with any kind of bread, you should never be too parochial about the folding suggested in a recipe. Once you’ve developed enough strength, stop folding. Continuing will just degas the dough.

To be honest, having made these a few times now, I’m not convinced the dough needs this many folds. The hydration is so low that the gluten bonds form rather quickly. I’ve never gone past four folds. The bulk fermentation does take four to five hours though. With that in mind, I’d perhaps suggest doing four folds every 45 minutes instead of six every 30 as is written in the book.

Divide and Preshape. Gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and tug it into a rough rectangle, then scale out four 330g pieces for 60cm baguettes, or six 220g pieces for 40cm baguettes. With each piece, letter-fold the dough in an east-west direction, then roll it up like a jelly roll and seal the seam and ends. Take care not to roll too tightly. Add just a little tension! Place seam-side-up on a well-floured couche. Rest for 30-45 minutes depending on how tightly you rolled the pieces. With this low hydration dough, you need the dough to be well-relaxed.

Shape. I always use Master Chef Markus Farbinger’s baguette shaping technique. But if you have a shaping method already, feel free to use it.

Final Fermentation. Up to 3 hours. Yes, you read that correctly. Remember, this is a stiff dough, and after shaping, you want to give it plenty of time to relax. I felt my dough was ready in about an hour and a half. It was a really warm afternoon when I baked and I didn’t want to run the risk of over-fermenting the loaves. In hindsight, I probably could’ve let it go out to about two hours. To tell if the loaves are ready to bake, if you do the poke test, the surface should give fairly easily. And once you press a little deeper, the interior should have a little more tension, but it should give as well. Once you remove your finger, observe how the dough springs back. It should spring back slowly.

Bake. During the last hour of final fermentation, warm up your oven to 500°F. I use a stone to bake, but you can bake on a sheet or even a dedicated baguette pan. Use lots of steam! When I bake baguettes, I use both a broiler pan that I put hot water into, plus two loaf pans that have well-soaked terry-cloth towels in them to provide a really steamy environment (NOTE: Your oven should be steamy when you place the baguettes in it). These are in the oven about 10-16 minutes before I pop the loaves in (allowing my oven to come back to temp). Quickly place your loaves in the oven, then immediately turn it down to 475°F. Bake for 12-15 minutes on steam or until the crust just starts getting color. Remove the steaming containers, turn down the oven to 425°F, then bake for another 12-15 minutes until the loaves turn a deep golden brown.

Cool on rack. You can eat these warm!

Notes

  1. The crumb, while open, is very much like a sourdough crumb. It’s tender, but a lot more chewy than the baguettes I normally make. I realize that that could be a function of the flour I used. The next time I make these, I will probably use all AP flour – most probably Central Milling flour as it is only 10.7% protein. This shoiuld lend itself to a much lighter crumb texture.
  2. While I appreciate the romanticism of baking on a stone, I always use parchement paper on my transfer board to get my loaves into the oven. Especially with baguettes, since I have to put them in along their long sides, I’ve had too many mishaps where the loaves roll off my board! So I use parchement paper. When I remove the steaming containers, I also remove the parchement paper from underneat the loaves.
  3. The loaves probably could’ve benefited from a longer final fermentation. As you can see in the pictures, they turned out fine, but I think I could’ve had them even more puffy had I let the final fermentation go longer. That said, I will have to monitor progress carefully if I use a low-protein flour.
  4. Once final fermentation is complete, I cannot stress enough that you handle the shaped loaves as gently as possible.
  5. I have to admit that I’m still a little bugged by the yield in the original recipe and the recommendation to break up the dough into 2 or 3 pieces. But despite that, I will relegate that to a copy editing oversight.

When you see the Real Bread loaf mark, it indicates that this recipe produces bread with no artificial additives, and is leavened either by a natural starter or commercial yeast.

Issues with the “Tartine Bread” Baguette Recipe?

Picture of the baguettes from “Tartine Bread”

Okay… who am I that I should even have the audacity to correct Chad Robertson? But when I see a recipe in a book that’s obviously wrong – I don’t care if the author is a world-renown baker and I’m just a peon baker of a relatively unknown micro-bakery – I’m going to point it out.

So what got this bug up my ass about the baguette recipe in Tartine Bread? There are a few things I found in the recipe that seem off. The first issue is that the total yield of the recipe far exceeds what you actually need to make 2 to 3 baguettes as suggested in the book. Furthermore, the amount of yeast used in the poolish seems a little much for the amount of flour and water. And finally, the hydration seems awfully low based on my own research and experience.

By themselves, these issues aren’t really that bad. I have no doubt that the recipe will yield some very tasty baguettes. But all together, they make the recipe seem a little off to me. Again, these are minor things, though the dough yield is actually pretty major. Let’s dive in…

Here’s the recipe from the book:

Leaven400g
Water500g
Poolish400g
All-Purpose Flour650g
Bread Flour350g
Salt24g
Total Yield2324g

Before the recipe, he writes:

Makes 2 or 3 baguettes

When I originally read that, I immediately thought that recipe amounts would be pretty small. But when I saw the amounts he was calling for, I immediately said out loud, “No friggin’ way!” Then that made me analyze the recipe even more.

