HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Baguette mishap - what did I do wrong?

I attempted making bread for the first time, and tried this baguette recipe, as it looked simple enough. I followed all the steps, the only thing I did differently is that I halved the recipe so that I'd end up with just two baguettes.

I thought everything was going pretty well, but once I put them in the oven and took them out, I had these two stumps. Size wize, I don't mind too much, but the bread inside wasn't what I was expecting. The bread outside wasn't crispy and flaky like typical french bread but was just hard. The insides were soft, but were very dense not airy.

What do you think happened?
bad yeast?
not enough kneading/mixing? (I did it all by hand)
size of the bread, pre-baking?

I can't imagine that this is what it's supposed to be like. Anybody have any ideas?

A pic of the baguette:

The recipe:

My Blog: http://virtualfrolic.blogspot.com/

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, yes, this recipe looks simple enough. That's the problem. Making good baguettes is not. In the first place, this much flour with this much yeast will not double in an hour. Also, bread gets it's flavor from being allowed to work.

    Now look at these two recipes from King Arthur. They are not so simple, but they can be done, a step at a time. And they do take time. They make a starter or a poolish or a biga the day before. This works and makes flavor and texture and all the things you want in your baguette. Then you make the bread. This is a totally different process. You don't have to use these recipes, but this should give you an idea of what you want.


    By the way, it's good to know that when bread gets an internal temp of around 200 plus or minus 10, it's done.

    I'm not trying to bust yer chops, but your recipe wasn't happenin.'

    2 Replies
    1. re: yayadave

      The recipe amounts look right, but you need to let the dough rise for at least 4-5 hours and more would be better. I would make the dough using the sponge (poolish)method. Dissolve all of the yeast in warm water and add enough of the four (approx 2 cups) to make a very loose batter and let this ferment for 4-5 hours(overnite would be best). After 4-5 hours then you add in the remaining flour, and salt, and knead until you get a windowpane. Let this dough raise for 3 hours in a cool environment and then form into baguettes, batards or rounds and let rise for another 2 hours. Bake loaves in preheated oven with a stone until you have a internal temp of at least 205-F, and more if you like a nutty flavor.

      BTW; YaYaDave, The egg and water mixture is called a egg wash and the use of such on French bread is very personal addition. I don't use a wash because it prohibits the formation of a proper crust, but many like it. IMVHO

      1. re: Kelli2006

        Yeah, I saw that when I re-read it and tried to edit my comment out, but you caught me.

    2. haha, what a contrast in recipes!! Well I thought my initial recipe was way too easy - now I know that I should trust my gut instinct! I typically get good results with recipes from Leite's!

      Thanks for the recipes - I will give those a try.

      1 Reply
      1. re: virtualfrolic

        Yours might not be the best baguette recipe but it gave you a chance to bake bread which is very rewarding. The recipe might not yield crispy baguettes but should still give you a couple of "edible" loaves of bread. There might be couple of reasons why your bread turned out hard and heavy...check if your yeast is still active (adding warm water 105-110 degreee F to yeast and let it sit for about 15 minutes. If it is bubbly, your yeast is good. Adding water hotter than that will kill the yeast and your bread will not rise). Second thing you should have checked for: did your first rise double in volume? after shaping the dough into baguettes, did the second rise double also? whatever loaf size you put in the oven will be about the same size when it is baked. No matter how much one pray and wish, bread will not rise much during baking. Or when you put a proper size loaf in the oven, did it came out smaller? that means that you let the second rise to go too long and the bread collapsed while baking. These are a few things to watch for. Baguettes and crusty loaves are some of the most difficult breads for home bakers. The shaping and slashing of the baguette needs practice. I might suggest trying a good white bread for a first loaf.

      2. That "good white bread" is probably the best suggestion of all. This recent thread has enough information and resources to keep you going for a while.


        1. A few suggestions:
          1. Use bread flour ( I make my dough in a bread machine).
          2. Use more yeast (1 tsp more).
          3. Dough should be very soft and somewhat sticky.
          4. Let (second) rise in refrigerator overnight.
          5. Before forming into loaves, let dough reach room temp.
          6. You will find the soft dough easier to work with long, cold raise.
          7..Don't even hope for the bubbly, crusty stuff from a French bakery...be satisfied with a good baguette.

