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What's your best French baguette recipe ?

I've been starting to test out new Baguette recipes, but there are just so many out there. I've tried a couple times from recipes online and failed miserably.

Wanted to see if my fellow foodies are willing to share on what kind of recipes and how to make your BEST french baguettes!

I do have the bread book by Peter Reinhart that I want to try this weekend. Looking forward to seeing everyone's comments!

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  1. I use the technique and recipe from the bread bakers apprentice. Works well for me.

    IMHO the key for me would be to use a recipe that starts with some sort of preferment to develope flavor - and buy good flour.

    1 Reply
    1. re: thimes

      Thank you! That is actually the recipe I was going to be using this weekend.

    2. Well, first you need to use a recipe with only flour, salt, water, and a leavening agent such as yeast or levain.

      Next, what hydration are you going to use? Have you worked with wetter dough before? You'll probably end up with about a 65-70% hydration, so that's something to look for in a recipe.

      How much time are you willing to put into it, knowing that you need not even be present for most of said time? As already indicated by thimes, aging the sponge/preferment/dough promotes better flavor development.

      These things should help narrow the choices.

      Avoid ANY recipe that calls for oils/fats, sugar, milk, eggs, etc. These might make a nice bread, but it won't be a baguette.

      5 Replies
      1. re: sandylc

        Thank you for the tips! I plan to put however long time needed to make the best one. I've recently tried a french sandwich place that the owner has developed a very special formula for making a baguette with no fat content, no sugar (obviously no butter, but there isn't butter in there in the first place). The baguette he made was phenomenal. I talked to the owner and he said no matter how much someone wants to pay for his formula/recipe, he will not sell it. Which is good for him, but bad for me.

        And thank you very much for your tip!

        1. re: IammsT

          Again, there is NO magic ingredient list for a true baguette! A baguette has ONLY flour, leaven, salt, and water. If someone boasts of "no fat" or "special ingredients", they don't know what a baguette is.

          The only possible variants are hydration percentage (and to a degree, water type), flour brand/type, leaven, and method, which can also include room temperature and oven type.

          1. re: sandylc

            I see.
            I was asking him on what his formula was for the no sugar but he wouldn't give it up for his life.

            I will go with the Peter Reinhart recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice today and see how it turns out. If not then I'll try the King Arthur's recipe.

            1. re: IammsT

              Good choice!

              Seriously, is this person really bragging about "no sugar" in his baguettes? What's his game, I wonder?

              1. re: sandylc

                Well he is French-Italian and says his baguette are more Italian than French. Crispy on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. I do agree he has great baguette. (The owner is more a scientist than baker. He developed the formula, rather than the recipe, for this baguettes) But the recipe in Peter Reinhart's book actually had 2 different recipes similar to Baguette. One is the French Bread which contains sugar. The other one is for Pain a I'Ancienne, similar to baguette and according to the book, a very famous and loved recipe. That was the one I've got proofing in the fridge right now.

      2. This Recipe from King Arthur Flour works great and produces a Very nice loaf with a good Oven.

        5 Replies
        1. re: chefj

          Thank you very much! Is that the recipe you currently use for your go-to recipe for baguettes ?

          1. re: IammsT

            I rarely make Baguette since we have a number of very good Bakeries here.
            My Partner(who is not a Cook or a Baker) produced a bunch with that recipe while between Jobs. The Results were impressive.

            1. re: chefj

              Where are you located that have great baguettes ? Around this area, they usually aren't great, I've only found a very good one that contains no sugar (nor any other fat content) but just made perfectly.

              If you don't mind, how does your partner make the baguettes ? Where he got the recipe?

              1. re: IammsT

                SF Bay Area
                See the Link above for Recipe and method.

                1. re: chefj

                  Oh, your partner used the King Arthur's recipe. I see, sorry, I thought it was for a different recipe. Thank you!!

        2. The key to baguettes is steam. Without steam your baguettes won't turn out anything like bakery ones, no matter how much effort you put into it.

          I've just bought a handheld steam cleaner to use as a makeshift steam injector for bread baking, I have not used it yet, but it produces lots of steam in a short period of time much like commercial ovens, meaning if I get the steam inside an enclosed space with the baguette, it should work better than any of the other "passive" steaming methods you'll find.

