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Best Baguette?

agoldman May 7, 2009 07:19 AM

I'm armed with Julia Child's recipe and a forecast for a rainy weekend. Any recipes or advice for my first attempt at french bread?

Your favorite uses for a fresh-baked baguette are welcome too.


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  1. c oliver RE: agoldman May 7, 2009 07:59 AM

    I hope you get some guidance here. I've never baked bread in my life and have been toying with the idea. If I did it, I would want a baguette also. To me, bread is all about the crust!

    6 Replies
    1. re: c oliver
      zamorski RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 01:21 PM

      Curious to hear what others have to say, but I would put baguette at the end of the list for a novice baker. Turning out a decent one is not hard, but a perfectly authentic one with a lovely shape, shattering crust, deep flavour, and big air cells is tricky. In particular, working with a very slack dough and retaining the air in it takes some practice.

      I would work at mastering easier breads first, myself, or setting your standards on the low side and being very patient.

      What do others think?

      1. re: c oliver
        kchurchill5 RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 01:28 PM

        I have tried, somewhat success, but admit. It is easier to buy. Great flavor but with me I don't use air a lot so humidity does become a problem. It was ok, and I tried and definitely edible. But I make my loafs in the bread maker all the time which it a bit more controlled and on those days I can keep the air on. Dough not in the bread maker I have problems with due to the humidity, even the bread maker is hard sometimes but a bit easier.

        Winter I make more homemade breads. Wheat bread mixes and white mixes and rye are much easier than my own recipes in the bread maker and I have to remember to have the air on that day

        1. re: kchurchill5
          The Professor RE: kchurchill5 May 10, 2009 06:35 AM

          Wish I lived where you are if really good baguettes are easy to buy there! I'm in central NJ and have not been able to buy a decent, authentic baguette in 15 years, probably even longer. Forget the supermarket in-store-bakery ones...even the "artisan" ones they sell which come in parbaked from out of town bakeries just don't have the right texture. If anyone here knows a good bakery in NJ with authentic baguettes, please let me know!!
          How I miss those mom and pop bakeries that were so plentiful 40 years ago...

          1. re: The Professor
            kchurchill5 RE: The Professor May 10, 2009 06:54 AM

            There is a couple of good small places that sell them, and the one local market is good. My farmers market also sells them and they are really descent for the price. I usually by two every Sat am, cut in 1/3's and freeze. That way I can take a baggie out and have 3-4 slices for me that day and the next and it won't go bad

            1. re: The Professor
              Kelli2006 RE: The Professor May 10, 2009 09:54 PM

              If you are near Crawford NJ I'd suggest that you try the baguette and sourdough at Breadsmith. http://www.breadsmith.com/

              1. re: The Professor
                ChefJune RE: The Professor May 12, 2009 07:11 AM

                I haven't had their baguettes in several years, but Witherspoon Bread Company in Princeton (at least used to) have good baguettes.

          2. Fritter RE: agoldman May 7, 2009 09:01 AM

            Favorite uses?
            The perfect accompaniment to a piece of Cowgirl Creamery Mt.Tam with some organic fig preserves.
            Add a nice Pinot Noir and some sliced meat from Salumi and you have the perfect excuse to bake baguettes.
            The bags of King Arthur French Flour have a nice recipe and they have another on their web site.


            44 Replies
            1. re: Fritter
              c oliver RE: Fritter May 7, 2009 09:05 AM

              What you described is, to me, the perfect meal - any time of day. I could care less about bread *on the side* of your traditional meat and two sides. But a nice cheese, a little meat, a little butter, some wine. Ooh la la. Now to see if I can find the KA flour.

              1. re: c oliver
                smtucker RE: c oliver May 7, 2009 02:47 PM

                You can order online. The shipping is rather high if you only order one bag of flour, but gets progressively less expensive if you order more. King Arthur is also doing some specials this week: 20% off more than $50, 25% off more than $100 and 30% off more than $150.

                If you have been dying to buy things like english muffin rings, high quality vanilla or bowls etc.... not a bad opportunity. Around here, KA is in all supermarkets, and I still often order from them since I know that it was ground recently.

              2. re: Fritter
                agoldman RE: Fritter May 7, 2009 09:17 AM

                Can't go wrong there! I'm planning to go shopping for the meats, cheeses, butter and jams while I wait for dough to rise. My grandmother (who is french and a wonderful cook) has ordered me to make a sandwich with the radishes from my garden, french butter, a pinch of salt, and of course the baguette. I've never had a radish-butter sandwich before, but she's the authority.

                1. re: agoldman
                  c oliver RE: agoldman May 12, 2009 06:41 AM

                  I had some tiny little radishes and had that with the bread and butter. Mmmm.

                2. re: Fritter
                  chowser RE: Fritter May 7, 2009 11:49 AM

                  I like the KA recipe, too.

                  1. re: Fritter
                    c oliver RE: Fritter May 9, 2009 12:36 PM

                    Bought the flour today, but the bags didn't have a baguette recipe. I got this one from their website (wow, they have a lot, don't they?) Does this sound like what I want to start with?

                    Thanks, Fritter et al.