          1. Thank you everyone for your wonderful feeedback. Per PBSF and Yayadave, I'll give a plain white loaf a try and see what happens! Now that I've given bread a try, and found that it's entirely possible to make without a mixer, I'm not afraid to try other recipes!!

            Thanks again for the feedback - I will keep your advice in mind and give bread another try!

            p.s. I'm happy to hear that it wasn't entirely my fault - and that the recipe was probably most of the problem =)

            1. I use a food processor-based recipe from "The Best Bread Ever" by Charles Van Over.

              Bread flour 1 lb
              Salt 2 t fine sea
              Yeast 1 t instant

              Here's a pic of the final product:

              [Broken Link Removed -- The Chowhound Team]

              2 Replies
              1. re: pdxGK

                Yep, this recipe will make good white bread. You will need to add 1 1/4 cup water. You also may add 2 T olive oil, and beyond that you might add 2 T honey or 1 t sugar. It all makes bread. Even if you don't always get exactly what you wanted, it's still almost always edible. So like fnarf says, find a recipe and keep making it.

                1. re: pdxGK

                  Just a word of warning to future readers; the above link now goes to hardcore pornography.

                2. Baguettes are hard to get right. Listen to those guys up there, make a simple white loaf, and make it often. You need to make the same recipe over and over until you know exactly how the dough should feel in your hands at every stage.

                  Weigh your flour, don't cup-measure it. The recipe isn't the important thing; it's just some flour and some yeast. It's what happens to it that matters. Let it rise for a long time, longer than it says, but slowly. Really knead it hard, until it's stretchy and alive -- you'll learn what this feels like.

                  Then later you start to move on, try different things. Remember, you can bake bread for fifty years and you'll never come close to a real Parisian boulangerie, but that's OK.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: fnarf

                    We just returned from Montreal. Over the holidays we had many wonderful baguettes . All differnet sizes. The best were tiny ones that had to be eaten right away , along with some raw milk cheese. I would really like to know what the secret is to making a "real" french baguette like all the boulangerie's in France and Montreal know how to bake.

                    1. re: BJE

                      BJE, i have just given a recipe, it is on the bottom, but these have to be eaten with in 2 hours, or else they turn all studdy and not very great.

                  2. Oh, and that egg-wash goo, forget it. They only put that in there to make it look like a real recipe; the bare truth doesn't have enough ingredients to look "official" to some people. All you need is a spritz of water to get a proper crust.

                    1. A long, cool, first rise will produce the best flavor. However, there is a recipe in Bernie Clayton's bread book that calls for a first rise of 90 minutes, followed by however long it takes for the dough to double. I noticed that the leitesculinaria recipe was specific about the 1 hour first rise, with no time for the second rise -- I wonder if that might have been the problem. Also, just as another variable in the problem, the picture clearly shows the loaves were not formed as baguettes, though that shouldn't have made any difference on how the loaves rose.

                      1. I hesitate to offer any tips to the already good suggestions above, as I still consider myself a beginner bread maker, but here are some things I've figured out by trial and error, from baking every week:

                        1. Know what temperature your oven is. If you have a gas oven, temperatures tend to vary widely. If you have an electric oven, the temp is more stable, but it's still a good idea to get a reliable oven thermometer and monitor the temperature and then adjust accordingly.

                        2. To even out the temperature in any oven, a large baking stone is really helpful. It's also great for making baguettes and other artisanal breads to get a nice crust.

                        3. Heat up the oven early. This will warm up your kitchen and help the rising process and it will also ensure that your oven is adequately hot for baking the bread.

                        4. Strongly resist the urge to add too much flour during kneading. Adding too much flour also makes a leaden loaf. Through kneading the flour WILL absorb the moisture and become smooth and elastic like it should.

                        5. Treat your dough gently after it rises. I find most recipes call for pretty aggressive handling of the dough (i.e., "punch down the dough") which deflates all the nice little air bubbles that the yeast just worked so hard to produce and will make your loaf more dense and tough.