          I got the idea from steambreadmaker.com, which is basically exactly that. A steam cleaner and a closed pan with a hole to inject the steam.

          A typical baguette recipe will have 65-70% hydration as mentioned already, salt is again quite typical since you only have so much margin to play with it before you kill off the yeast. Yeast depends on how long you want the rise to take; longer (less yeast) = more flavour.

          18 Replies
          1. re: Sirrith

            could you expound on the line...salt is typical....before you kill off the yeast? I have a go to artisan boule that is literally flour salt, yeast and water, let rise for 18-20 hours. I have had phenomenal results and not so great results depending on how much rise I get. I was sticking with a pretty consistent time so I was thinking the yeast was killed....could you expain this to me if you know??

            1. re: momoftwo

              Salt slows yeast activity, and too much salt (particularly iodized salt) can kill yeast entirely. I would imagine it's rather difficult to kill packaged yeast with salt, as they seem much hardier than the wild yeasts found in sourdough starter. However, you still want to make sure you don't oversalt your bread, both for flavor and for optimal yeast activity.

              1. re: biondanonima

                Salt is usually added to bread at a ratio of 1% to 2% of the weight of the flour used. Example, if 500 grams (about 4 cups) of flour is used, then salt used should weigh 5 grams to 10 grams. 1 level tsp of table salt weighs about 6 grams.

              2. re: momoftwo

                I don't remember the exact percentage (my recipes are not with me), but I think it is around 3% salt before you start getting into trouble.

              3. re: Sirrith

                I see. I will go check out the steambreadmaker webiste.

                I also read up on if you don't have a steamer, there are some alternatives. Like covering the baguette for half the baking time or using the pan filled with water under the bread when baking. I'm sure you've tried those ? If you have, did they not turn out well ?

                And thank you so much for all the tips. I am preparing now and will let the dough rise longer for better flavor as well.

                1. re: IammsT

                  I've tried the towel steaming method, which didn't work well at all in my oven (maybe I didn't heat the towels up enough, maybe I didn't have enough towel, I don't know, it just didn't work).

                  I've also tried pouring boiling water into a hot cast iron pan, which didn't do very much other than make my pan rust.

                  I tried covering the baguettes with an inverted foil tray, but I didn't find anything that would cover a baguette-shape particularly well, so couldn't get a tight seal, meaning it didn't work very well either.

                  For my boules, I use an inverted Lodge double dutch oven, which works quite well, but I still think I can get more with better steaming. If you can find a pan that will cover your baguette perfectly, and sit perfectly flat on your baking surface, so no steam can escape, it should give you a decent result, but I think it will still not be quite the same as a "proper" baguette.

                  1. re: Sirrith

                    Which is why the Lahey 24 hour no-knead bread recipe works pretty well - it's a high hydration dough that gets dumped into a preheated heavy pot., and the heavy lid goes on immediately, forming a pretty good seal. You end up with a small enclosed space, high heat, and lots of released water, and that results in a similar (though far from perfect) crust as you'd get on a baguette baked in a steamer oven. Halfway through the lid comes off to crisp the crust.

                    1. re: foreverhungry

                      Oh wow.
                      So will that still create the big holes we all know and love in a baguette ?

                      1. re: IammsT

                        It's not perfect, but it works pretty well. I like it because it requires a minimum of effort. It's an 18 - 24 hour rise, with a little work scattered in. Then you pop the dough into a heavy dutch oven (I use a Creuset) and into an oven preheated at 450 for about 45 - 60 mins (remove the lid after 30 mins). Here's the recipe: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/din...

                        It's not like a boule you'd get in France, but then again, I don't have to get up at 3 AM and I don't have a steam injected oven. So for my purposes, it works great.

                        Find a long, skinny heavy pot (cast iron, ceramic, pyrex, etc.), and you'd get your baguette shape.

                        I also like it because I've been able to adjust the recipe to include whole wheat flour, and still get a decent rise and crumb, which can be hard to do with wheat breads.

                  2. re: IammsT

                    We just use a Spray Bottle set on "Mist". Works quite well.
                    Using a Starter adds a lot of Flavor and Complexity to the finished Loaf

                    1. re: chefj

                      That's the method I tried today with a pan on top of the bread with a cup of hot water in it.