Right-sizing the Recipe for Home Baking

I know, I know. Who am I to correct a master? But from everything I’ve learned about making baguettes, 40cm demi-baguette dough generally weighs about 220g. Standard 60cm baguettes are about 330-350g apiece depending on the oven. The amounts listed in the recipe would make 10 demi-baguettes or 7 full-size baguettes! Even if we scale out 400g pieces (as he mentions his are in Tartine Bread), that is enough dough to make more than 5 of those! So that must’ve been a typo. Furthermore, if you look at the pictures in the book, there’s no way that the dough pieces are 400g. But look, if you read the book and follow the recipe, just know that it’ll make more than 2 or 3 baguettes.

In light of that, here’s what I’ve been able to glean from the recipe in the book.

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water64.00%
Salt1.70%
Yeast0.00%
Total Percentage165.70%

Preferment (Both Levain and Poolish)

Note that the flour from both the levain and the poolish contributes ~14.25% of the total flour apiece. So for the final dough, you’ll need about 230g of each of the levain and poolish. I just combined the two for my calculations.

Preferment Flour %*28.6%
Hydration %100%
Preferment Flour Weight229g
Preferment Water229g
Preferment Required459g
NOTE: Both starters use AP flour

Final Dough

Flour575g
Water286g
Salt14g
Preferment459g
Yield1330g
4 X ~330g loaves
6 X ~220g loaves

This yield is much more sensible for a home baker. I realize that many folks don’t have a baking stone and can’t make full-size baguettes. Not a problem. The final dough weight of 1330 will make 6 X 220g 40cm baguettes, which is about 15″. If you have 15″ baguette trays, these will fit right on them!

As far as dough development is concerned, Chad Robertson uses the same process for his basic country loaf, which involves 6 folds over a 3-hour period after mixing.

An Issue with the Poolish

Another anomaly I saw in the recipe is that the poolish is made of 200g AP flour, 200g water. and 3 grams of active dry yeast, or 2.25 grams instant yeast. His instructions state to let that stand for 3 to 4 hours at room temp or overnight in the fridge. Based on my experience, that’s way too much yeast for that small amount of poolish. That poolish will be ready in less than two hours, even in cold weather. An overnight fridge rest will have exhausted all flour. I would say use 0.5g instant yeast, or 0.75g active dry. Ideally, you want the poolish and the levain to be peaked at roughly the same time. With that amount of yeast, the poolish will be ready long before the levain. But maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing as once the poolish is incorporated into the dough, the yeast will have a new food source.

Hydration? Hmm…

You’ll notice that the overall hydration is 64%. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make a stiffer dough. I have to admit that I’m a little dubious of the openness of the crumb with hydration that low. However, Hamelman’s Poolish Baguettes in Bread are only 66%. I guess there are many ways to skin a cat. But that said, everything I’ve learned about baguettes is that in general, they’re at least 75% hydration – but that has just been my personal experience. And no, I’m not being a high-hydration snob.

Believe me, I don’t want to come off as being some know-it-all, and I’m not the kind to actively look for fault in someone’s approach just to make myself feel better. That’s absurd behavior. But being a home-based baker myself, I wanted to point out a few minor anomalies I found. Especially with the dough yield, I just couldn’t imagine making a baguette from almost 1200g of dough! 🙂

As for the dough itself, I see no problem with it. In fact, the high amount of preferment that’s used will make the dough much more extensible, despite it being such comparatively low hydration to what I’m used to – at least that’s what I’m thinking will happen. But there’s no better way to find out than to make these! I’ve never even considered using both a levain and a poolish together. I’m excited to see how it will turn out!

Recipe: Baguettes de Tradition

The way I learned to make baguettes was from Master Chef Markus Farbinger, who uses a slow rise or pointage en bac method. It is a straight dough, but bulk fermented and retarded overnight. This allows the amino acids and lacto- and acetobacillus bacteria to develop, while retarding the activity of the yeast. The results, as shown in the picture to the left, are pretty magnificent.

But I learned another technique called Baguettes de Tradition from Jeffery Hamelman’s book, “Bread” that he learned from Japanese bakers. This is a straight dough that differs rather significantly from slow-rise baguettes. First of all, these baguettes are baked in just a few hours from the final mix, so you’re working with room-temperature dough. Second, where I would normally use an 11.7% protein AP flour mixed with about a third high-extraction flour, this recipe calls for 100% bread (strong) flour. And finally, this is a wetter dough than what I’m used to using at 76% hydration.

As Hamelman puts it: “…a baker could be excused for concluding that the dumpster and not the belly is the destination for the bread.” This is because mixing is done gently, so after mixing – even using a stand mixer – there’s virtually no gluten development! The dough just comes apart. But with the folding schedule, the gluten develops quickly, and by the last fold, the dough is luxuriously smooth and supple – and strong.

Chef Hamelman warns that this is a challenging bread and certainly not one for beginners. I can attest to this as the dough at this hydration using pure bread flour is tacky and will easily stick – especially since you’re handling a room temperature dough. So keep your hands floured when shaping and use quick motions!