                    1. re: c oliver
                      smtucker RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 12:42 PM

                      This recipe looks pretty good. The hydration is a little low, but that will make it easier to handle. Be forewarned, this makes a lot of bread and it doesn't keep. I often divide the starter [by weight] and put half in the refrigerator where it grows more slowly and then make bread on two consecutive days. The other option is to bake all of the bread and when cool, wrap the loaves you won't eat within 24 hours tightly in plastic and then place into a ziplock bag and freeze.

                      I have a bunch of bread doing a second rise now. Love the way the house smells as the bread bakes.

                      1. re: smtucker
                        c oliver RE: smtucker May 9, 2009 12:47 PM

                        I'm inordinately excited about the :) I've been *yeast-phobic* forever. So my first dough as for pasta which was hard and then not hard; getting better each time. This sounds pretty easy but I'm glad for all their detailed instructions and pictures and your support.

                        1. re: c oliver
                          smtucker RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 01:05 PM

                          Another thing. The king arthur recipes assume table salt, so if you are using kosher increase the quantity by about 50%. Unsalted bread is a very flat flavor.

                          1. re: smtucker
                            c oliver RE: smtucker May 9, 2009 01:14 PM

                            I have both. Do you have a preference?

                            1. re: c oliver
                              smtucker RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 01:18 PM

                              I can't stand table salt. Tastes like metal to me, so I always use kosher in my bread.

                              1. re: smtucker
                                c oliver RE: smtucker May 9, 2009 01:22 PM

                                I've never figured out how to use anything other than table salt in little salt shakers for the table. Everything else is too big. Guess I could enlarge the holes. So a box of it last forever since that's all I use it for!

                                1. re: c oliver
                                  Caitlin McGrath RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 01:31 PM

                                  You could get a salt grinder if you want to have kosher salt at the table, but if you'd rather buy a canister of salt than a grinder (certainly cheaper), I use fine sea salt and find it works fine in a shaker and has a clean taste. I use it for the table and for cooking.

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                    kchurchill5 RE: Caitlin McGrath May 9, 2009 01:33 PM

                                    I use kosher for cooking and rarely does anyone add salt at my table, but I too use a fine sea salt, not sure of the brand but I had the option at a warehouse of buying 2 pepper shakers, the pepper shaker holes were a bit bigger, I use that and they work good. I sure they make them out their for a coarser salt, but never table salt in my house except for baking which is rare.

                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                      c oliver RE: Caitlin McGrath May 9, 2009 01:35 PM

                                      Thanks for the sea salt tip. We're going to be in and out of NYC for a month soon. I'm making my chow shopping list!

                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        smtucker RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 03:27 PM

                                        Tonight's Bread

                                        I overcompensated for the humidity, and didn't get the right oven spring with the baguette and the slashes are not perfect. One third of the dough was for the baguette, the rest I made into a boule for sandwiches.

                                        Dinner was the last container of Hazan Bolognese sauce from the freezer, over just enough pasta to show a little decorum, since I really just wanted the sauce on my bread.

                                        1. re: smtucker
                                          c oliver RE: smtucker May 9, 2009 03:35 PM

                                          I believe that I too am down to my last pack of her sauce :( Decorum? Not when homemade bread and B sauce are around!!!

                                          Thanks for the photos. One last question? It says to leave the starter for 14 hours, I believe.. How much over that time could I safely go if at all?

                                          1. re: c oliver
                                            smtucker RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 06:08 PM

                                            If you need more than 14 hours, you might want to start the starter in the fridge to slow it down. Take out of fridge and then add an hour to get to room temperature and the rest of the rising. My recipe actually has me keep the starter in the fridge for the entire 14 hours. Slow rising will always give you more flavor, so I would recommend the slow method vs the over-proofing.

                                        2. re: c oliver
                                          Fritter RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 06:13 AM

                                          I use sea salt as well. If you want a very fine sea salt the TJ's sea salt fits the bill and it's inexpensive.
                                          I order the baguette pans from KA on this last sale. They should be here this week.

                                          1. re: Fritter
                                            c oliver RE: Fritter May 10, 2009 08:48 AM

                                            Are the pans just really for aesthetics? So the bread has the traditional shape? Should I just make sure the loaves are far enough apart that they don't "bleed" into each other?

                                            Made my starter last night and will make the dough itself about lunch time. Pretty exciting :)

                                            1. re: c oliver
                                              Fritter RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 10:50 AM

                                              "Are the pans just really for aesthetics? "

                                              Because I don't have them yet I would rather wait until they are tested to say but with the holes I'm hoping for a more even cook and a little less browning on the bottom.
                                              So that's a "hopefull" no. ;)

                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                chowser RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 05:28 PM

                                                You've already gotten good advice on everything but I wanted to add here that if you dn't have the pans, you can separate the loaves by putting them on a well floured kitchen towel and then pulling a fold of the towel up between them. Make sure the fold is high enough that when the bread rises, they don't touch. I roll the dough onto parchment paper onto the peel and slide each in one at a time. It makes perfect shaped baguettes w/out extra equipment. Also, if you don't have a lame or razorblade to slash the dough, an exacto knife can work but you have to be firm with it. I've also used sharp kitchen sheers. Not as clean but works.

                                                1. re: chowser
                                                  c oliver RE: chowser May 10, 2009 05:31 PM

                                                  Am I missing something here? Are you saying to actually bake it on the kitchen towel? Wouldn't it catch fire or something? I'm confused.