                      1. re: IammsT

                        What? I did not say anything about "a pan on top of the bread with a cup of hot water in it."

                        1. re: chefj

                          Oh sorry, that was the method that was provided in the Peter Reinhart's book. I wanted to be sure the baguettes don't get too dry. Should I not have done that ?

                          1. re: IammsT

                            The water is actually used to help form the crust - not to keep the bread moist.

                            1. re: sandylc

                              I see! I got it wrong then. Thank you for correcting me!

                              1. re: IammsT

                                Learning about bread baking is an endless path - we are all learning new things regularly!

                            2. re: IammsT

                              Steam is used to keep the crust soft so it can continue expanding with the insides of the bread as it cooks. You should remove the source of steam after about 10 minutes, otherwise you won't get a good crust. To make sure the bread itself doesn't get too dry, you just have to not overbake it.

                              What you did is a good method for steaming, covering the dough will trap the moisture that is released from the bread itself, provided the cover is a good fit with the base without any leaks, and adding the cup of hot water will produce additional moisture.

                      2. re: IammsT

                        I just dump about a half cup of water into the bottom of my oven when I put the bread in and another one after 3 minutes.

                    2. For me, traditional French baguettes made with only flour, water, salt and yeast dry out too fast, are dry and chewy later and don't have a good shelf life.
                      I prefer Vienna Bread baguettes. They are softer, have more taste and a longer shelf life. These are great split and used for sub sandwiches or hoagie rolls. I also make make hamburger buns from this recipe.
                      Here is my Vienna Bread baguette recipe for baguette pans:
                      Vienna Bread baguettes
                      Makes about 36 oz of Baguette Dough. Enough for 3 - 12 oz (350gm) Baguettes.
                      1-1/3 cups (320g) milk
                      4 Tbsp (46g) White Granulated Sugar
                      2 Tbsp (8g) Powdered Milk or Dry Coffee Creamer
                      2 tsp (11.2g) Table Salt
                      2-1/2 Tbsp (35g) Olive Oil
                      4-1/4 cups (544g) Bread Flour
                      2-1/4 tsp (7g) Instant Yeast
                      Add Ingredients to bread mixing pan, in the order that
                      Ingredients are listed above. Snap pan into Bread Machine.
                      Set Bread Machine to Dough Cycle. Press Start.
                      Ingredients will be warmed for about 25 minutes before mixing starts.
                      When mixing starts, add more water or flour, if needed, to make a soft smooth dough, that is not crumbly or too sticky. Add a Tablespoon at a time, if needed.
                      Dough will mix and knead for 20 minutes and then rise for about 70 minutes.
                      You can also use a stand mixer (like a Kitchen-aid) and knead the dough for 5 to 8 minutes, and let rise for 45 to 60 minutes.
                      When the Bread Machine beeps, and there is zero time left on the display, take out the dough and divide into into 3 equal size pieces.
                      Each piece of Baguette dough should be about 12-oz (350gm) each.
                      Roll each of the 3 pieces of dough into a sausage shape, about 14-inches long. Try to make them even diameter along their length.
                      Place each of the 3 pieces of the rolled out dough on the Baguette Baking Pan.
                      Place the Baguette Baking Pan in the oven, near the center. Mist dough with water.
                      On the shelf below the baguettes, add a cookie sheet and pour a cup of water in it.
                      Turn on the oven, at 350-F, for ONLY 2-minutes, to warm the dough. TURN OFF THE OVEN.
                      Allow the Baguettes to rise for 45 to 60 minutes in the warm oven, with the oven light on, until the dough doubles in size.
                      Cut three, 1/4 inch deep diagonal slashes, in each baguette and mist dough with water.
                      Set the oven to 400-F, and Set the timer for 25 to 28 minutes. We are timing from when we turn on the oven.
                      After 25 to 28 minutes, the baguettes crust should be golden brown and centers should be at least 195-F. Bake a little longer if needed.
                      Remove from oven. Let cool for about 5-minutes before slicing.
                      You notice I start these in a cold oven. It takes 10 minutes for my gas oven to reach the desired temperature. I figured, "Why waste 10 minutes of gas?". So I just incorporate pre-heating into the baking process. Doesn't hurt bread. I wouldn't try this with a cake, however. ;-).
                      If slashing causes the risen dough to deflate too much, slash the dough earlier (halfway through rising). This will give it time to recover and re-expand before baking.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Antilope

                        "For me, traditional French baguettes made with only flour, water, salt and yeast dry out too fast, are dry and chewy later and don't have a good shelf life."

