Trying to make a better baguette

Here’s an update on my quest to up-skill my baguette game. This isn’t anywhere near perfect, but it’s a good start. And you can do it, too!

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You need:

5 cups bread flour
.75 oz (2.5 packets) active dry yeast
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
2 cups warm water
Patience

1) Put your yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in your warm water, and let the solution sit for a minute or three.

2) Pour in 2 cups of high quality white flour, and mix thoroughly.

3) Once the mixture is well blended, begin to add in flour a cup at a time. It’s important that this dough isn’t too dry.

4) Let the dough rest and rise for about 30 minutes in a covered, greased bowl.

5) Once risen, gently punch down the dough in the  bowl, and loosen it with a jiggle. Transfer the dough to a flour dusted surface. Split it into four equal pieces, and let them rest on your work surface for 15 minutes. Cover them with plastic wrap.

6) This part takes practice–flatten out one piece at a time to get out big air bubbles. Fold the piece in half, and seal the crease with the palm of your hand. Then do it again. Seam-side down, roll the dough into a baguette shape.

7) Let the loaves rest another 30 minutes or so. They can rest on a baking pan, or in a floured couche (cloth.) Pre-heat your oven to about 450 F or more.

8) Once the dough is puffed again, prepare for the oven. You’ll cut lines lengthwise into the loaves, and you can spritz them with water. Alternatively you can try to get steam going in your oven by just leaving water in a pan in there (the easiest way.)

9) Bake 20 minutes or so, until a golden, crunchy brown.

10) Enjoy!!

I start by putting my 1.5 tsp sugar and 1.5 tsp salt in a big bowl. I also put in about .75 ounces or so of active dry yeast. Then pour in 2 cups of warm water and wait just a couple minutes. My measurements for ingredients are not always scientifically precise—I prefer the casual measuring to the intense alternative. But to each their own.

Next you’ll pour in a cup or two of white bread flour—I use King Arthur bread flour, but just pick a higher quality unbleached flour, whatever you do. Some baguettes blend flours–don’t be afraid to explore. Mix in that flour well, and then pour in another cup or two. I typically get to 4.5 or 5 cups of flour before the dough is drying out, so do the best you can to find the right amount. I then let that dough rise in a greased bowl for 45 minutes or more. The goal is to get that nice rise.

Once puffed, you pat it down and then on a lightly floured surface split the big dough into four smaller, equal parts. You can fold these pieces a little into a tighter blob, and then cover each one and come back in about 15 minutes. I have been covering with plastic wrap, but that may change.

Next up we’ll shape the baguettes. I’m still learning, but here’s the gist: push down the dough to get any big air bubbles out, and then fold it once over. You seal the fold with the palm of your hand, and then do it again. Fold, and seal. Then you’ll roll the dough into that baguette shape we know and love. I’ve started to try to use a couche for the next rise, but you can put your dough right onto a baking pan. This couche is just a cotton pillow case with flour in it, which forms a floury bed for your dough, but again, you can do it how you like.

After another 40 minutes or so is the transfer. Professional bakers use a wooden baguette board or peel to move the dough from couche to pan, or however it will be in the oven. I am using a cutting board…it works for now. Pre-heat your oven to 450 F.

The next step is a scoring, cutting angled lines lengthwise down the dough. I am using a dull bread knife for this one…not ideal. You can also get a bread lame, a razor blade on a stick to cut easier. I’ve also been spritzing my dough with water.

Into the oven for 20 minutes or so and then take a look. You can bake these a little too long very easily, and every oven is different, so good luck.

How do you know if the baguette is a success? Honestly it depends what you’re looking for. One option: taste it, and a skill important in journalism and baking of course…listen.

Thanks for watching, and happy baking!

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