                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                    agoldman RE: c oliver May 11, 2009 05:42 AM

                                                    I used a pan for one loaf and a baking sheet for the other two to see what the difference might be. The pan made a nicely rounded shape, and it probably was more evenly cooked, but I didn't have any problem with the sheet. Just make sure you give them enough room.

                                              2. re: Fritter
                                                Fritter RE: Fritter May 12, 2009 03:03 PM

                                                "If you want a very fine sea salt the TJ's sea salt fits the bill and it's inexpensive"

                                                I just needed to correct myself. The very fine sea salt I have is 365 brand from Whole Foods. Very inexpensive.

                                                1. re: Fritter
                                                  c oliver RE: Fritter May 12, 2009 03:05 PM

                                                  Thanks for the correction. We'll be back home in a couple of weeks where I have access to both. I'll definitely pick some up.

                                          2. re: c oliver
                                            smtucker RE: c oliver May 9, 2009 01:35 PM

                                            I am almost embarrassed by the number of salts in my kitchen. I have a old-fashioned anchor hocking glass jar with the kosher salt by the stove that I use for cooking and baking. On the dining room table, I have baleine salt in the salt shaker, and a fancy Atlantic sea salt in a salt cellar. If you have baleine, or something similar, it would be a 1:1 substitution for table salt.

                                            Let's not discuss the salts in the pantry though.

                                            1. re: c oliver
                                              Father Kitchen RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 12:27 PM

                                              I don't bake baguettes often, and most of my bread is naturally-leavened. So I don't want to comment on any particular recipe. I do think a moist oven atmosphere makes a huge difference, and since I don't have a covered baker that accommodates long, narrow loaves, which would provide the ideal atmosphere, I rarely attempt them.
                                              For baguette fiends, do see the covered baker that you pipe steam into that was featured in Rosa Levy Beranbaum's web site about a year ago.
                                              Some time ago, in a thread on no knead bread, someone--Chowser I think--said he bakes baguettes in an unglazed terra cotta bread box. I imagine he covers t with a cookie sheet. And several sources actually sell covered ceramic baguette bakers--check with the King Arthur site.
                                              I also think using a poolish preferment is a key to a really good yeasted baguettes. (The ones I had in Paris in the seventies never impressed me, and they were mostly using a fast direct method then.)
                                              As for the salt problem, try putting kosher salt in a food processor. I grind coarse sea salt that way. My salt from Guam is a tad bit coarse and holds a fair amount of moisture. So I spread it on a cookie sheet and leave it in an oven to completely dehydrate (the pilot light does it). Then I grind it in the food processor. It works well, so I should think kosher salt would grind nicely. And, I too, find table salt metalic tasting.

                                              1. re: Father Kitchen
                                                Channa RE: Father Kitchen May 10, 2009 03:34 PM

                                                Father Kitchen listed several methods that trap steam for crispy crusts. There have been discussions on The Fresh Loaf about using a baking stone with a disposable aluminium foil pan as a cloche. (The foil pan is taken off after the first 10-15 minutes of baking.) I tried it, and it works a treat. You're limited only by the size of your baking stone and the foil pan. Here are some posts:



                                                1. re: Channa
                                                  Father Kitchen RE: Channa May 10, 2009 03:48 PM


                                                2. re: Father Kitchen
                                                  chowser RE: Father Kitchen May 10, 2009 05:47 PM

                                                  I've been using unglazed quarry tiles. The baguette shaped dough holds its form well when I slide it in.

                                                  As the steam in the oven goes, I put a stoneware loafpan on the rack below and add water it. I've also just thrown a cup of water/ice into the oven.

                                                3. re: c oliver
                                                  chef chicklet RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 04:02 PM

                                                  I have a salt grinder, that takes care of the grains being to big. And you (I) don't use as much salt.

                                                  I lovea wonderful baquette, with spinach pesto. I got on a kick when the boys were young, trying to get their veggies in them, They LOVE spinach pesto to this day. Of course they eat it all now, but they still want and ask for the spinach pesto and baquettes. Fun to make.

                                                  1. re: chef chicklet
                                                    Father Kitchen RE: chef chicklet May 10, 2009 04:06 PM

                                                    But try soaking the baguette in vine ripened tomatoes dripping with juice, some garlic and onions, and olive oil. And if you must, a bit of mozzarella--the fresh mozzarella di bufala.

                                                  2. re: c oliver
                                                    chowser RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 05:41 PM

                                                    There are stainless salt shakers with adjustable lids with varying size holes, It works great for kosher salt. I think I got mine at World Market.

                                              2. re: smtucker
                                                Kelli2006 RE: smtucker May 9, 2009 04:15 PM

                                                If you swap out table salt for kosher you only add 30%, unless you prefer salty food. If you weigh your salt it you will get an exact conversion, but 30% is close enough if you use volumetric measurement.

                                                1. re: Kelli2006
                                                  smtucker RE: Kelli2006 May 9, 2009 06:06 PM

                                                  My recipes [I love the Baker's Apprentice] uses weights, so I don't actually have to convert, but your post and Channa's below shows that I should never guesstimate on a board that is serious about food!