                        6. Specifically, to approximate a french baguette, you really need to create a huge volume of steam right when the loaves go in the oven in order to form that crust. There are a couple of easy ways to do this in your home oven. Method 1: heat up an very large old cast iron skillet in the bottom of a 500 degree oven. Make sure it is very hot by the time you are ready to bake your baguettes. Slide the baguettes onto your baking stone and dump cold water and a few ice cubes into the skillet. Immediately shut the oven door to lock in the steam. (Do this carefully and do not burn your face with the steam.) Method 2: heat up an brick or an old cast iron iron. Place a roasting pan of water in the bottom of the oven and place the iron in the pan as you slide in baguettes. Also, for baguettes, I usually let the dough rise in the refrigerator over night. It makes it easy to do over 2 days and most of the waiting is done while you sleep!

                        7. Above all, have fun with your bread. Bread dough is actually really forgiving and you can't do that much to mess it up.

                        Good Luck from one beginner to another!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: grubn

                          #7 is key!

                          A less agressive way to get an oven full of steam is to put an 8x8 baking pan (brownie pan?) on the shelf below the shelf where the bread will go, fill it with water, and turn the oven on to warm up. When you open the oven to put your bread in, it'll steam your glasses.

                        2. The steam is the key to that crusty, flaky exterior that you speak of. Commercial baking ovens have steam jets that are used to deliver the proper amount of steam at the most crucial moments in the baking to get that texture just right.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: cooknKate

                            Ahhhh, I never knew steam is what got that crust I love!! Ok. With all this advice, I think I picked a bad bread to start with!! Thank you all for your advice though - I was a bit discouraged with my two stumps but am ready to start again!! (I was naive in thinking I'd get bread right the first time - haha). I think I'll give it another try this weekend - I'll post with my results!!

                            1. re: virtualfrolic

                              Keep at it. The worst loaf you make yourself is still pretty good (unless you make charcoal of it). You can always dip "stumpy" bread in soup!

                              1. re: virtualfrolic

                                A good way to get the steam is to bring water in a small metal pan to a boil on the stove, then put in your preheated oven before baking the loaves. You only want the steamy oven for the first 10-12 minutes of baking, after that remove the steam source so the crust can properly form in a dry environment. You can also just use a sprayer of water to spritz the inside of the oven after you put the loaves in and shut the door quickly. After 10 minutes, open the door to allow the excess steam to exit.

                                I'm not sure if you are familiar with bakers percentages, but this is the formula I use for baguettes...

                                100% bread flour
                                62% water
                                2% compressed yeast (or 0.8% IDY)
                                2% salt

                                Everything is put in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook and mixed until just combined (about 1 minute). Cover the bowl and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Return the bowl to the mixer and mix on low speed until you get a smooth, elastic dough (about 4-5 minutes). Wait a few minutes for the gluten to relax, then round the dough on a table of counter lightly dusted with flour so you get a nice, tight ball. lightly coat the dough ball with olive oil and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for at least an hour and a half, this is where the flavors are developed and a long, slow ferment will produce a better tasting baguette. Shape, slash the top and bake at 425 degrees in a steamy oven for 10-12 minutes, then remove the steam source and allow to bake until crust is nicely browned.

                            2. Great advice above. I have found with the loaves you got, the best way to enjoy is to lightly toast slices in toaster oven- it crisps them up and brings out the yeastly goodness. Yourresult is more like a dense peasant bread.

                              1. The best baguette recipe and demonstration I have ever seen has been with Julia Child and a French baker on television "cooking with master chefs". It will show just how long and intricate the process is for baguettes. I, myself, take 3 days to fully develop the flavour for a good baguette, large holes, chewy, crispy. The episode should still be online for download.

                                If not, the Bread Bible by Rose Levenbaum, has a very good recipe for baguettes.

                                For the steam everyone speaks of, I use put warm water in a fine spray bottle and liberally spray to get the humidity up in the oven. Also, try to invest in clay tiles for your oven. It makes such a difference in the crust. Also, bread that a is chewy with large holes, tends to be VERY wet.


