11 - 15 hours
I didn't have big expectations for sourdough baguettes at first. I mean I love my authentic baguette with poolish recipe and well, would sourdough really enhance a baguette?
After tasting them I realised I was wrong! I've tried many baguettes in top bakeries in France, Spain and the UK and these are the best baguettes I have ever eaten.
Actually they could be the best breads I've ever eaten too...
So good are these sourdough baguettes, I was debating on whether I should share the recipe.
But I'm not that cruel!
How to make sourdough baguettes video tutorial
For the sourdough biga:
128g White bread flour
For the dough:
640g White bread flour
365g 1st water
64g 2nd water
During the recording of the video I made some tweaks to the recipe by increasing the water and the bulk fermentation time. They are only small changes but so you are clear, these adaptations have been altered in the recipe and method so use the timings and amounts written here.
Method using a dough mixer
Refresh the sourdough to make a biga
Make the biga ahead of starting the dough. To do this, measure the water into a bowl, add the sourdough and then the flour. Give it a mix for a minute or two until the mixture has an even consistency. Cover, and leave on the kitchen table and well return in 6-8 hours.
Weigh the ingredients for the dough and combine
When the sourdough biga is developed there will be large bubbles breaking its surface. At this point weigh the remaining ingredients. In a large bowl, add the biga to the water and combine with the flour. Retain the 2nd water and salt for later
Start the autolyse
Use a plastic dough scraper around the edges of the bowl to combine the ingredients into an even mass. Place a cover over the bowl and leave on the table for 30 minutes.
Mixing the ingredients
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.
Dough mixer steps:
After the dough has rested, use a plastic dough scraper to empty the dough into a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add the salt and mix gently for 6 minutes.
Add the second water
Take from the fridge, to the table and set a 5 minute timer. Knead fast using the stretch, slap and fold technique until the timer ends. Place back in the bowl alongside the second water and push the dough into the water with your hands. When the dough starts to incorporate the water turn it back out onto the table and knead for another 3-5 minutes.
Dough mixer steps:
Set a timer for 8 minutes and increase the speed of the mixer. After one minute, add the second water to the bowl - it might be use to slow down the mixers speed temporarily for this! Continue fast mixing until the timer ends. The dough is strong and thin when stretched (windowpane test), if not mix for a few more minutes and check again.
Place the dough in a mixing bowl, cover and leave to rest. If the dough is warm and sticky (use a temperature probe (+25C or 77F) to be precise) use the fridge, otherwise it can be left on the kitchen counter. Leave for 1 hour.
Bulk fermentation continued
Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover and leave to rest for another hour.
Divide the dough
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured worktop. Using a metal dough scraper, divide the dough into 280g pieces.
Shape the pieces into cylinder shapes and leave on a lightly floured area of the table to bench rest for 20 minutes.
Prepare the couche
Prepare a couche by dusting with flour and semolina. Make a crease on the left-side edge of the cloth. Then, working left to right, as each baguette goes into the couche, the edges on the righthand side are going to be folded to act as a barrier between the next dough piece.
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 or the length of your oven. You can taper the ends if you wish my applying more pressure. As you shape each one, transfer onto a floured couche or tea towel.
Cover the baguettes with a spare section of the couche (or with another dusted couche/tea towel) and leave to proof for 3-4 hours. Preheat the oven to 250C (480F) in this time with a baking stone and a lipped baking sheet below it. It is best to use bottom heat only setting when heating.
Testing when it's ready
When ready for the oven, the dough should be smooth and almost pass the poke test. Slightly under proofed is preferred for baguettes.
Take a long baguette peel* to remove the baguette from the couche. You can either put them onto a large board (or peel) to slide them in the oven a batch at a time, or slide them individually using only the baguette peel. Doing them in batches is best however I don't have a peel big enough to fit the baguettes so am doing them individually.
Pick up a baguette by sliding the peel to the side and tipping it out of the couche. You can straighten it with your hands if you need to. Either drop onto a board and collect the next one or if doing them individually, cut it on the peel.
Using a lame, make 3-4 angled slashes in the dough and then drop the bread gently onto the baking stone. Repeat for the remaining dough pieces whilst leaving a two inch gap between as they are loaded into the oven. You might not fit all of them in the oven in one go. If this is the case, place the couche in the fridge whilst the first batch bake, taking care to keep it flat.
Once the baguettes are in the oven, pour a couple of cups of boiling water on the hot baking sheet and quickly shut the door. Change the oven heat setting to top and bottom heat and bake for 20-25 minutes, opening the oven door after 15 to check up on them and release some of the steam.
Remove from the oven
Once the bread has a nice, dark but golden colour, remove from the oven using a peel and allow to cool. Repeat for the second batch if required.
Leave to cool for 1 hour before eating. Enjoy!
Top tips for the best sourdough baguettes
Artisan baguettes should be eaten within 4 hours. You may want to put some in the freezer to eat in the following days. Alternatively divide the dough and retain a portion to cold proof in the fridge (retard) to bake the following day.
You may want to extend the bulk fermentation for another hour or two for the dough to become more gassy. I would normally encourage this but these baguettes were so bloody nice I wouldn't worry too much!
*If you don't have a baguette peel you can make do with a thin chopping board. Try to avoid melting it on the hot baking stone if it's plastic!
You have to work fast when placing the baguettes in the oven one by one like this. If you have a large board or peel you can prepare them on their and slide them into the oven in one go.