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Traditional French Baguettes

by Saara

Who doesn’t love baguettes? The perfection of the golden crispy crust and the fluffy and tasty middle. The perfect bread for soups, salads, and cheese platters. This recipe for traditional French baguettes is based on poolish. It’s low on hydration recipe which makes it suitable for first time baguette bakers before trying other leavening methods.

Baguettes are easy to make at home. But if you’re looking for perfection, it’s a long journey to fully master this bread. However, once you get the hang of the three-step process, there’s no turning back. The more patient you are with the dough, the better the baguettes will taste.

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It’s amazing how baguettes are based on only four ingredients

Wheat flour, water, yeast, and sea salt. The secret is the poolish – a wet sponge which brings the aromas. The three-step process to bake baguettes is simple:

  • prepare poolish and make the dough
  • shaping the baguettes
  • baking day

The following recipe makes 4-6 baguettes and you should adjust the size of baguettes according to your oven. This is why shaping the baguettes straight to the baking tray is a good choice. Before shaping, you need to set up your workspace:

  • big work desk
  • 3-4 baking trays
  • kitchen towels (linen)
  • free space in the fridge for the baguettes to have a good night’s sleep

I recommend investing in a baguette baking tray. Personally I have this Chicago Metallic Non-Stick Perforated Baguette Pan for 3 baguettes* which is suitable for our Finnish oven as well.

Recipe | Traditional Frech Baquettes*

Makes 4-6 baguettes

Poolish

5 g fresh yeast
300 g water (20 celcius)
300 g wheat flour (>13 g protein)

Mix water and yeast in a bowl. Add the flour and mix until you have a soft and even sponge. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 4 hours at room temperature. Alternatively, you can keep the poolish overnight in the fridge.

Baguette dough

6 g fresh yeast
300 g water (20 celcius)
700 g wheat flour (preferably high protein >13 g protein)
16 g sea salt

Mix yeast to water in a big bowl. Mix the poolish and wheat flour in and knead the dough mixture for 13 minutes at low speed (double the time if kneading by hands). Add salt and continue kneading for another 7 minutes at medium speed until you can see that there’s viscosity. You can continue to build the dough by stretch and folds.

Grease a big plastic bowl with (olive) oil. Let the dough rest covered in the bowl for 90 minutes at room temperature.

When ready, divide the dough into pieces of equal weight. If you have a rather small oven, I recommend that you divide and weight the dough into 5-6 equal pieces and adjust the baking time accordingly).

Shaping the baguettes

Give the dough pieces a pre-shape. Carefully shape each dough piece. First form a loose rectangular shape. Fold the dough piece’s both edges into the middle so that the piece now forms a square. Roll it a bit and place it on the desk seam down. Cover the dough pieces with a kitchen towel for 15 minutes.

After the rest, roll each dough piece at a time into baguette shape so that the baguette body grows thinner in the ends. You’ll need a wide work surface to do that. Here’s a good baguette shaping video.

Prepare a baking tray with a big kitchen towel. Toss flour on the towel and place baguettes on the tray. Baguettes should rise upwards and not sideways. Hence, be sure to check that the kitchen towel is firmly supporting the sides in the middle of baguettes and that there’s flour also on the sides.

Let the baguettes rise a) at room temperature until the baguettes double their size. This can take e.g. 75 minutes depending on the room temperature. Alternatively, give the baguettes an overnight sleep in the fridge covered by a kitchen towel. I recommended the latter because the aroma is better. 

The Baking Day

Baking baguettes requires steam. In this recipe I use one method, you can choose a different way of steaming.

Pre-heat oven at least 45 minutes in advance. Place an empty and clean baking tray to the lowest section of the oven. Heat the oven 240°C or 465°F. Run a cup of cold water ready which you can use for steaming when the baguettes are loaded to the oven. Alternatively, you can boil water and use that for steaming (recommended).

When the oven is almost ready, take the first tray of baguettes to room temperature. Transfer all baguettes to another tray with parchment paper. If you have a baguette tray, you’ll get a better crispy crust. I use this Chicago Metallic Non-Stick Perforated Baguette Pan for 3 baguettes* and sometimes bake even bread rolls with it.

Scoring

Score the baguettes. With a sharp blade, cut  45° angle lengthwise slashes in each baguette (I usually make 4 or 5 slashes).  The baguettes you see here were scored with a knife! Scoring really makes a difference to the looks but don’t stress about the scoring. Of course, you can have handcrafted lames with wooden handles* and whatnot. But not having the right curved blade or now owning a baguette baking pan should not stop you from making delicious baguettes!

Oven process

Bake the baguettes on the middle rack. Load the baguettes to the oven and quickly after that pour the water on the empty hot baking tray. Shut the door immediately & beware of the steam!

Bake the baguettes for 5 minutes, open the oven door and then lower the temperature to 200°C or 390°F. Continue baking for another 10 minutes and open the oven door again to let the steam out. Repeat.

Depending on the weight of your original dough pieces, bake the baguettes for 20-30 minutes. For example, this batch was 260 grams each and I baked them for 20 minutes in total. As a rule of thumb, bake until deep golden brown. When they look ready, remove the baguettes from the oven and place on a tray to cool off.

Remember to set the oven to 240 degree celcius again before repeating all above with the second set of baguettes.

How to store baguettes?

Et voilà! Now you have fresh baguettes to enjoy for the next couple of days! Do not put the baguettes into a plastic bag or the crust softens. I recommend just keeping them loosely wrapped in a kitchen towel.

Also, I usually leave only one baguette on the table and freeze all others. Then when suitable, we enjoy them one at the time by pre-heating them fresh in 100°C / 212°F.

Depending on your schedules, you can bake these baguettes in two days or three days. I recommend the latter. Note! Do do not second guess the amount of salt. It’s 16 grams and every gram is needed. And don’t worry if your scale just broke or whatever. At its core, to bake delicious baguettes you only need four ingredients and patience. Check here for a sourdough version of baguettes and extra tips for baking homemade baguettes.

Did you try baking baguettes? I share how it went, I would love to here!

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This recipe is adapted from Jan Hedh’s book Bröd (2005) but the instructions are re-written by yours truly. Mister Hedh is a Swedish baker with decades of experience and celebrated in his field internationally. I recommend checking his recipes whenever you come across them.

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3 comments

Baking Homemade Baguettes with Sourdough Poolish 2020-02-23 - 6:31 PM

[…] A Poolish combines equal parts of flour and water (by weight) with small amount of yeast.  You can prepare the poolish the traditional way with yeast, and here’s a recipe for that. Or you cant make the pre-dough with sourdough, find he recipe end of this […]

Reply
Spinach Soup from Autumn Garden | My Vintage Cooking 2018-10-14 - 8:24 AM

[…] We enjoyed our lunch with a shared baguette which I quickly re-heated in the oven. Recipe for the traditional baguettes you can find here. Hot creamy soup & warm bread – is there really any […]

Reply
Fig Hazelnut Sourdough | My Vintage Cooking 2018-10-11 - 12:27 AM

[…] instructions & use whatever method you prefer to create steam. I use these techniques and you can read about the tray here. ) Place the bread on the stone and give it steam. Bake it for 10 minutes on this highest […]

Reply

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