                        Yes, that is what a baguette is. They are intended to be eaten the same day that they are baked - it's the nature of the beast. To change these things is to no longer have a baguette.

                        If you don't like these characteristics, then you don't like baguettes, and that's just fine - we all have preferences!

                        EDIT: That looks like a very nice Vienna Bread recipe, but the word baguette doesn't make sense there.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          Sorry, I don't see the point of your post. I guess we should all conform to tradition and make everything the same. Better yet let's let a professional bakery do it for us. Because we are not allowed to change the original recipe.

                          1. re: Antilope

                            You and I are free to bake anything we want, exactly the way we like it, and that's wonderful.

                            I was just pointing out that a baguette is a very SPECIFIC thing, and if you change it, it becomes something else.

                            You are clearly a talented and knowledgeable baker; surely you know this?

                      2. Baked the Pain a l'ancienne recipe from Peter Reinhart's book today. Bread came out not quite right. The flavor is there, definitely, but the bread was too dense.
                        Not dense to the point where you can't chew it, but just too dense to be eating it alone. It's better with olive oil or butter.

                        I rested the dough exactly as how the book instructed. Overnight in the fridge, took it out the next day and rested it for 3-4 hours (book calls for 2-3 hours) until it doubles in size. Then cut it up into strips and bake them with a baking stone and a pan on the top shelf of the oven, with a cup of hot water in it.
                        I didn't have baking stone so I just put a pan in the oven the whole time it was preheating and slide in the parchment paper with the baguette rolls once I'm ready.
                        Within the first 1.5 minute, sprayed the inside of the oven walls with water for the moisture. Baked it at 500 degrees and turned it down to 475 after the water spraying process for 18-22 minutes.

                        If anyone has any suggestions on how to fix this, please let me know ?
                        I think I needed the dough to rise for a longer time after it's out of the fridge.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: IammsT

                          the picture looks good, perhaps a little flatish.

                          i dont know how the french handle this but i have excessive spreading with wet doughs. to prevent this i use a pan sized to fit. so baguettes are out, round boules are in. this also allows a lid to keep in steam.

                          1. re: divadmas

                            They use a baker's couche:


                            Also, when they form the loaf they REALLY stretch the gluten into a tight loaf.

                            1. re: sandylc

                              I see, Sandylc, so meaning I should really stretch the dough out when I'm shaping them ?

                              I have thought about getting the baker's couche but my baguettes actually all stayed in shape so I didn't think they were necessary.

                              1. re: IammsT

                                It's not a stretch longer thing, it's a stretch-as-you-roll-it-very-tightly thing.

                                We should look for a good youtube on it.

                                EDIT: Looks like Sirrith, below, is ahead of us!

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  Yes! I am watching the clip as I'm responding now.
                                  It's very helpful!

                            2. re: divadmas

                              I see. So the boules would have the same taste and texture as a baguette ? I don't think I've had them before. I wanted bigger holes in the baguettes so that they are less dense.

                            3. re: IammsT

                              Your crumb is pretty decent for a baguette, it doesn't look dense to me at all!

                              But cutting into strips is not the way to shape a baguette. I found this video (and the rest of the series) extremely helpful:

                              Also, your scoring looks a bit off, I made the same mistake. You're cutting too diagonally across the baguette.

                              And I think you could benefit from more steam.

                              1. re: Sirrith

                                And perhaps Calibrating your Oven. The Color looks a little pale too me.

                                1. re: chefj

                                  I also noticed that the color was off.
                                  But It's also because I was afraid if I left it in the oven too long, it might get too hard/ dry.