                                7 Replies
                                1. re: qtxniki

                                  The baker with Julia Child is "Danielle Forestier"

                                  1. re: qtxniki

                                    Just found it!

                                    Thanks for the tip! I'll watch it when I get home!

                                    1. re: virtualfrolic

                                      np! After seeing the beautiful crust on hers, it'll make you want to break out all the flour and give it a go.

                                      1. re: virtualfrolic

                                        Thanks, just watched it. Very informative.
                                        I love how she throws the water into the oven.

                                        1. re: Mila

                                          I finally got a chance to watch it. This was great!! I'm a visual person, so it's nice to see how each step is done. I certainly was missing several HUGE steps in the baguette making process! Thanks again to everyone for their tips! I am going to give it another try this weekend!

                                      2. re: qtxniki

                                        Agree heartily with the Child/Forestier rec. Covered in "Baking With Julia."

                                        Please also see French bread technique in "Mastering the Art..."

                                      3. re: qtxniki

                                        The spray bottle is an excellent idea, but you MUST have a pizza stone or clay tiles or something in your oven, because when you have the door open to spray, you're letting all the heat out.

                                      4. THe most important thing for making baguettes is making a pre-mixed dough to mix with the ingredients u are about to use.

                                        1. If u guys want recipes for any kind of cake or breads i'll give u my recipe, also i only choose recipes that make high quality and textured stuff not just some old cruddy block of dough

                                          1. I've noticed before that, even when making pizza dough the dough turns tough, and I can tell right away by the feel that it won't rise right. The dough gets tough and difficult to work with. I had thought it might be that there was too much salt in the recipe. And the first rise should be at least 2 1/2 hours.
                                            I always proof my yeast with the right temperature of water, and add a little sugar. If I pay attention to those two things it seems to be fine.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                              yes, chef chicklet u are totally right, if the dough is too difficult to work with, it's either the salt percentage in the dough, the first rise is not long enough(normally from 2 hours to 3hours),or the quality of the kind of flour ur using(expiry date) and the gluten in ur flour. Also do not use water that is above 35 degrees celcius if you're proofing ur yeast and u can use 40-54 degrees celcius water if ur mixing the yeast with the flour(only for instant fast rising yeast).

                                            2. Also, if want ur bread or pizza dough to be more flavoury and less yeast tasting, be more patient, the less yeast u add and the more time it takes the better the bread and pizza dough will be. If ur making baguettes, in 100 grams of flour, only agg 3 grams of yeast, that will ensure that u end with a flavoury and textured baguette. Remember, when rising ur dough the first time, cover the top of you're bowl with plastic(suran)wrap, it will stop a crust from forming on top of ur dough.

                                              1. I as a formal five star hotel baker, has made up an excellent recipe for a baguette with a crunchy crust, a soft and chewy texture, and a very flavoury taste, but this recipe takes a very long time so be patient, and you'll end up with a very sastifying result. Also this recipe calls for all time hand kneading so no bread machines. Don't worry i'll help with techniques too.

                                                yields:Two 20 Inch baguettes(Four 10 inch sub rolls)

                                                Pre-mixed old dough:

                                                200g of bread flour
                                                130g of warm water(37-40 degrees celcius)
                                                3g of active dry yeast(instant rapid rise will be fine)
                                                3 grams of salt
                                                3 grams of baking powder
                                                3 grams of sugar

                                                Heat water till warm (37-40 degrees celcius), turn off heat and add in sugar,stir, then add in yeast,stir gently approx 10 times, let sit for 3 minutes.

