French Baguettes

French Baguettes

Once this starter is ready, it will hold in the fridge for as long as three days.

​Total time: 1 day

  • 1/4 tsp. room temperature active dry or instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup room temperature water (70–90°)
  • 11/4 cups bread flour

Dissolve yeast with 1 Tbsp. water from the 3/4 cup. Combine flour, remaining water, and yeast mixture in a Pyrex measuring cup or bowl until it looks like lumpy pancake batter. Cover poolish with plastic wrap; let it rest at room temperature 3–4 hours. The surface will be bubbly. Refrigerate poolish overnight, then let poolish come to room temperature (about 1 hour) before using it in baguettes.

​Mixing the yeast with 1 Tbsp. of the 3/4 cup water dissolves the yeast so that it evenly disperses in the poolish.

​After sitting overnight, the poolish will have risen, fallen, and be bubbly on top, an indication that it’s ready for use.

A bench knife and misting bottle are must-haves in French baguette bread baking. A baking stone is ideal, too, but an inverted baking sheet will work.

Makes 16 servings (2 baguettes)

​Total time: 41/2 hours + cooling

  • 1/2 tsp. room temperature active dry or instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup room temperature water (70–90°)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 11/2 tsp. table salt Poolish Starter

Dissolve yeast with 1 Tbsp. water fromthe 1/2 cup. Stir remaining water into Poolish Starter. (It will be very thin.) Whisk together 11/2 cups flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir Poolish Starter and yeast mixture into flour mixture until blended. (Dough will be very wet.) Scrape dough onto a well-floured surface and turn with a bench knife, adding more flour (from remaining 1/2 cup) sparingly, just until dough can be worked with your hands. Turn a bowl upside down over dough and let rest 10–15 minutes.

​Knead dough until smooth but slightly sticky. (Do not add more flour; if needed, flour your hands.) Knead until dough passes “window pane” test (below), 10–15 minutes more by hand, or 8 minutes by stand mixer on medium speed with a dough hook.

​Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 1 hour. Degas dough slightly by tri folding and flipping it over in the bowl; cover again with plastic wrap and let it rise 1 hour.

​Divide dough into two pieces; shape into loaves. Cover loaves with plastic wrap coated with nonstick spray; let rest 15 minutes. Repeat shaping (sealing on same side) and rest loaves again 15 minutes. Reshape loaves a final time, then immediately roll into 14-inch baguettes; transfer to a parchment-lined inverted baking sheet, roll 2 towels and place under parchment to support loaves, cover, and let rise 30 minutes.

​Preheat oven to 475° with baking stone (or another inverted baking sheet) placed on middle rack.

​Make three diagonal slashes 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep across baguettes, using a serrated knife or straight-edge razor. Mist loaves with hot water and immediately slide them with parchment onto heated baking stone in oven. Mist inside of oven 10 times; close oven door. Repeat misting after 30 seconds. Reduce oven heat to 450°. Bake baguettes until golden, 25–30 minutes. Remove baguettes from oven; cool on a rack 30–40 minutes.

​For Whole Wheat Baguettes Substitute 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour for 3/4 cup of the total amount of all-purpose flour; prepare as directed above.

Gently pull a section of dough until it’s as thin as possible. Tearing is a sign more kneading is required. An intact “window pane” indicates dough is ready to rise.​

​Shaping Dough STEP-BY-STEP
  • Divide dough in half with bench knife; pat each into 5×8-inch rectangles. Fold into thirds by pulling top third toward you, then form a seal in the center of dough with the side of your hand.
  • Pull bottom third of dough off the counter surface, up and away from you. Fold it over the already folded and sealed portion of dough, being careful not to stretch the dough.
  • Tuck the edge of the new fold under the bottom of dough and seal with your fingertips. This forms surface tension so the baguette retains its shape, rising up rather than out.
  • Roll two towels; place under edges of parchment paper against the outer edges of baguettes to prevent the loaves from spreading. Remove the towels before baking.
  • When slashing the tops of baguettes, let the sharpness and weight of the knife or straight-edge razor slide through the dough. Applying pressure will tear the dough.
  • For optimal oven spring, mist baguettes with hot water just before baking. Mist should be visible on the dough’s surface. Be careful: Too much water and bread won’t rise properly.

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