                                  So you don't put the pan with water in the oven while baguette is baking right ?
                                  How do you hydrate them, with home remedies ?
                                  I've researched it and misting the walls of the oven (which you've recommended as well) is one of them (and I did) as well as pan with water in the oven. Sorry, if I'm being bothersome! I just want to be sure I'm not going in the wrong direction. And thank you guys very much for the tips!

                                  1. re: IammsT

                                    As smtucker talks about below, you only need to provide steam in the oven for the first 3 minutes - you don't want to steam it past this time.

                                    1. re: IammsT

                                      You seem to be inventing problems for your Baguette. I have never seen a Baguette get "Hard/Dry" when Baking.
                                      Sandylc Covers the rest above

                                  2. re: Sirrith

                                    Thank you for the clip. It does really help!
                                    I didn't really think the scoring would effect it that much, I will make a note of that. I've started today with the King Arthur's recipe. Will have to let the starter rise overnight and continue tomorrow.

                                    I will follow this clip tomorrow when I'm shaping them. Will update after they are baked!

                                    1. re: IammsT

                                      Compared to Peter's Pain Ancienne, you will find the King Arthur recipe to be less flavorful. It will be easier to shape, easier to make, but the results will not have that depth which comes from the long pre-ferments.

                                      I am thinking that quite a few people on this thread have not read The BBA formula and instructions for this particular bread which is not supposed to be a standard baguette. I think it is better, even though it does cook flatter.

                                      I will say, I gave up on the cup of water and instead do a lot of spritzing with water in a squeeze bottle; every 30 seconds for the first three minutes of baking.

                                      1. re: smtucker

                                        The Poolish adds plenty of flavor and complexity to the KAB Loaf
                                        While the Pain à l'Ancienne is delicious, I do not think of it as a Traditional Baguette. Much more Country Style with a fairly different texture.

                                2. Hey guys,
                                  I've made the recipe from King Arthur's website.
                                  I followed it exactly and watched the youtube clip Sirrith provided. The clip was helpful!

                                  But the baguette turned out to look a lot more like Albertson's French Bread, not the type of baguette I was looking for. I even let the dough rise an hour longer than what was written.
                                  Not sure if I'm doing something incorrectly or if that's how the bread was supposed to be ?

                                  Here is a picture of the french bread cut in the middle.
                                  The baguette I wanted to make should have much bigger holes throughout the bread.
                                  If anyone has more great baguette recipes, please do let me know. I think I might test out the Peter Reinhart's recipe again but letting it rise double the requested time.

                                  I've also purchased a baking stone, so hopefully that will help.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: IammsT

                                    Try the baking stone, and make sure the oven/stone are preheated for an hour before baking.

                                    That bread looks pretty good! It's a little pale, though.

                                    Was the crust not crunchy? Did you use water/steam?

                                    Did you test it for doneness with a thermometer?

                                    1. re: sandylc

                                      I actually did used the baking stone for the King Arthur's recipe (the picture I just posted). And the crust was actually very crunchy! I thought it was a little too hard. I also misted inside of the oven walls to create steam in the first 2 minutes of baking (once every 30 seconds). I didn't use the pan with a cup of water on the top though, should I have done that ?

                                      And no, I didn't test the doneness with the termometer, what does the internal temperature have to be ?

                                      1. re: IammsT

                                        When I put bread in the oven I just throw about a quarter cup of water onto the floor of the oven, then repeat it once three minutes later. Don't know if this could hurt my bottom element or not, but it hasn't yet! I don't throw it on the element - I avoid that, at least!

                                        The internal temp of a baguette should be 200 degree F.

                                        You preheated the stone for long enough?

                                        I repeat, that bread still looks pretty darn good...

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          Thank you for the suggestion on throwing the water in. I did preheat the baking stone in the oven for a good 7-10 min before I put the dough in there to bake.

                                          Also thank you for the compliment about the bread!

                                          1. re: IammsT

                                            You need to heat the stone for 45 minutes to an hour!

                                            And like thimes says below, it is technique (and to some degree the oven) rather than the recipe that counts here.

                                            1. re: sandylc

                                              Oh I see, I will do that (with the baking stone) tonight when I bake up the baguettes, as well as paying attention to my technique.

                                    2. re: IammsT

                                      The answer IMO isn't one you're going to like. Those big holes come from technique more than from the recipe itself.

