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

        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??
            Thanks,

            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.
                      http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/i...
                      .
                      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?