Baguettes are arguably the most celebrated bread across the world. We know the standard of our local bakeries baguettes, yet the authentic ones from France are on another level. This baguette recipe follows the same methods used by French bakers.
Authentic French baguettes use many different techniques and are one of the most challenging artisan breads to make. The challenge is the shaping using a couche to proof the dough. If you don’t have a couche I share how you can make one using a tea towel. You can also use a baguette tray to rise and bake the baguettes to make things a little easier. Difficult as they are, the search to continue to improve your baguette quality is an enjoyable challenge that can go on forever! This recipe makes 7 small baguettes and takes 16 – 20 hours from start to finish.
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What you need to make authentic baguettes with poolish
To make this baguette recipe, you’ll need the following equipment:
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- A couche or tea towel
- Mixing bowls
- A metal and plastic dough scraper
- A lid or some plastic wrap (something to cover the bowl)
- Scales, if you don’t a decent set you might want to try these scales from Myweigh
- A baking stone
- A baguette peel
Using a thermometer will help you with controlling proofing times. For accurate dough temperature readings try this thermometer from Gdealer. Aim for dough temperature between 25C and 30C (77-86F).
What if I don’t have a baking stone?
A baking stone conducts heat into the loaf. Using one increases the height of the oven spring to give those fantastic rips you see in artisan baguettes. It will also help to give them an even bake on the base of the baguettes. If you don’t have a baking stone, preheat the thickest baking sheet that you have.
What can I use instead of a couche
A couche is a food-safe fabric liner that is used to support the baguettes as they rise. If you don’t have one, you use a clean tea towel. Preferably a one that won’t fray otherwise you may find a few strands of cotton on the crust!
Can I use a dutch oven to make this recipe?
Yes, if you would rather use a dutch oven to make baguettes you can do and you won’t need to add steam to the oven. Just be aware that it will have to be big enough to fit the length of the French bread. Simply preheat the dutch oven and drop the dough pieces inside on a sheet of parchment paper to bake. If you are looking to get a dutch oven, I recommend getting this one from Challenger as it is big enough to fit a few baguettes in one load.
For the poolish:
- 225g White bread flour
- 225g Water
- 1g Fresh yeast (0.5 active dried or 0.35 grams instant yeast)
For the dough:
- 750g White bread flour
- 435g 1st water
- 7.5g Fresh yeast (4 active dried or 2.5 grams instant yeast)
- 15g Salt
- 37.5g 2nd water
Use French T55 or T65 for the most amazing French baguettes. If you can’t get hold of these try replacing 20g or white flour with wholemeal for a more flavourful baguette.
Changing the size of the recipe
This recipe makes 7 small loaves. If you want to change the size of the recipe, use this bakers formula.
How to make baguettes
1) Prepare the poolish
Add the fresh or instant yeast for the poolish to the water and whisk. Once the yeast is dissolved, add the flour and lightly mix to distribute for around 1 minute. Leave the biga for 12-16 hours to develop.
If using active dried yeast, halve the fresh yeast amount listed. Active dried yeast will need to be activated before use. To do this warm the water for the poolish, ideally to 37-43C (100-110F). Add the yeast to the bowl, whisk and leave for 10 minutes to bloom. Next, add the flour, combine and leave for 12-16 hours.
2) Begin the autolyse
The next day, once the poolish has fermented:
*If using active dried yeast follow this, otherwise ignore this step: Warm 15 grams of water to 37-43C (100-110F) and add the active dried yeast and a pinch of sugar. Whisk and leave to bloom for 10 minutes. Decrease the 1st water addition to 420 grams. Add this yeasty mixture to replace the yeast in the autolyse:
Add all the poolish, 1st water, flour and yeast to a bowl, gently mix until a fairly even structure is made. Leave to autolyse for 20-30 minutes.
3) Incorporate and slowly knead
Next, add the salt and set a 5 minute timer. Then with a plastic dough scraper make sweeping movements to combine the ingredients in the bowl. Once the dough forms a mass, knead slowly on a table, using a stretching motion. Continue this until the timer beeps, by now the dough should have an even consistency. Scrap the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover with a bag and place it in the fridge.
Alternatively use a dough mixer:
Add the salt, with the rest of the ingredients to a dough mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix at a slow speed for 6 minutes, then fast for 6 minutes. At this point, slow the speed and add the second water. Increase the speed once the water starts to absorb and continue to mix for another 2 minutes (or until the dough is an even consistency). Skip step 4.
4) Fast knead
After 10 minutes, take the dough out onto the table and set a 5 minute timer. Knead fast using the stretch, slap and fold technique for maximum efficiency. When the timer ends, place back in the bowl with the second water and push the dough into the water with your hand. When the dough starts to incorporate the water turn it back out onto the table and knead for another 2-3 minutes.
5) Leave to rest (bulk ferment)
Using a dough scraper, place the dough into a lightly floured bowl, cover and leave to rest for 20 minutes in the fridge.
6) Stretch and fold
Remove the dough from the bowl and complete a stretch and fold or lightly knead for 30 seconds. Cover the dough in the bowl again and leave in the kitchen side for another 20 minutes.
7) Stretch and fold again
Repeat the stretch and fold or light knead and rest again on the kitchen surface for 20 minutes.
8) Divide into baguettes
Lightly flour dust the surface and place the dough on top using a plastic dough scraper. Now, using a metal dough scraper, divide into 220g pieces and lightly shape into cylinders and leave to rest on the table for 20 minutes.
A 220g dough piece makes the perfect size baguette for my home oven. If you have a larger or a professional oven, consider increasing the size to make longer baguettes.
9) Shaping time!
Once relaxed, from the centre of the dough, roll out using both hands until the length of the baguette is formed. This should be about 30cm, you can taper the ends if you wish. As you shape each one, transfer onto a floured couche or tea towel.
A new couche must be well floured to prevent the baguette dough sticking to them. You can always use a pastry brush to remove some of the flour before cutting.
10) Proof those little beauties
Once all the baguettes are shaped, cover with the couche and allow to proof for 1- 1 ½ hours. Get the oven with a baking stone preheated to 250C (480F).
You can retard these authentic baguettes in the fridge overnight in the couches. Just cut and bake straight away in the morning.
11) Scoring – Practice makes perfect!
Use a long peel to remove the baguettes from the couche. Either cut and drop them in the oven one by one or transfer 3-4 to a board and then cut and slide them all into the oven on the baking stone. Cut by making 4-5 cuts through the middle, holding the knife/lame at a slight angle. Add plenty of steam as they go into the oven.
Bake for around 20 – 25 minutes, you may wish to drop the heat to 240C (465F) but my oven isn’t powerful enough to get to that temperature quickly anyway so I don’t bother. If the baguettes are looking pale, consider using the top heat function near the end of baking to help caramelise the crusts.
13) Remove and cool
Remove from the oven using a peel and allow to cool.
How to make French baguettes video tutorial
Nutritional information per loaf
Calories: 511kcal | Carbohydrates: 107g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 0.4g | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 7mg