                                                Put bread flour,salt,and baking powder into a small bowl, mix well add in all of the yeast mixture, put all five of ur fingers into the bowl, slant ur bowl to yourself and start to grab the ingredients and mix it around, some times slide ur fingers to the bottom and fold all the flour to the top and start to stir with ur fingers, as soon as the ingredients come together, dump it onto ur table(remember to wipe ur table), now u have a lump of doung on ur table with some losse flour but don't worry, first plave your non dominant hand on the bottom of the dough(not under) the put your dominant hand on the top of ur dough, and push down with ur non dominant hand and push forward with the fleshy part of ur dominant hand, the part parallel to ur thumb then pick up the top side of the dough where ur dominant hand is and pull it upwards and fold it back to the bottom side of the dough, then fold it back one more time and push down, after that gently push forward and backwards with ur palms, and once in a while use the pushing dough technique, keep doing this until u end up with a piece of soft smooth dough, and when you rip a part off and stretch it, it will become a thin film(when doing this be gentle) and put it in a bowl and let it rise for 2 hours or double in size, then pour out the dough punch it down, and refrigerate it for 7 days for later use.

                                                Pre-mixed old mixture:

                                                50g of pre-mixed old dough(above)
                                                5g of baking powder
                                                3g of sugar
                                                5g of honey
                                                30g of very warm water (60-70 degrees celcius)

                                                Put old dough in the centre of a small bowl, gently sprinkle the sugar around the dough, pour honey on top of the dough, then at last sprinkle the baking powder around the dough. Pour the water around the dough and let the baking powder all fizz up after that, use ur hands and squeeze the old dough until it becomes all soft and then use ur fingers to mix the ingredients together until u get a thick mixture. let stand for 30 minutes.

                                                Baguette dough:

                                                Remaining of pre-mixed old dough
                                                All of pre-mixed old mixture
                                                300g of bread flour
                                                100g of all-purpose flour
                                                6g of active dry yeast(instant rapid rise will be fine)
                                                15g of sugar
                                                3g of salt
                                                3g of honey
                                                15g of milk
                                                20g of butter
                                                15g Crisco golden shortening-prefered(vegetable shortening is fine)
                                                200g warm water

                                                1.) Heat water till warm(37-40 degrees celcius)turn of heat, add in sugar, stir, add in yeast stir 10 times, let stand(proof) for 3 minutes.

                                                2.) Put all the other ingrdients into a large bowl, mix together, add in yeast mixture,use the mixing technique in the old dough recipe above, then use pushing dough technique in the old dough recipe above but before ur second fold back hold the dough with ur dominant hand at the bottom and lift the dough up, fling the dough until it's on the back of ur hand, and use some strength and fling it hard onto the table then fold the top to the bottom again. And then use the pushing forward and backward method after,once in a while sprinkle about 10g of flour and continue kneading(repeat this until dough is not so sticky u can't work with it, keep repeating these two steps until u get a soft and smooth dough and when stretched u get a thin film. Shape into a ball, and put in a greased bowl, cover with plastic(suran)wrap and rise for about 2 hours or doubled in size.

                                                3.) After Rising, punch down with fingers, and pour out the dough on to ur table, divide into two or four pieces, let rest for 10 minutes, meanwhile preheat ur oven to 70 degrees celcius for 2 minutes then turn off the heat. After resting, stretch 1 piece of dough into a long piece then put on the table, push it vertically until the dough becomes a rectangle then fold the top side to the bottom side, then gently push vertically again, and fold top to bottom again. then roll the dough into a long cylinder looking piece of dough and gently sprinkle with all-purpose flour. Repeat this until all of ur dough is done and all the same length.

                                                4.) Place all of ur pieces onto a greased with butter baking pan of baguette pans(leave about 3 inches at least of room in between the doughs) and put it into the turned off warm oven,if not warm turn on oven to 70 degrees celcius for 2 minutes without ur baguette dough in it and trn it off, then place ur baguette doughs in, and place a big pan full of boiling hot water on the level underneath the doughs, and proof ur dough until doubles in size of about 20 minutes. After proofing, remove from oven take the pan of water out, and preheat ur oven to 200 degrees celcius for 5 minutes, meanwhile with a very sharp knife, drag ur knife9no sawing motion) on the dough diagnally to create about 1/2 inch deep grooves, cut about 5 on to ur baguettes and 3 onto ur sub rolls. put in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. After baking remove from oven, remove baguettes or sub rolls from pan and put on cooling rack for 10 minutes, for more crusty exterior, use a knife and jab horizontally into the baguettes of sub rolls at the ends about 3 times on each side and let water vapour leave.