                                                2. re: smtucker
                                                  Channa RE: smtucker May 9, 2009 05:01 PM

                                                  It depends on the brand of kosher salt:


                                            2. re: c oliver
                                              Fritter RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 06:17 AM

                                              "Bought the flour today, but the bags didn't have a baguette recipe"

                                              Did you buy the French flour? If you want that recipe I can post it. The one you have linked is a longer process but it is a KA guarunteed recipe. :)
                                              The next time you order stroll through the sale section. They some times have killer deals there.

                                              1. re: Fritter
                                                c oliver RE: Fritter May 10, 2009 08:51 AM

                                                I bought the "Unbleached Bread Flour." The website had so many recipes so the one I picked just looked close enough. So, yes, I'd love that recipe also. Killer deals on the flour? I'll keep an eye out. They were all on sale a little but only a little.

                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                  Fritter RE: c oliver May 11, 2009 06:05 AM

                                                  Here's the recipe from the French-Style flour bag.


                                            3. re: Fritter
                                              c oliver RE: Fritter May 11, 2009 02:53 PM

                                              This bread is perfect! Just cut a couple of slices though not cooled yet. I followed the directions to a T and it all worked. And just think I've NEVER made bread before. The tip to put it in the oven with the light on worked great. Gave just a bit a non-cool. Thought time consuming, it's worth every bit of it. I'll have this skill forever and I appreciate everyone's help. It's the Chowhound spirit that I so love. As usual, I'm in your debt. Thanks to all.

                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                greygarious RE: c oliver May 11, 2009 03:34 PM

                                                Congratulations! My first yeast experience was 18 months ago, with the Cooks Illustrated version of no-knead bread. It came out fo the dutch oven looking like it belonged on the rack in a Parisian boulangerie...more gratifying than my first all A's report card!

                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                  smtucker RE: c oliver May 11, 2009 05:50 PM

                                                  I started making bread about 8 months ago, and we haven't bought, even a fancy artisinal, loaf since. When you are ready, I have a fantastic pita bread recipe.

                                                  Congratulations on your first success, of many!

                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                    agoldman RE: c oliver May 12, 2009 08:28 AM

                                                    I'm so glad it worked out! Any photos? I agree - definitely worth the time. The process is half the fun anyway. And thanks to everyone who helped!

                                                2. chowser RE: agoldman May 7, 2009 11:48 AM

                                                  The hardest part for me is not to cut into it before it has cooled. It's so tempting with a loaf of fresh bread. But, since recipes generally make more than one loaf, I often give in. If you don't have a baguette holder and are making multiple loaves, using a towel to keep the loafs in shape and separated works well but make sure there is enough towel in between to loaves don't run into each other when they rise. I only have a round pizza stone so I picked up unglazed quarry tile from Home Depot--just 6 small ones (6"x6") and lined the bottom rack. A pizza peel is helpful in getting it in and out of the oven but if you don't have one, put the dough on parchment paper (I use it even with the peel) so you can easily pull it in and out of the oven. Favorite uses? Just eating w/ cheese or seasoned olive oil. If it's slightly stale (day after), I've made good french bread pizza with it, too, Home made tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil.

                                                  Oh, since you're doing it on a rainy day, the moisture might affect it and you might need to use a little more flour.

                                                  1. n
                                                    normalheightsfoodie RE: agoldman May 7, 2009 12:16 PM

                                                    I recently had the best baguette ever. It was fron a BAHN MI shop and they intergrate rice flour in their mix. I am in San Diego and we have a great deal of Bahn Mi sandwich shops.

                                                    1. a
                                                      agoldman RE: agoldman May 10, 2009 05:07 AM

                                                      Thanks for all the tips! I used the Julia recipe and KA flour and everything was great. I was prepared for this to be more of a learning experience with plenty of notes and adjustments for next time, but I must say that I was very happy with my first results!

                                                      We had the bread with as a sandwich with sliced radishes and butter, and also sliced with some cheese. I'll definitely be doing this again!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: agoldman
                                                        c oliver RE: agoldman May 10, 2009 08:53 AM

                                                        Yay. Did you take a picture? I'm a day behind you so am glad that the result exceeded your expectation. I bought some beautiful little French (?) radishes yesterday at our Growers Market. Sounds like a great way to christen a new loaf of bread.

                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                          agoldman RE: c oliver May 11, 2009 05:50 AM

                                                          My sous chef (don't tell him I said that) did take some pictures. Here's the final result. You can see that the longer, straighter loaf is from the bread pan. Good luck with your baking! I had a lot of fun trying it, and the kneading is certainly a good stress reliever. I'm looking forward to your comments on how it turns out.

                                                      2. kchurchill5 RE: agoldman May 10, 2009 09:31 AM

                                                        With a baguette which I have threatened to make, but with the weather, usually just bought I wanted to make this sandwich.

                                                        My friend made it for me and left it for me when I was out of town with a note when I came back. He made me tomato soup with amazing dumplings and then this sandwich and said enjoy.

                                                        It was the best. Unfortunately he is overseas on duty so I can't get the recipe, but it had mashed avacado with just a bit of cayenne I think and a little sour cream or mayo for the spread. Maybe s/p I think, don't know if it was in the dip, then topped with good roasted turkey, AND radishes thin sliced. Topped with sprouts and crumbled goat cheese and more spread on the bread. IT WAS SERVED ON A BAGUETTE! nOT GRILLED, JUST SERVED AS IT. IT WAS AMAZING!

