Second chapter on Cooking Projects 2012!

Five weekends. One hundred and twenty six ounces of flour. Blood. Sweat. A few tears. But, I am not afraid of shaping baguettes any longer. Is there room for improvement? No doubt, but the goal now shifts from shaping to baking: I must find a way to optimize the generation of steam.  Apart from that, I am pretty happy with my babies…
(from Jeffrey Hamelman, Bread)

2 pounds + 4.5 oz  bread flour (8 + 1/4 cups)
1 pound + 10.6 oz water (3 + 3/8 cups)
3 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, and using your hands or a plastic scraper, bring them together forming a very shaggy mass.  The best way to do it is working the scraper down the sides of the bowl, and then rotating the bowl as you bring it up, and fold that part of the mixture on top. Do this movement about 20 times, which should mix everything together reasonably well at this stage.  Do not worry about how smooth the dough is, it will feel and look very “rough”.

Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. You will fold the dough every thirty minutes, for a total of six times (at that point you will be 3 from the start).  At each cycle, fold the dough on itself using a scraper, for a total of 20 times,  either removing the dough to a surface, or folding it inside the bowl.  After the sixth folding cycle, leave the dough undisturbed for 30 minutes, then divide it in 12 ounce pieces (from the start,  you will be at the 3 hour and 30 minutes mark).  One full recipe makes 5 long baguettes.

Gently form each piece into a cylinder shape, and let it rest for 15 minutes (very important to relax the gluten, don’t skip this step).  Shape as a baguette, then roll the baguettes to stretch them to their final size (make sure they will fit over your baking stone or the surface you intend to bake them on).

Let the baguettes rise (preferably using a couche well coated with flour) for 1 to 1 and a half hours at room temperature (ideally at 76 F).  Score the baguettes and bake in a 460 F oven, with initial steam, for a total of 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:   I like to do the first four of the six kneading cycles using a different technique:  I coat the granite counter top with a very light amount of olive oil,  and slam the dough on it 15 to 20 times.  You can see the technique demonstrated in this video.  The last two cycles I omit the “slamming”,  and simply fold it, so that the airy structure is not disturbed.   Phil insists that I should let him make a video of my “slamming technique”, but so far I resisted the idea.  Maybe one day… 😉

As to the shaping, I will be forever grateful to Gary, my friend and baker extraordinaire, who went through the trouble of mailing me a DVD of Chef Jeffrey Gabriel CMC, from Schoolcraft College. Gary made the video during his class on French baguettes, and I watched it over and over… and over!   The main difference between Chef Gabriel’s technique and this one, is that he is not too concerned with where the seam of the baguette ends up.   On my initial attempts, I was so worried about keeping the seam up for the final rise, that I ended up manipulating the baguettes too much and messed up their final shape.   Gary’s method is much more user-friendly, and once you score the baguettes and bake them, the seam position seems to have no influence on the final look of the bread.

A few important pointers for success:

1.  Coat the surface where the baguettes will rise (after the final shaping) with flour.   They WILL stick if you forget this step, leading to intense grievance.

2. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes before shaping.  You need that or the gluten will keep fighting back like an elastic band.

3. The better you get at shaping the baguettes, the longer they will be.  If you want to bake them covered to create steam, this could be a problem.  Consider making shorter baguettes – not authentic, but easier to bake in a home oven.

4. Baguettes are scored  with an odd number of slashes. Usually 5 or 7.   Some advise you to wet the blade to do it, I prefer to use a dry blade, as I like the “spiky” look of the slashes.

5.  The baker’s blade is sharp.  Make sure you cover it with the protective plastic cap when you are done, or, if using a blade with no cap, put it away. Leaving it sitting on the counter top is a recipe for disaster.   (sigh)

After practicing several weekends in a row, I now settled on making half this recipe, and shaping either 3 long baguettes or 4 medium-sized.   The tricky part is baking them: I can bake two at a time, so the last one must go through a longer rise.  Sometimes it seems to be slightly over-proofed, and the resulting baguette is a bit flat.  However, the taste is spectacular, this recipe produces a very creamy crumb, with a flavor that transported us to the 7eme arrondissement in Paris.  Not a bad virtual trip to take!   😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Cornmeal English Muffins

TWO YEARS AGO: Cornish Hens for a Sunday Dinner

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39 thoughts on “VOILA’ LES BAGUETTES!

  1. You should be proud, Sally, you have all reasons to be happy with your baguettes… only someone who tried to make them understands what a difficult path it is to get where you are now 🙂

    You should do a video, don’t be shy, I’m convinced it will be a hit! (please, Phil, convince her, I’m sure everyone here would like to see Sally in action 🙂

    don’t tell me you cut yourself in the baker’s blade!!! oh, an unfortunate thing like this can ruin all the fun! I always manage to burn my arms in the oven, but when I handle that blade I’m very careful. Blood scares the hell out of me! I still have a numb finger from a cutting that happend 2 years ago while I was cleaning a trout… horrible memories…

    next step… Do I see some sourdough baguettes in the future? 😛

    If I remember well, baguettes were on your project list for 2012, right? I see you don’t waist any time! Way to go, Sally, I should follow your example, I just realised we are in february already and I didn’t do anything from my list yet :))

    Hugs, Codruta


    • I will give the video very careful consideration, talk to my agent, see how much I should charge, you know… 😉

      you got it right, I cut myself on the blade as it was resting on the countertop, but not too bad. I am very accident-prone in the kitchen (and in the lab, unfortunately) – but so far managed to get by with only mild boo-boos

      Isn’t it amazing how fast this year is passing? Almost the end of February….