                                                If u jsut want to try out the recipe, cut all the ingredients in half.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: bakery_guy

                                                  But, this isnt a "true" baguette recipe. It is not suppose to have anything other than yeast, flour, salt, and water. French authorities would close down your shop in Paris =).

                                                  Not knocking your recipe though. Just thought others would like to know.

                                                2. umm, i don't think u know a lot about baguettes,if u would like why i say that, becuz, barely baguette only consist of flour water yeast and salt i know that becuz i've been making baguettes for over 20 years now. first, i put honey in my bread becuz honey makes the texture more chewy and flavoury. Sugar helps yeast absorb oxygen from the air. Shortening helps relax the glutens that's just been stressed and gives the bread a crunchy crust. milk just helps give the dough more flavour. butter give the bread aroma and flavour.Baking powder just helps the dough become softer, and becuz there's so less of it in it, u can't taste it. Last, just to let u know i used to live in france. Also, i'm not saying ur wrong but, this recipe is easier to work with becuz of all this stuff in it. If the baguette only consist of only flour, yeast, water, and salt, then the dough would be very hard to work with and if u don't get the ingredients right, u'll end up with a hard piece of stick thingy.

                                                  1. OH yeah if anyone wants bread or cake recipes, just ask i'll tell u my recipes.

                                                    1. Don't expect ur bread to be like some of the store bought bread, becuz the aftificial stuff that makes the bread wont dry out, super fast rising effect and making the bread addictive and etc, in it is not that great for u.

                                                      1. We're going to put this recipe back into test. If it fails, it's off the site--immediately. We're really sorry for your poor results, virtualfrolic.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: David Leite

                                                          Hi David - I just saw this. I'm sure there was definetly error on my part, but thanks for re-testing the recipe! (on a side note - love your site - every recipe so far has been wonderful!)

                                                        2. I tried the recipe on Leite's Culinaria and, while not perfect, I wouldn't call it a complete failure.

                                                          Right off, I would say that the recipe won't work as written, except that there's that rising caveat of "until doubled" written in the instructions. The recipe has about half the amount of yeast that I've seen for other recipes, which may account for the longer rising time I needed. It took an hour and a half at 80 degrees to get the first rise to double, and nearly 2 hours for the second rise to double. The dough really should be covered (or it should note they are covered, as for the first rise) or the dough dries out on the outside.

                                                          Dividing the dough into fourths certainly didn't give me a baguette 18 inches long (as the recipe suggests)... 12-14" maybe. I saw the picture of the poster's loaves, and I'm not sure why they are so wide and flat. I shaped my 4 pieces of dough into long batons and let them rise and they didn't get shorter. They did get flatter, though, during that second rise. I left 2 alone (on one sheet pan), and smushed the other two to make them more circular (in diameter) again. I brushed all (2 resmushed and 1 flat) but one flat loaf with the egg wash, as some people think the wash prevents a nice crust from forming. It's probably not a proper bread technique to resmush the loaves back into shape right before baking, but those baguettes were the ones that kept their height, the flat baguettes pretty much stayed flatter. A simple reshaping (without much deflating) takes care of that problem, though.

                                                          The egg wash did give the baguettes a nice crust, the one without didn't get too brown. I baked them as instructed, using the full 10 minutes at the lower temperature.

                                                          The baguettes certainly are small (in length and width) but the insides weren't too airy and had a nice chew and bounce to it.

                                                          Adding water or ice cubes to a pan at the beginning does create the steam that gives you the nice crisp crust.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: leanneabe

                                                            I've been wishing they made covered baguette pans - it seems to me that baking baguettes with the no-knead method (preheated covered pot) creates the perfect steamy environment for baguette crust. Does anybody know of baguette-shaped pans (perhaps clay or something) that have covers?

                                                            1. re: marigolds

                                                              This is close, but produces a loaf closer to "sandwich"-sized than baguette.


                                                              However, it's very well-sized for the standard amount used in the no-knead method.