                                                        And I am pretty sure the recipe is close. I have made it and it tastes pretty good so I think I got it right. The best baguette sandwich I ever had.

                                                        1. c oliver RE: agoldman May 10, 2009 11:49 AM

                                                          Question please. The starter is about an hour plus from the 14 hours. I definitely doesn't have the litle bubbles on the top that they talk about and show. I'd say it's risen some but don't remember exactly where it started out last night. They say if that happens to test your yeast by dissolving 1/4t into 1T warm water and a pinch of sugar. Leave for 15 minutes and "if nothing happens" then your yeast is bad and you need to start over. I don't know what SHOULD have happens. It certainly didn't bubble but it looked it kinda sorta wanted to :) So I did that test with a second packet of yeast and the same result. Should I go forward with the original starter or begin anew? I need to add that we keep our house quite cool so it was down in the low 50s in here last night and not over 60 now. Would that matter? If so, I'm probably never going to make bread as I'd hate my house to be too warm (yeah, that's too warm for me). Hopefully I'll hear back from one/some of you before the time runs out. Thanks as always.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: c oliver
                                                            smtucker RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 12:05 PM

                                                            Absolutely matters. Temperature is everything. At 60º, you need more time, or you can put the bowl in your oven with the internal light on. That will move it along a little faster. Other options are up high in a room [warmer there] or a second floor if you have one. [I often use a closet that has hot water pipes behind the wall.]

                                                            Example here... during the winter when my house is at 62º, my 3 hour rise can take as long as 7 hrs. Now that we are having warmer weather, my rise time occurs in the amount of time stated in the recipe.

                                                            Oh, and slow rises make for a very nice flavor so if you have the time, this isn't a bad thing.

                                                            1. re: smtucker
                                                              c oliver RE: smtucker May 10, 2009 12:10 PM

                                                              Oh, bless your heart for coming back so fast! It's warmer outside than in right now. Do you suppose I could put it on the covered porch out of the sun? Or is that TOO much? So those little bubbles as well as increase in size are both things I'm looking for? The oven with the light on is fine also. I have all day (on the Left Coast) so will do whatever you tell me. Thanks, my friend.

                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                smtucker RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 12:16 PM

                                                                I have never done outside.... always thought that the squirrels might want a taste.

                                                                And the starter should actually be bubbly. Here are some photos:

                                                                1. re: smtucker
                                                                  c oliver RE: smtucker May 10, 2009 12:25 PM

                                                                  Excellent. Yeah, the KA site described it as looking like a pancake just before you flip it over. The dogs keep the squirrels away so maybe I'll try the porch. The nice thing is that I don't have much invested time or money. It's funny; after starting this I then read 'well, obviously a beginning baker isn't going to start with a baguette.' And said out loud, "oh screw that. I have Chowhounds on my side, right?"

                                                                  I'll keep you posted. I'm home all day any way so this isn't a problem. Thanks again, smt.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                    greygarious RE: c oliver May 10, 2009 02:13 PM

                                                                    Another spot is the microwave. Boil 1-2 cups of water in it, leave it there, put the dough bowl inside and shut the door. A heating pad wrapped in a bathtowel or two, set on low, is a nice warm pillow for a bowl of dough.

                                                                    1. re: greygarious
                                                                      yayadave RE: greygarious May 12, 2009 07:16 AM

                                                                      This works. I nuke a cup of water for 2 minutes and then put the dough in. It works for the sponge, the dough, and the shaped loaf.

                                                              2. re: smtucker
                                                                kchurchill5 RE: smtucker May 10, 2009 01:21 PM

                                                                Hence why I rarely make bread other than in the bread maker and then I have to make sure the air is on. My house never gets under 80 maybe 78 and that is cool for me. I hate cold. Hate air as well. Like warm. Makes for bad bread making. Bread maker if I keep the air on does work, which is why I use it. But have attempted. If I put mine on my porch, 88 and sun and a temp of 94 in the sun ... a bit of a hard environment to deal with. No squirrels, maybe raccoons or other critters who knows.

                                                                I wish you the best and hope it turns out. I would love to make some but just never easy for me down here. Breadmaker is even difficult at times. But wish you the best. Would love nothing more. I love fresh bread.

                                                            2. ChefJune RE: agoldman May 12, 2009 07:16 AM

                                                              agoldman: I hope this is not your first attempt at bread -- only Baguettes. They are deceptive. Only four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water, but those ingredients are SO important! And I really can't tell you how you can tell if you have good water for bread. If the breads you can get in your local bakery are good, then probably your water is at least okay.

                                                              You're going to need a good place for the bread to rise and develop, away from drafts, and not too warm. You don't want your bread to rise too fast, or it will lack flavor.

                                                              For the razor-crisp crust, you'll need to follow every one of Julia's tips, because the steam in the oven right after you put in the loaves is crucial.

                                                              Good luck, and come back and tell us how it went.