    • I am very happy with the crumb, that picture was from attempt number 3. The first one was not as good, I handled the baguettes too much and the inner structure was compromised.

      the problem with baguettes is that every step has to be just right. Any minor mishandling will be evident once you cut through the bread, or even in a lack of oven spring


  2. Beautiful Sally, thanks for the additional pointers. I have two loaves of “no Knead” bread to bake today and I’m pretty sure that they won’t be as beautiful as your loaves, maybe next time I’ll try the recipe that you posted and try the technique shown, although that seems like quite the workout…I’ll report back. I’m wondering if I can incorporate that slamming technique into my loaves today, the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes/ stored for 4 days.


    • I’ve never stored dough for several days, although I am familiar with the concept of the no knead 5 min/day. I think you could give it a try. IN my opinion, any dough will benefit from a little kneading.

      Plus, it’s a ton of fun to slam the dough around…. especially if you have some issues of frustration at work 😉


    • I was baby sitting dough for five weekends in a row, but it was worth it. I think baguettes are the best example of a recipe that you must make over and over, preferably not weeks apart, but as often as you are able to, so that all the little details are clear in your mind and your hands get used to the motions.

      I bet croissants will be similar, but I can tell you one thing for sure: Sally ain’t making croissants five wekends in a row, because she no longer can run marathons, and would like to keep her thighs the way they are now 😉


  3. Sally, I agree that your bread always looks beautiful. In your quest for perfection, you’ve achieved perfectly shaped baguettes. Am sorry for the blood, sweat, and tears. Cuts are NO fun, and I say that as one who knows.

    Beautiful, beautiful bread. 🙂


  4. Hi Sally! from southamerica, I follow your recipies and experiencies and I surprise because I’m right now making baguettes! and Ijust received your mail (I’m working with Richard Bertinet’s book). So, I have to ask you something: could you please tell me in grams or pounds the recipe? because we don´t use cups here and maybe I will find troubles to translate it, I did it before with other recipies and never is exactly in grams.


  5. I once again bow down to you! Your determination is inspiring and this bread looks fantastic!!!! I love it. I can just smell it now. And ouch – I take i you cut yourself on the bakers blade?


  6. A couple of tips. To score the baguette, you must make very fast strokes at a very shallow angle (almost parallel to the dough surface). If you go slow or dig deep, the dough stretches and tears which gives you the ragged edges. Go fast and shallow to cut the dough before it stretches. I can recommend the Mundial bread scorer (Amazon). As you might suspect, my favorite weapon is a #21 stainless steel scalpel blade and handle.

    For the epis, I use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut about 90% the way through and then twist each segment a bit to the right or left to open up the pattern. Good luck with your next batch.


    • Great tip on the scoring – I am not doing that, as you probably figured out from my photos. My blade is getting dull, I think. I’ll get the one you recommended.

      I am actually baking two baguettes tonight, sourdough baguettes – so I can practice both the shaping and the scoring. Epis will wait for another opportunity, baguettes are more “sandwich-friendly”


  7. Well done! Have you ever noticed that when bakers show off their baguette crumb they slice right into the loaf and almost along the horizontal? Thus creating a cut that opens the spaces in the crumb to their maximum, I call it the ‘show off’ cut… I think baguettes are really really hard to do in a domestic oven, so you are a complete star for persevering. I like Hamelman’s white poolish dough best of the ones I have tried so far…


    • You HAD to tease me with another recipe! 😉

      I think I made that one in my pre-blogging days, but I am not totally sure. I will have to check my records.

      you are absolutely right about the “show off cut”, most bakers go for it to maximize the taps on their shoulders 😉


  8. Way to go, Sally! These baguettes look amazing. I love their rustic appearance. It makes me want to bite right into my screen! And what a gorgeous crumb… Congratulations!
    I too can only bake two loaves at a time, so to minimize the risk of overproofing (especially during hot Northeast summers when we are at our little camp by the river but pretty much all year round too), I put one batch in the fridge for an hour or so. It staggers the fermentation a bit and makes it easier to manage. Maybe it would work for you too as I imagine summers can get pretty hot where you are.


  9. Sally, its 9:30 pm and I now want to bake bread right now!! These look fabulous!! So rustic looking! I’m going to follow your directions exactly and so appreciate all the details you’ve provided. Great post Sally and even greater baguettes!!


  10. I can probably order the blades. I’ll see if the distributor I use carries that size and let you know. They may only be available in a box of 100, but scalpel blades are typically inexpensive.


    • Hi, Cindy

      I got the blade that Gary recommended from Mundial – pretty cool looking

      I think the ones you mention are the same we have in the lab, we get them in sets of 100 too, so don’t worry about ordering them for me. I don’t use them for bread because I find it a bit awkward to hold them by the back of the blade, I prefer to have a long handle. Maybe I could learn to do it with them. The are pretty sharp


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