Updated: Jan 4, 2020
This recipe will yield a crisp crust, soft interior, and a delicious flavor that makes it the perfect bread for sandwiches or to simply have with jam and butter.
There are many ways to achieve a classic, light and airy baguette. Typically, a poolish or some form of commercial yeast can be used in small or large amounts to achieve these qualities with good flavor and texture. I prefer to use only sourdough because I enjoy the flavor, process, and the crust and inside texture do not suffer much that I can tell if you get the fermentation right.
That being said, you must watch your dough and make sure it's at the right stage for shaping because otherwise, you'll end up with a limp dough that does not form the shape of a baguette too well.
The key to making a good sourdough baguette is getting good development during bulk fermentation at a warm temperature (72-75f), followed by a cold bulk fermentation before dividing the dough and going into the final shape and proof.
What You'll Need (for levain build - makes more than you need)
100 grams mature sourdough starter
50 grams Organic Whole Wheat Flour
150 grams Organic Bread Flour
170 grams warm water
What You'll Need (Final Mix)
1000 grams Organic All-Purpose Flour
20 grams Kosher Salt
200 grams levain
Up to 800 grams warm water
I've had success using 100% All-Purpose flour and I find that it will yield the lightest, airiest dough as compared to any addition of stronger flour. In terms of hydration, build up slowly during the initial part of the mix.
As you work through this recipe, I encourage you to make modifications to the type of flour and water content as you feel necessary.
What You Need To Do:
Build your levain by mixing the above ingredients. It will be ready in about 3-4 hours. If you leave it in an ambient temperature between 72-75f. You'll know it's ready to use, not just because of the volume increase, but because when you pull at it you can see a web-like structure has developed. This is my cue to start mixing.
Add about 650 grams of your total water into a bowl.
Add you flour and mix. Do not add the levain. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Add 50 more grams of water and squeeze until it is incorporated. Cover and let rest for one hour.
Add the 200 grams of levain with 50 more grams of water. Gently squeeze and incorporate. You want the water and levain to be fully incorporated before letting it rest again.
Add salt and the last bit of water (if you feel you cannot add it all, just add a splash) and squeeze to incorporate one final time. Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl, cover it, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Perform a gentle stretch and fold. Repeat your stretch and fold 1-2 more times.
Allow your dough to ferment for 5-6 hours at room temperature (i'm usually around 70-75f). What you're looking for at the end of this bulk is a bubbly surface, a strong and slightly sweet smell, and a web-like structure at the bottom.
Once you complete your bulk fermentation, transfer the dough to the fridge and allow to continue fermenting for an additional 12-18 hours, depending on your schedule.
The next day, divide the dough into 350-gram pieces for a full baguette that will fit on a pizza stone or 200 grams for a mini baguette that will fit in your cast iron.
To shape each piece, first form into a rectangle. Then, using the outside of your pinky fingers, fold the top half into the middle and push it back while applying tension. You can do this 2-3 times, and then switch to using the inside of your thumbs to push and roll into the baguette shape. To elongate your baguette, use the palm of your hands and roll the dough back and forth.
Transfer to a cloth or a couche (seam side down) that is coated with whole wheat/rice flour/semolina flour and let proof for 3 hours. You'll know when they are ready as the shape will round out a bit, and it will be a bit bouncy when you press at it.
Preheat your oven to 500 Fahrenheit after putting them to proof. Make sure your stone or cast iron is inside the cold oven first.
Once the oven is preheated (I use a temperature gun to check the stone temperature), transfer a baguette onto a floured cutting board, using parchment if necessary. This will be your loading vessel. Steam your oven by using a spray bottle and spraying the sides and back of the oven.
Score the baguette when on your peel or board, and load onto the stone. Turn the heat down to 475f and let bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, open the oven door to let the steam out and finish baking for another 15 minutes or until you achieve the desired color. (Hint: Have another rack closer to the top of the oven and at this point, you can transfer your baguette to the top to get more color and let the stones heat back up for the next one).
If your oven lets steam out, no worries - simply put your baguette in the oven seam side up and let it create own rustic opening.
Baguettes are best when hot out of the oven so, feel free to dig in when they are done. Enjoy.