                                      The large holes come from a proper rise and then not deflating them while forming the actual baguette. It just takes practice to make it all work.

                                      I find that by using a couche I don't have to get quite as tight a skin on the baguette but it still keeps its shape - that helped me get larger holes. Also be careful when you score the baguette so that you don't deflate it too much in the process . . . .

                                      If you don't have a couche (which I didn't when first starting experimenting with bread) there was a "hack" that i learned somewhere (don't remember where). You can gently form your baguette - put it in a floured cloth (towel with no nap) - and hang it from the top of a closed door (put the two ends over a door, close door to secure towel). Let it do its final rise like this . . . just another option to try.

                                      Good luck!

                                      1. re: thimes

                                        I see. Now I know! Thank you!

                                        I don't have a couche but I did just bought a perforated baguette pan (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003...) I don't know if that will help in this case ?
                                        Or is it only good to use for when you actually put the baguette in the oven ?

                                        Also the part where you said not deflating the dough when you form the actual baguette, doesn't include when you are still proofing the dough (?), giving them turns, sometimes that will deflate the dough a little (like the recipe from King Arthur's site, it tells you to gently deflate it in the first 3 hours of proofing).

                                        Your tips are extremely helpful!!

                                      2. re: IammsT

                                        I came across some information that said something along the lines of:
                                        Mix the dough as little as possible, around 3 minutes, followed by a rise of 3h or so (depending on temperature etc...), let it rest 10 minutes after dividing the dough, then shape as gently as possible, and the final proof should be very short, no more than 15 minutes.

                                        I will try these tips once I get the chance, I only get back home in a week.

                                        1. re: Sirrith

                                          Hmm, that's very interesting.

                                          Please let me know if and when you do try this method out and how it turns out!
                                          I might continue to look for more recipes/methods people have and see which ones works best!

                                          1. re: IammsT

                                            Hello, I finally got the chance to make some baguettes (my old oven died, had to get a new one, long story short I couldn't bake until now).

                                            So I tried that method I mentioned, and I also used a similar setup to the one you can buy on steambreadmaker.com, except I made a DIY version for less $$. Not sure what made the most difference, probably the steam though, and there are still some not-so-minor problems with my baguettes, but it is closer than I've ever been before.

                                      3. Hey Guys,
                                        I have tested a brand new recipe that I found online, using 80% hydration.
                                        There was a clip to how to stretch and fold the dough of the entire process. It was extremely helpful.
                                        The baguette that I used with this recipe and method came out much better!
                                        I changed a couple steps towards the end that really made the dough great.

                                        Here is a picture of the baguette made. The holes are still not as big as I had hoped, the holes from the person that provided the recipe were much bigger. It might be that my method in stretching was off.


                                        Let me know what you guys think!

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: IammsT

                                          Those look great!

                                          That stretch-and-fold method looks like sort of a combination of stretch-and-fold and kneading.

                                          Nice video!

                                          I do like that website - I've visited there quite a bit.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            Thank you for the feedback Sandy!
                                            I think this will be my recipe for baguettes for now, just need to practice more on the method.

                                            How are you storing your baked baguettes ?
                                            They are best the day they are baked.
                                            I've tried freezing them, wrapped tightly, then taking them out to room temperature for an hour or so and then reheating a little bit for maybe 5 minutes, but the results are not nearly as great.

                                            1. re: IammsT

                                              If you MUST freeze or keep a baguette longer than a day, the best method I've discovered for reheating is to run the entire uncut loaf under the faucet briefly before putting it in a preheated oven.

                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                I think that would work!
                                                Yeah, since I can't just make one baguette at a time and I don't think the pre-baked dough will work well after it's being frozen, it only leaves me with freezing the other baguettes for a later use. I tried just spray some water on the loaf before I preheated it but it didn't work well (I guess not enough hydration).

                                        2. I don't think it'll work for baguettes (wrong shape), but I'm a total convert to the 'cook in a dutch oven' school of bread making.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: joycebre

                                            Hello Joycebre, That's a great looking Boule!
                                            I would love to try it out in a dutch oven, but I don't think the lengthy-ness of the baguettes will fit, maybe I'll make them into boules as well to see how it works.

                                            Next stop is to get a dutch oven!