But the end result is pretty fabulous. You will notice right away when the loaves come out of the oven, that you will not get pronounced ears. This is because with these particular baguettes, you minimize the creation of a skin during shaping. The crumb is significantly different from my other baguettes in that there were not many huge voids. But that could be more of a function of how I handled them during shaping. But in spite of that, the texture of the crumb is magnificent, redolent with numerous pockets.

Overall Formula

IngredientBakers %
Bread Flour100%
Water76%
Salt1.8%
Yeast.75%
Total178.55%

Final Dough

Flour769
Water585
Salt14
Yeast6
Total Yield4 X 340g pieces
Optimal Dough Temp76°F

Especially with this recipe, before you get started, I highly recommend sifting your flour to avoid creating lumps which are a pain to get out, especially if you’re mixing by hand.

Mix. Combine flour, salt, yeast in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly until all the dry ingredients are well incorporated. Whether or not you use a stand mixer, gradually add the water until you form a shaggy mass, then stop. I know that it might not make any sense, but believe me, the end result will be pretty amazing!

The dough is a shaggy mass after the initial mix

Bulk Fermentation. 1.5 to 2.5 hours (could be shorter) depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen. I know it’s a wide margin, but on hot days, things will happen quickly! Do not take bulk fermentation out too far, otherwise, you will shorten the final fermentation, and a lot of the final magic of creating nice holes happens there. I recommend 50%-75% volume expansion.

Right before the second fold. The dough has already started puffing up and is well-domed at the top!

Folding. During the first hour, gently stretch and fold the dough at 20, 40, and 60 minutes, being careful not to degas the dough too much. For each folding session, make sure to stretch the dough to its extent without tearing it and feel the tension and tenacity build up in the dough – eventually, it will fight you and not want to be stretched. When you’ve finished folding, turn the dough onto the seams. By the end of the third fold, you will have a very luxurious and supple dough! I never cease to be amazed by the transformation, plus the gentle, but frequent folding in the first hour really helps build the gas-retention properties of the dough. As such, I use this folding technique for all the baguettes I make!

Pro Tip: Wet your folding hand often!

By the end of the third fold, the dough is super-strong and smooth, with proonounced bubbles inside. This picture was taken about a minute after I turned it over on its folds to show how well it holds together.

Divide and Shape. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (for this recipe, they’ll be 340g). Gently letter fold each piece, pulling one side over two-thirds of the dough, then repeating that on the other side. Roll against the seam like a jelly roll, seal the seam, then place seam-side-up on a well-floured couche. Let rest for 15-30 minutes ensuring the dough has sufficiently relaxed before shaping. Shape into baguettes then transfer back to the couch for final fermentation.

For pre-shaping and shaping tips, see My Baguette Dough Development Process.

Final Fermentation. 30-90 minutes depending on ambient temp. No matter how gentle you are, shaping a baguette is a bit of a violent affair on the dough. This is why you want to leave as much room for final fermentation to let the dough recover from the shaping process. Use the poke test at about 30 minutes to see how fast the dough pops back up. If it’s real quick and leaves no mark, then it’s not ready. Check it after 15 minutes to see how things are progressing. It’s a real feel thing with baguettes!

After final fermentation, baguette loaves should be puffy. Note that the skin on these is very delicate so scoring must be quick and decisive. You cannot pause the blade.

Bake. Bake at 475°F with steam for 15 minutes. Remove the steaming container, then bake at 425°F with convection (if you have it) for 15-20 minutes. If you don’t have a convection setting, finish the bake at 435°F. When you remove the loaves from the oven, check how they weigh in your hands. They should feel lighter than they look and the crust should not be soft. It will soften a bit later but fresh out of the oven, it should be firm and a bit crackly. If you feel they still have a little mass or if the crust is soft, pop them back into the oven for a few minutes.

Notes

  • Though I provided specific ingredient amounts in the table above, I always work backwards in figuring out how much of the ingredients I need. For instance, for my oven, my standard batch is 4 baguettes scaled out to 335g apiece. So I know I’ll need 1340g of dough. I always add a fudge factor of about 1% due to loss during processing, so I’ll up that to 1350g. Given that, I can easily calculate the flour I’ll need by dividing the total yield of 1310g by the total of the percentages – in our case here it’s 178.55%. So 1310 / 178.55% = 734g of flour. From there, I can just use the ingredient percentages to figure out the amounts for the rest of the ingredients.
  • As far as scaling out the pieces is concerned, officially, a baguette should be 60 cm in length and weigh 250 grams. I’ve found through experimentation that I can get there if I scale the baguettes to 335 grams. However, I myself prefer a little bit wider baguette, so I scale my dough out to 340 grams. But as a rule of thumb, I use a factor of 5.5 or 5.6 and multiply that by the length of the baguette I want to make. This factor is basically dough weight/centimeter. 40cm demi baguettes typically scale out to 220g.
  • As with any high-hydration white flour dough, this dough is tacky! I can’t stress enough the quick, definitive movements I had to make to work with this dough. I also had to make sure that during shaping I was dipping my hands in my pile of flour to prevent sticking.