                                                              I've been baking bread since I was 7 years old, and I rarely bake baguettes. *>o

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: ChefJune
                                                                c oliver RE: ChefJune May 12, 2009 07:28 AM

                                                                This was MY first attempt at baking bread and it was a big success. Thanks for the amazing directions from King Arthur and the even more amazing help from CHs. The KA recipe calls for spraying the loaves quite heavily with water just before baking. Also, ideally, to leave in the oven at the end with the door slightly ajar. I can't think of a single thing that would have made them taste any better. agoldman has already reported back and he was pleased also. I think it's a mistake for newbies to be afraid. I'm 62 and been "yeast phobic" all my adult life :) I wanted to bake bread that I would enjoy eating and that's baguettes.

                                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                                  Fritter RE: c oliver May 12, 2009 01:55 PM

                                                                  CONGRATS! The good news is a lot of other breads are easy by comparison. No excuse to be yeast phobic any longer.

                                                                  1. re: Fritter
                                                                    c oliver RE: Fritter May 12, 2009 02:50 PM

                                                                    Thanks. Had paninis for lunch on MY bread. More tonight and there's one in the freezer. We're leaving in less than two weeks for our home which is at 6500' elevation. Then I'm going to get all weird again. But at least I know now how it SHOULD work. And I think the KA site is brill. I haven't looked at their other recipes but the baguette one couldn't have been better spelled (and photo'd) out.

                                                                2. re: ChefJune
                                                                  chowser RE: ChefJune May 12, 2009 09:16 AM

                                                                  I wonder if, since you're a professional and know how the perfect baguette SHOULD be, you're pickier than some of us who are just happy with fresh bread. I have no idea if my baguettes are the way they should be, but like them so much more than others I buy elsewhere. There's something wonderful, to me, about freshly baked bread even if it doesn't turn out perfectly, just for the smell alone makes it worthwhile.

                                                                  1. re: chowser
                                                                    c oliver RE: chowser May 12, 2009 09:22 AM

                                                                    chowser, I'm going to disagree with you - but in a way I hope you will approve. The baguettes that I made yesterday would have made me really happy in ANY restaurant. They were that good. Unlike many more talented cooks than I, I follow recipes and for that I followed it exactly and the results was outstanding. I'd proudly serve it to any top-notch baker in the world. And it was actually quite easy. Took a long time but mostly just standing/lying around time. Plus, yes, the whole experience not the least of which was the smell.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                                      chowser RE: c oliver May 12, 2009 10:39 AM

                                                                      My comment was more that Chef June said she didn't make baguettesoften, though I'm sure they'd be better than mine. I like my baguettes and people seem to enjoy them. But, I also leave open the possibility that people like Chef June could try mine and shudder. I'd be perfectly fine with that. I know my slashes w/ my exacto knife, or even razor, aren't as nice as the ones I've seen from pros, When I fold my dough and press, it might not be done the way it's supposed to be done. There are so many different techniques for it and I have no idea which is the best. When I read how precise people like Father Kitchen and other CHs are with their method, I know I'm far out of my league as bread baking goes. I'm starting to learn to bake more on the fly, rely less on precisely weighed flour, more on feel. I'm sure there are nuances to bread baking, despite all the books I've read, that I still don't understand or have just scratched the surface of (eg. I can never remember what kind of bread a poolish makes, vs. sponge, biga, etc). But, I'm happy with the final product and that's what count. I think what it comes down to, for me, is that it's a delicious learning curve. But, my hat's off to you for making such a great first loaf of bread. It's exciting!

                                                                3. b
                                                                  Bijoux57 RE: agoldman May 12, 2009 08:44 AM

                                                                  I have not made baguette's in a long time but...if you have a pizza stone to bake on, it will help the crustiness of the bread. Also, you can try placing a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven while baking, it helps give a nice finish to the crust and helps with moisture during baking. If I still lived in Berkeley, CA, I'd be getting all my baguettes from La Farine.

                                                                  1. Channa RE: agoldman May 12, 2009 11:11 AM

                                                                    A good article about homemade baguettes --


                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Channa
                                                                      roxlet RE: Channa May 12, 2009 03:49 PM

                                                                      Great article! Thank you!

                                                                    2. yayadave RE: agoldman May 12, 2009 07:58 PM

                                                                      Speaking of "Best Baguettes" ~
                                                                      This guy thinks his are the best in DC.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: yayadave
                                                                        yayadave RE: yayadave May 13, 2009 06:59 PM

                                                                        Oh, I see!!

