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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:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/virtualf...

The recipe:
http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

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

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  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.

    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe...
    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe...

    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.

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        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 =)