                                          2. Julia Child's recipe for French Bread in "The Way To Cook" is hard to beat.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: jmckee

                                              I only have her book of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (first volume). Darn!

                                              1. re: IammsT

                                                Her French bread in Volume II is good. Eight pages. But Way To Cook adapts that recipe for the dough blade of the food processor. It's nearly foolproof; I've done a little fiddling with it over the years -- for example, I add Hodgson Mill gluten to pump up the all-purpose flour I have on hand. But it's outstanding.

                                                1. re: IammsT

                                                  I'll second the recommendation for The Way To Cook. It's a great book.

                                              2. IAmmsT - I am mostly a lurker but have a passion for artisan bread, and while just a home baker have been privileged to take numerous Master Bread workshops with Bakers such as Peter Reinhart, Ciril Hitz, and Didier Rosada. I highly recommend taking any artisan bread course you can especially with Ciril - whose book on artisan bread I highly recommend and Didier who is an amazing teacher.

                                                I am going to suggest something very radical in your bread baking -

                                                1. You want flavour - get a starter going which you can add to the Poolish - there are lots of recipes for starters on the internet. Don't bother with the ones requiring grapes or pineapple juice - equal weights of flour and water, fed for several days will be wonderful. Also the rules of about feeding can be bent..........but that is another discussion for later. I usually add about a cup to three cups of flour (and yes while I should do everything by weight due to circumstances beyond my control I don't and as I don't require consistent results it isn't an issue.)

                                                2. Less yeast, longer fermentation times makes for a much more flavorful bread! MUCH less yeast!

                                                3. As others have said no sugar or fat in a great baguette!

                                                2. Wetter dough is better.

                                                3. If possible use your machine - the rule of thumb is 2 minutes on low to mix and 2-4 minutes on second speed. If you are using a Kitchen Aide you must adjust to suit the mixer's need to be on second. So after four to six minutes depending on the dough - I window pane to check for gluten strength.

                                                4. What makes the bread is long fermentation times in colder temperature - ignore anyone who recites rules about the temperature of the room (temperature of the dough is important but again I am lazy and have outside influences which means I don't worry about the dough temperature either) - I just made an incredible Danish rye yesterday - the dough was mixed on Saturday and left to ferment for several hours and then frozen overnight - yes frozen! I pulled the dough yesterday at 6 AM and baked the dough off around 4 pm - having the left the dough to thaw and proof over the whole of the day. I do those for all my doughs.......the flavours are amazing.

                                                5. Don't knead the dough - if you have used the mixer correctly the dough -including baguette - will just need the occasional stretch and folds - think of the dough like a compass and stretch the dough out and fold over.

                                                6. Shaping requires work - the videos others have recommended are a good starting point but one very important fact - try as much as possible not to use a lot of flour toughens the dough and makes it to dry when shaping (excluding ciabatta bread which is a very wet dough and has to be treated differently) - proper shaping is VIP for great bread.

                                                7. Proofing in a couche is wonderful but you can use linen or cotton tea towels.

                                                8. Don't over proof!

                                                9. Baking at home will never yield the same results as a professional over - your bread can be very good but not excellent but saying that and after trying the steaming, and baking on a stone and all that - I found the most important thing is a very hot oven and I cheat and bake my baguettes on a non-heated tray! The results for people who haven't had truly excellent baguettes is amazing.

                                                10. Underbaking does a great disservice to a baguette - the bread is done when it is almost but not quite wholly burnt.

                                                11. Don't use your perforated pans - return them they are useless and won't help your bread, proper shaping is what gives you a great baguette as does proper slashing the top and proofing.

                                                12. And the biggest secret Didier taught me was that all the recipes in the world won't help as every place you bake bread is different! My climate is dry, and suffers from extreme cold for up to 6 - 7 months of the year, which means that my flour is often dehydrated - if I followed most recipes exactly my dough would be way to dry so I have to play to get the right hydration levels, and depending on the time of year, add a lot of water! your climate might require less water - again you need to play. Secondly, as noted above I use the cold to give my breads extra long ferments which results in breads with a wonderfully sour dough flavor!

                                                Hope this long epistle helps!