                                                                      2. Father Kitchen RE: agoldman May 13, 2009 05:15 PM

                                                                        This thread got me back into the baguette business. Actually the almost-baguette business. What I baked were technically batards, which are not as long as a true baguette . But it was sort of a day from hell in the kitchen, and I want to report it so that the people looking for the best baguettes won't get discouraged when things don't go quite well.
                                                                        I hadn't even planned to bake, but my refereshed sourdough starter was rising so vigorously in the refrigerator (almost crawling out of its jar) that I decided last night to expand it enough to make several loaves of bread. So far so good.
                                                                        This morning, however, I got a late start and had a PT appointment to make. So I put the dough starter in a Kitchen Aid stand mixer (one I almost ever use) and turned it on to mix the starter with water. It was sloshing too violently and I reached over to turn the machine off but cranked up the speed by mistake. I had starter-flavored water flying all over the place. At that point, one of the brothers suggest I get out of the kitchen and stay out today. Instead, after tunring the machine off, I reached in and sqeezed the starter.repeatedly to incorporate the water that was left. Then I poured the slurry of the dissolved starter into a large Hobart stand mixer we have. The problem is now that I don't know how much water I have the mix. So I added accurately weighed flour and salt and guestimated the water going by feel. Not as easy as I would like. I lost so much time in cleaning up that I didn't have time to autolyse the dough. So I watched how the ball formed and felt for a medium dough and put it in an acrylic tub to rise.
                                                                        When I got home from PT, I made a pot or vegetable soup, but not before accidentally spilling lentils all over the stove.
                                                                        Later in the afternoon, I found I had a slightly stiffer dough that I usually work with, but one that should make a nice French type bread. So I shaped my batards, covered them with plastic, and left them to rise. And then cleaned up the mess from the broken corn-meal cannister I dropped.
                                                                        About half an hour before baking, I put a cast iron skillet in the oven and preheated it with the oven. Just before baking, I scored the loaves and poured hot water into the skillet to steam the oven. It was one of those odd moments when the pilot was lit but the main burner was not actively burning. The sudden burst of steam created an updraft that somehow or another snuffed the pilot light, so the burner never did turn back on. All the heat in the oven was residual. I didn't discover the problem until half an hour later when I opened the oven to find pale loaves that had begun oven spring--the slashes opened nicely--but hadn't gotten dark. In effect, they were par-baked loaves. Internal temp was 120 degrees. We had to take the bottom out of the oven to relight the pilot. Eventually, the loaves went back in and I baked them for another 20 minutes. The crust failed to develop good color--perhaps I should have misted the crusts when I put the loaves back in. But when we cut into them, we found that they had a very nice crumb--rather fine, soft and less chewy than the more Italianate breads I usually bake. The flavor was very good. In fact, I had baked decent batards in spite of it all.
                                                                        The lesson from this is simple. Even when things go wrong, don't give up. Any dough that can be shaped will produce an edible bread. It may not be everything you hoped for, but it may wll turn out better than you expected. In any case, you'll learn by your mistakes. I now know I can parbake loaves. So maybe the next time I go to my brother's for dinner, I'll bring a loaf to finish in his wife's oven.

                                                                        21 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Father Kitchen
                                                                          c oliver RE: Father Kitchen May 13, 2009 05:31 PM

                                                                          I have a dear friend who advised me to never pray for patience or the Lord might want to give you things to help you learn patience. Sounds like you're a patient man, Brother.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver
                                                                            Father Kitchen RE: c oliver May 13, 2009 05:42 PM

                                                                            It helps to have a funny bone and to remember that it's only flour and water. And I had no professional reputation to worry about. So I might as well enjoy it. And I pray for patience all the time. It is a virtue never found in children, seldom in parents, and only occasionally in me.

                                                                            1. re: Father Kitchen
                                                                              c oliver RE: Father Kitchen May 13, 2009 06:17 PM

                                                                              Amen, Brother :) The way I live my life, a sense of humor is essential.

                                                                          2. re: Father Kitchen
                                                                            chowser RE: Father Kitchen May 13, 2009 06:27 PM

                                                                            It's reassuring to hear that things don't always go well for even the most seasoned bakers. That's a great hint about parbaking loaves. I've heard grocery stores do it that way. As I've found with fresh bread, even with errors, it still tastes great.

                                                                            I was in the baguette making mode today, too. I started the sponge last night. This morning was fine but I let both rises go too long and I think that was the start of my problem, though I'm hoping someone can help. The final rising looked great, nice plump shape, also more batard like that baguette like. But when I moved them onto the parchment and peel, they deflated. Was it the rise that was too long (was in Italian class and it couldn't be helped) that causes that? I put them all on parchment and let rise a little longer while the stove preheated. They turned out fine but I've never had that happen before.

                                                                            Also, in the past, I've put a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack on the oven, above the quarry tiles. Just before baking, I throw a cup of water and ice into the skillet. But, it crossed my mind today that it's a 500 degree skillet and ice cold water--bad combination? I was afraid it would crack. So, I threw the water/ice into the bottom of the stove, as I've seen others do. But, could that damage the stove?

                                                                            1. re: chowser
                                                                              smtucker RE: chowser May 13, 2009 06:49 PM

                                                                              That does sound like an over-rise. Your yeast had given all it had before you were ready for it.

                                                                              As to the water, I use Reinhart's method. Baking stone/tile on the bottom rack of the stove and the skillet on the top. Boil water. Put bread on ston, and toss 1 cup of the very hot water into the skillet. Then close door. After 30 seconds, spritz the oven with room temperature water [watch out for your lights though.] Repeat 2 more times.

                                                                              Worth a try one time to see if it helps or hinders. [I have heard of glass oven doors cracking from cold water, as well as the light components. And the cost to repair is absurd!]

                                                                              1. re: smtucker
                                                                                chowser RE: smtucker May 13, 2009 07:18 PM

                                                                                Thanks--that's what I thought, too.

                                                                                Boiling water would cut the temperature difference. I've read in so many books/sites, etc. that recommend the ice water and it never occured to me today that it might cause damage. The cast iron skillet breaking is one thing but I can't afford a new oven! I'm wondering why no oven manufacturer makes a built in spritz for residential use. I used to do the no knead bread in pyrex, as recommended in the recipes. until someone pointed out hot pyrex, cold dough--bad combinations.

