Samuel Fromartz Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Parisian Baguette Recipe

By Samuel Fromartz

This recipe may be intimidating, but, hey, who isn’t up for a challenge? Experienced home bakers will likely recognize the steps. Beginners will need to be patient—to start baking bread with this recipe is like jumping into calculus after third-grade math. So here’s a tip: Pick up Daniel Leader’s Local Breads or Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and try their baguette recipes before plunging over the dark side.

Should you decide to skip the DIY apprenticeship and go directly to the recipe below, results may vary. This is a wet, slack dough that makes it a challenge to shape. If you end up with something that looks like a mutant flat bread, don’t despair. Scarf it up—the rich flavor, bubbly internal crumb, and crisp crust will likely surprise you, even if does not approach the Platonic ideal of a Parisian baguette. Try and try again to get it right.

Equipment

  • Digital scale with gram measurements
  • Plastic bin or bowl
  • Dough scraper
  • Baking stone
  • Rimmed cookie sheet or cast iron frying pan
  • Four kitchen towels
  • Parchment paper
  • Razor blade
  • Cutting board
  • Cooling rack

Ingredients

Makes four baguettes

  • 90 grams sourdough starter, 100-percent hydration, made with equal parts of water and flour by weight, fermented for 7 to 10 hours.
  • 420 grams water
  • 590 grams flour (King Arthur Organic All Purpose Flour, Whole Foods 365 brand Organic All Purpose Flour or King Arthur All Purpose Flour are ideal, though King Arthur Bread Flour might be easier for a beginner)
  • 10 grams whole wheat flour (Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 13 grams sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast (such as Fleishman’s Active Dry Yeast or SAF Instant Yeast)
  • Olive oil to grease bowl
  • Cornmeal or semolina to dust cutting board

DAY 1

Pour starter and yeast into bowl and add water, mixing until the starter breaks up a bit.

Add flours and salt and mix for a couple of minutes. The dough will be heavy and shaggy.

Use scraper to move dough onto the counter and begin to knead by stretching and folding dough, trying to use your finger tips. Do not flour the counter. Tip: See video of kneading by Googling “Gourmet Richard Bertinet,” though he demonstrates on a sweet dough.

After kneading for 5 minutes, scrape mass into a clean bowl or plastic bin. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

Remove dough to counter. Stretch it until 1-inch thick then fold top and bottom in thirds like a letter. Do the same left to right. Tip: Google “Wild Yeast folding video” to see this technique.

Put in bin, cover, let dough rest 20 minutes.

Remove from bin, fold again, and put back in covered bin for 20 minutes.

Remove from bin, fold again for the third and final time. Clean bin, oil lightly (with 2 tsp olive oil), and put dough back inside. Cover and place in refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

DAY 2

Put baking stone in middle of oven. Place a thick rimmed cookie sheet or cast iron pan on oven floor or lower shelf. Preheat oven to 470F.

Dust counter lightly with flour and remove dough from container. Cut dough in half. Put half back in container and into refrigerator.

Dip your fingers in flour. Cut dough into two rectangular pieces (about 250 grams each) and gently stretch into rectangles 5-by-7 inches with the long edge facing you.

Be careful not to press and destroy all the bubbles inside the dough.

Cover with light towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

While dough is resting, cut parchment paper large enough to fit your baking stone. Dust paper with flour. Roll up 3 kitchen towels tightly. Set aside.

Shape dough into a log by folding top and bottom of rectangle toward middle and gently sealing the seam with thumb. Then fold top to meet the bottom and seal seam. You should have a log about 1.5 to 2 inches thick. Gently roll and stretch into a 14-inch loaf. Don’t worry if it’s uneven. Tip: Google “shaping baguettes part 2” for video of technique.

Place each loaf on parchment paper about six inches apart, seam side down. Place one rolled up towel underneath the paper between the loaves and one under each other edge, supporting their shape. Tip: Leader describes this in his book.

Cover with light kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes.

BAKING

Put 2/3 cup water in measuring cup.

Remove towels from under the parchment paper and carefully move the paper with the loaves onto a flour-dusted overturned cookie sheet or cutting board. Dust top of loaves very lightly with flour.

Make four cuts on the top of the loaf with a razor blade, 1/4-inch deep, running lengthwise on the dough. A swift slash works best.

Take cutting board and slide parchment paper with baguettes onto hot baking stone. Shut oven door. Open door, and carefully pour 2/3 cup water onto cookie sheet or cast iron pan. Shut door. Do not open the oven again while baking.

Check baguettes after 18 to 20 minutes. They should be dark brown and crusty. If pale, continue baking for 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes on rack before eating. They are best eaten within 6 hours.

While baguettes are baking, form the remaining dough into loaves or leave for up to 24 hours and make fresh loaves the following day.

Samuel Fromartz blogs at chewswise.com.