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Leofric

                                                  HI Leofric,
                                                  Thank you so much for all your tips. They are extremely helpful.
                                                  Where did you take those classes, if I may ask ?

                                                  And also, freezing the dough, I thought that will slow the yeast down, even after the dough is thawed ?
                                                  I've tried it before where I froze unbaked croissant doughs and then took them out, thawed them, proofed them but the results were just not the same.

                                                  I just bought a baker's couche so I will use that for my next baguette making.
                                                  I do have a question, I have a hard time sliding my unbaked baguette dough onto the baking stone smoothly. I tried just using a parchment paper underneath the dough and sliding the entire parchment paper on the baking stone but it didn't work that well.

                                                  And last question .. you've mentioned that you don't use the preheated pans to bake the baguette in, do you still use a baking stone or just a regular sheet pan ?

                                                  1. re: IammsT

                                                    I took my courses in Northern Alberta - we have a technical college which holds a generally yearly Masters Bread workshop (four days but by the end felt like six days of intensive bread baking/french pastry making - amazing courses but brutal!) I would also check local technical colleges and cooking schools often people like Didier, Ciril, and Peter travel and teach courses.
                                                    Yes freezing the dough does slow down the yeast and as a result you need a longer fermentation - proofing time. But saying that what I do is pull the dough from the freezer and let it ferment/proof for several hours (remember I did the first fermentation before freezing) and I use a fair amount of levain and less yeast because I want a long slow rise to get the more delicate flavor - I also, excluding my Challah, Danish Rye, and a couple others, don’t use sugar or any fat in my recipes. Remember for North American bread, we tend to use lots of yeast, sugars, and fats because we want to make a quicker loaf of bread/buns and were traditionally a lot less worried about the yeast and flour providing flavor, instead we use things like vanilla, sugar and oil to give the bread flavor! (one of the most common recipes here was something called Air Buns - look at the amount of sugar, fat and vanilla - more like a sweet dough) I would make this bread, before I became interested in artisan bread, the bread was amazing fresh out of the oven, maybe just because it was homebaked bread but once the bread cooled it lost its lustre and we never got through it all. On the other hand, my artisans breads disappear in the blink of an eye! Again I recommend Ciril Hitz's book on Artisan breadmaking and he does a wonderful croissant.
                                                    As for the issues with freezing croissant dough - firstly, freezers are used for croissant making in very hot and humid countries where you need to control the butter package and dough temperatures. The issues you may have had could be because you had to warm of dough or to cold - in fact, in every french pastry course I have attended we kept the dough cold, near frozen solid but not quite, to roll out as it gives you better layers, up until the final proof and than bake - these courses ruined local croissants for me, because once you have perfection it is impossible to go back. PS Ciril taught us how to make the most amazing lye dipped whole wheat croissants which I still dream of!
                                                    As for getting the dough off the couche - at the Nait kitchens we use Baguette flipping boards - it is a little tricky with the couche but you use the corners and flip the dough on the Board and roll it onto your stone, peel or baking pan. I cheated and had my SO cut thin boards from a laminate substance that work equally well! You can also get a round transfer peel as well but as my family doesn't like round loaves as well, I never bothered buying one.
                                                    I have forsaken the stone - we had one with our old stove and it was very fussy to use it in the dying oven. So instead I use a regular - not preheated sheet pan with parchment paper - I find having a very hot oven is more important than a preheated sheet pan.

                                                    1. re: IammsT

                                                      To get the shaped baguette from the couche to whatever surface you're baking on, you can roll it gently onto a piece of stiff cardboard or a peel (floured), then slide it onto the baking paper. If you proof seam side up, roll it onto the peel/cardboard so the seam is down, then slide it. If you proof seam side down, roll it onto the peel, then roll it off again so the seam side stays down on your baking surface.

                                                      I just bought a wooden paddle that looks a bit like a short cricket bat for my baguettes, it makes things a lot easier than trying to get baguettes directly onto baking paper!

                                                      Use a well preheated baking stone if you have one. Strong initial heat is a big part of what makes the gasses in the dough expand and give nice big holes. I like to bake my bread (or almost anything really), directly on the stone (steel in my case) or with just a layer of baking paper on top of the stone. But to do this practically, you need a pizza peel.