                                                                                1. re: chowser
                                                                                  smtucker RE: chowser May 13, 2009 07:25 PM

                                                                                  Oh, there are some... but if you have to ask, you can't afford them. :-(

                                                                                  1. re: chowser
                                                                                    c oliver RE: chowser May 13, 2009 07:25 PM

                                                                                    I'm embarassed to even respond to this since I've made bread ONCE. But their recommendation to heavily spritz the bread with warm water just before putting in the oven gave me very crispy crust. Since I have NOTHING to compare it to, well.... Just the KA rec.

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                                                      smtucker RE: c oliver May 13, 2009 07:28 PM

                                                                                      It is a less dangerous way of trying to do the same thing, but the results are a little more "professional" bakery-like, if that makes sense. Reinhart calls this the "hearth method." I use a roasting pan for the water dump, but cast iron works really well. Oh, and the hot water dancing is a fun show!

                                                                                      1. re: smtucker
                                                                                        chowser RE: smtucker May 14, 2009 04:47 AM

                                                                                        It is a very dramatic splash with instant steam, especially with the ice.

                                                                                        1. re: chowser
                                                                                          c oliver RE: chowser May 14, 2009 07:43 AM

                                                                                          Thanks for the tip.

                                                                                      2. re: c oliver
                                                                                        chowser RE: c oliver May 14, 2009 04:46 AM

                                                                                        Thanks--I was using the KA recipe and spritz but find the crust is crustier with the water thrown in.

                                                                                    2. re: smtucker
                                                                                      Fritter RE: smtucker May 14, 2009 03:34 AM

                                                                                      "After 30 seconds, spritz the oven with room temperature water [watch out for your lights though.] Repeat 2 more times"

                                                                                      Also be carefull not to get water on the glass on the oven door if you have pre-heated to a very high temp.
                                                                                      Please don't ask me how I know that. :(

                                                                                      1. re: Fritter
                                                                                        chowser RE: Fritter May 14, 2009 04:48 AM

                                                                                        This is my worry. I don't know why almost every recipe I've seen has a variation of cold water into the hot stove but I've never seen the issue addressed.

                                                                                        1. re: Fritter
                                                                                          c oliver RE: Fritter May 14, 2009 07:44 AM

                                                                                          Oh no. A word to the wise. Thanks, Fritter.

                                                                                          1. re: Fritter
                                                                                            c oliver RE: Fritter Aug 7, 2009 01:52 PM

                                                                                            Here's the thread, Fritter.

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver
                                                                                              Fritter RE: c oliver Aug 7, 2009 05:36 PM

                                                                                              Wow thanks for bumping that up! I hope you are all settled in and all is well. Here is a new "no knead" baguette recipe from KA I hope you will find helpfull.


                                                                                              1. re: Fritter
                                                                                                c oliver RE: Fritter Aug 7, 2009 05:42 PM

                                                                                                If anyone has any advice about making bread at 6400' elevation and low humidity, I'd appreciate it. But at least I'm not irrationally afraid any more. Now my fears are rational :) Thanks, Fritter. I enjoy reading your posts alot.

                                                                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                  smtucker RE: c oliver Aug 7, 2009 07:55 PM

                                                                                                  I remember having to relearn how to cook when we moved to Montana. Now, we were at a paltry 3300' elevation, but I don't think I ever even considered making bread back then.

                                                                                                  Googling "high altitude bread baking" brings up all kinds of ideas from various university extension departments. Start with rolls. So much easier to control! And freeze in individual servings.

                                                                                                2. re: Fritter
                                                                                                  c oliver RE: Fritter Aug 7, 2009 05:56 PM

                                                                                                  You've made this, right? It sounds SO easy. And the coolness of my house isn't going to be such a big issue. Thanks again.

                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                    Fritter RE: c oliver Aug 8, 2009 02:23 PM

                                                                                                    I'm using a French flour from KA and I've had to start with 4 cups of water instead of three.

                                                                                      2. k
                                                                                        KevinPorter RE: agoldman Sep 13, 2010 08:52 AM

                                                                                        Hi all, I just joined Chowhound, and since this was the discussion that (finally) got me to join I thought I'd say hello here and bump up this helpful thread too. I've been trying to make baguettes for years. First time was 15 years ago for a French class and they were terrible (I think I used a Martha Stewart recipe?) I tried again a couple years ago, and couldn't figure out how to get the nice holes in the crumb.
                                                                                        Well, this thread finally did it for me. The enthusiasm here got me to try it again. The King Arthur recipe was a good start, and I learned a lot from the link to Fromartz's baguettes on Chewswise. And thanks, Father Kitchen too, for the story of the "problem" bread - it gave me heart. I'll try and attach a photo from some of the later attempts.
                                                                                        Thanks all!

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: KevinPorter
                                                                                          smtucker RE: KevinPorter Sep 13, 2010 11:23 AM

                                                                                          Welcome and what a handsome set of baguettes. Did you use a slow fermentation method?

                                                                                          1. re: smtucker
                                                                                            KevinPorter RE: smtucker Sep 13, 2010 01:24 PM

                                                                                            Thanks, this is a great discussion board. I did - I used a sourdough starter along with a teaspoon of yeast and then bulk fermented for 24-48 hours after kneading (These are both basically from Fromartz's recipe).

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