Wednesday, January 11, 2012

French Baguette

Things have been so hectic at school already in the two weeks that we have started and I find myself behind. So, here I am, sitting in my bedroom, blasting my music and eating my breakfast of corned beef and rice this morning trying to bust out this blog post that is long overdue. 

Currently, I've wanted to open up a bakery/cafe joint and to do that, you first need some good recipes, mainly bread recipes. I mean, how can you own a cafe/bakery and not make your own bread for sandwiches and such? What kind of bakery/cafe are you?!?! Well, here starts the recipe testing for artisan breads!

What I love about artisan bread is that they have a wonderful crackly crust. Every time I think of that crust, I remember the scene of "Ratatouille" when the woman squeezes the bread to hear that crackling crust to test the freshness. That is exactly what an artisan bread should sound like.

Let's start the artisan bread test with a French baguette. French baguettes are versatile. They can be sliced perpendicular for little crostini or they can be sliced parallel for some long sandwiches. This was my first attempt at this and well, it wasn't the greatest thing ever. When it came out of the oven I literally said "Danggggg, that is one ugly bread!", it definitely was and you know it! haha.

The top didn't have the long scores on them as I was hoping and was definitely over baked but the bottom was just fine. Great texture in this bread as well. Time to go back to the white board with this one.

French Baguette
Recipe by Peter Reinhardt
Makes 3 loaves
Part 1
For the pre-ferment (pâte fermentée):
2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) unbleached bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) water, at room temperature

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until the dough comes together and knead until it goes from a sticky mess to a smooth ball.

Don’t worry too much about developing the gluten at this point.

Let rise in a sealed container for about 1 hour at room temperature or until it expands to 1 1/2 times its size.

Knead lightly for about a minute and return to the sealed container. Keep in the refrigerator overnight. The pre-ferment will be usable for up to 3 days, although I tend to get nervous when it’s been sitting around for more than 24 hours. Sometimes it seems like it’s about to pop out of the container and spill all over the vegetables and eggs in my refrigerator. Not that it’s ever happened before. Be sure that your container can handle a volume at least 3 times as big as the dough.

Part 2
For the final dough:
All of the pâte fermentée
2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) unbleached bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) water, at room temperature

Take your pre-fermented dough out of the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for about 1 hour to take off the chill. It will be bubbly and may continue to rise in your container.

Cut up the pre-ferment into small pieces and mix with the second half.

Knead for about 10 minutes.

In a lightly oiled container, ferment at room temperature for about 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.

It’s very important to put some oil in the container so the dough doesn’t stick when extracting from the bowl later. It should come out as one well-formed blob and feel very slightly sticky to the touch. From this point on, handle the dough as gently as possible to keep the bubbles within from deflating.

Use a weighing scale and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. It’s okay to cut off small bits of dough to evenly distribute.

Proof the shaped baguettes with the seam side up at room temperature for 45 to 75 minutes or until it expands to 1 1/2 times its size. The loaves in the picture are settled in a floured linen couche, but parchment paper can be used in the same manner. This will keep the loaves from flattening out and help maintain a tubular shape.

Preheat your oven to 500°F with a steam pan, preferably cast iron, in the bottom of the oven. I have a dedicated cast iron skillet used solely for creating steam in the oven. Don’t use your well-seasoned cast iron skillet passed down from grandma. The high oven heat will ruin the seasoning you’ve been painstakingly maintaining all these years. I had to find out the hard way. If you have one of those fancy ovens with built-in steam functionality then we probably won’t get along.

Transfer the proofed baguettes onto parchment paper on the back of a sheet pan. The seams previously on top should now be on the bottom.
Score the baguettes. Imagine a line running down the top of the loaves. Using a very sharp knife or a bread slashing tool called a lamé, create incisions about half an inch deep that overlap and run almost parallel to the imaginary line running down the center of the loaves. Cuts that run from side to side will barely expand because long loaves tend to widen instead of lengthen as a result of oven spring.

Load the oven with the sheet pan or transfer the loaves onto a hot baking stone. Pour 2 cups of boiling water onto the steam pan and immediately close the oven door. Lower the oven to 450°F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degrees and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes until the crust turns golden brown.

Place the baguettes on a cooling rack for about 1 hour. Try to keep yourself from biting the crackly ends off straight from the oven. Each baguette will tip the scales at the traditional weight of approximately 250 grams.

-Aaron John.


  1. deliious looking bread looks onderful


  3. That is a gorgeous loaf of bread! I love the crusty outside and soft inside...and dipping it in a flavored oil is just awesome!


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! :)

-Aaron John


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