For the first year that I was making bread, I pretty much stuck with boules. It wasn’t that I was too intimidated by trying something different, like a sourdough baguette, I was just loving the results and didn’t feel the need to switch it up.
Really, the only beef I ever had with boules was that they could sometimes be a pain in the ass to cut. That’s especially true when they are fresh out of the oven. Sure, you can get a nice Instagram picture of a loaf cut in half. But, you really need to wait a day or two for it to stiffen before you can get a good piece for French toast or a sandwich.
It was a pretty minor bone to pick and something I just dealt with. Then, one day, I was eating a sandwich that happened to have a half-inch slice of bread on one side and an inch and a half slice on the other. That’s when I decided it was finally time to branch out and give baguettes a shot.
It only took making my simple sourdough baguettes once for me to be glad I broke free from just boules. Not only are baguettes great for making sandwiches, but they are also great with eggs. They quickly replaced my slice of buttered toast that I have almost every morning. The crunchiness is the perfect complement to the eggs. And the crust creates a barrier for the butter that you don’t always get with boules, thanks to the big bubbles.
Best of all, I realized that they’re super easy to make. If you don’t already have a Dutch oven laying around and only have a half baking sheet, you can make these. There are some additional steps and it might take a time or two to get shaping the baguettes right, but it’s pretty damn easy and who cares if they don’t look perfect? I guarantee they’ll taste amazing anyway.
The Recipe Might Look Familiar
Since I’m all about keeping things simple, the recipe for this dough is identical to my simple sourdough bread recipe. I won’t bore you with all the details about how I became my go-to recipe. But if you’re curious and haven’t read that already, you can just check that out.
I will say that this dough is wetter than most traditional baguettes, which are usually in the 60-70% range. Working with a wetter dough makes the baguettes a little harder to shape since they are stickier, but I really like the results. If you want to mix it up, I’d recommend starting with my recipe and gradually decreasing the water by 5% each time to see if you prefer a stiffer version.
Proofing with Parchment Paper
This is a simple baguette hack that I started doing. I’m sure other people do it, but I haven’t seen anyone mention it. So, until proven otherwise, I’ll totally take credit for this hack.
Basically, most of the time when people make baguettes, they have to proof in a couche, which is just a thick, stiff cloth. The one I have is kind of like burlap. I was using it for a while but noticed that transferring the proofed dough was a pain, since I didn’t have one of those wooden boards a lot of bakers use and I use more water than usual.
So, I decided to use parchment paper in between the baguette and couche to make the transfer easier. After doing this once, I realized that the parchment paper was actually sturdy enough to double as couche. All I had to do was crease the paper between the baguettes and I didn’t even need the cloth. See the pics below my parchment paper couche.
Faking the Baking
I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that you don’t have a steam-injection over. Don’t worry I don’t either. But that’s what most bakers use for baguettes. Fortunately, there’s an easy move that borrows from the Dutch oven method.
Since there isn’t a Dutch oven big enough to accommodate baguettes, you just toss a disposable turkey pan on top of your baking sheet for the first few minutes that the bread is in the oven. It’s not quite as effective but it’s still pretty solid.
That’s more than enough rambling — time for my simple sourdough baguette recipe.
Simple Sourdough Baguette RecipeCuisine: French-ishDifficulty: Simple
These baguettes are great for breakfast or as sandwich bread or anything you like to use baguettes for. Who am I to tell you how to use them? The recipe makes three baguettes, and a serving is based on half a baguette. I actually cut them into fourths for breakfast.
The initial fermentation time is about 4-6 hours, plus an hour and half of proofing after shaping. If you make your levain the night before and mix your final dough around 7 AM the next morning, you could be baking as early as 1 PM.
50 grams of Simple Sourdough Starter
75 grams of bread flour
75 grams of water
- Final Dough
400 grams of white unbleached flour
300 grams of room temp water
10 grams of finely ground sea salt
200 grams of ripe Levain
- Recommended Baking Tools
- Using 50 grams of your starter, 75 grams of flour, and 75 grams of water, make your levain.
- Once your levain is ready (about 6-12 hours later), use a 6-Qt Food Tub or similar plastic container to mix 400 grams of flour and 300 grams of water with the 200 grams of levain and 10 grams of salt.
- Use the pincer and fold method to make sure all of the flour and water are incorporated and then let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, use the stretch and fold method to develop the gluten in the dough. And then let it rest for another 20-30 minutes until the dough has relaxed and spread out to the sides of the container.
- Repeat step 4 a minimum of two more times. Note: I ususally do around 4 to 5 folds. I stop when I see the dough is nice and smooth and really starting to rise.
- Let the dough continue to ferment until it has nearly tripled. If using the clear Cambro tub, you can play around with the fermenting. I like to go until at least the 2L line and sometimes closer to 3L. This will take around 4-6 hours.
- Lightly flour a two-feet by two-feet area of your countertop, and then gently remove dough from tub onto lightly floured countertop. Be sure to not degas the dough. It helps to use a plastic bench scraper.
- Spread the dough into an nice rectangle and then divide into thirds. I like to weigh each third to get it as close to 300 grams as possible, but it’s not required.
- Shape the baguettes. I made a jenky video to show how to shape them. I’ll try to make something better later. Till then, here’s the baguette shaping video.
- Place shaped baguettes seam-side down on the parchment paper and create creases to divide the baguettes (video link above demonstrates). Use something with a little weight on each end of the parchment paper to keep it in place (see pictures above).
- Cover baguettes with a clean dish towl and let proof.
- Baking Instructions
- After baguettes have proofed for an hour, place oven rack on second loweest level with baking steel or stone. Remove extra racks and set oven to 500 F.
- After oven has preheated for half an hour, remove dish towl and carefully slide parchment paper and baguettes onto your half baking sheet and score each baguette 4 to 5 times with a lame or serrated knife.
- Cover baking sheet with upside down disposable turkey pan and place in oven.
- After 10 minutes of baking, remove turkey pan. Place extra oven rack in the middle of the oven and move baking sheet with baguettes to this rack.
- After 7 minutes, the tops should be nice and brown. Flip the baguettes and cook bottom side up, checking every minute until the reach the coloring you like. Should take no more than 3-5 minutes.
- Let baguettes cool for at least 20 minutes and then enjoy.
- Baguettes are best fresh. However, they are also great stored in the freezer and then reheated using the broiler. I like to cut them into fourths lengthwise and then cut them in half and store them in a Ziploc bag.
- As with any of my recipes, I encourage you to try to mix in whole wheat flour and find the combination you like best. 10 percent is an easy number to start with and then you can go from there.
- You can also add a little more flavor to your baguettes by proofing them in the fridge. After your dough has doubled, just put the tub into the fridge. I don’t usually proof in the fridge for more than 12 hours, but do what fits best for your schedule and see what gives you the best result.
- I’d love to see the baguettes you make. If you post it on Instagram or Facebook, be sure to tag me. Also feel free to ask any questions.