Fourth place in the search for the best baguette recipe

This baguette recipe is based on one from the French Culinary Institute’s (now called the International Culinary Centre located in the USA) bread book entitled, “The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking”.  It’s the Poolish Baguette on p 101.  It’s not in fourth place in the search for the best baguette recipe because it’s bad – all the recipes were good.  It’s in fourth place because it’s good, it’s fine – it has a nice flavour and texture, it’s reasonably easy to shape and it’s all-round pleasant.  However, in comparison to the others there is nothing particular to recommend it.  It did not stand out.  But, it’s certainly worth a try if you want to start to experiment with poolish baguettes.  I used fairly rubbish plain flour to bake these (as I did with all four baguette recipes I tried because it’s all I had) and I followed the same method in all four recipes – you can knead by hand or machine.  A good quality flour will be more absorbent and stronger so the dough will be easy to handle and you should get better “spring” and colour.

French Culinary Institute baguettes.  Not quite as lovely but a good all rounder.

French Culinary Institute baguettes. Not quite as lovely but a good all rounder.

Ingredients for the poolish:

56 g flour
56 g water
1 g yeast

Ingredients for the dough:

The poolish (above)
754 g flour
511 g water
16 g salt
6 g dry, active yeast (use 3 g instant or 12 g fresh)

Total dough weight:  1400 g.  This makes 4 big baguettes but you may want to do 6 or even 8 smaller ones so they all fit into your oven.

Dough statistics (percentage of total flour weight):

Poolish hydration:  100%
Total dough hydration:  70%
Poolish as % of total flour:  14%

Method:

12-24 hours before you want to bake your baguettes, mix together the ingredients for the poolish.  Cover and set aside at room temperature.

When you are ready to bake:

If you are using dry active yeast, measure the flour into a big bowl.  Make a well in it and measure in the yeast.  Pour over the water and let it sit for 10 minutes to dissolve the yeast.  Measure in the rest of the ingredients except the salt.  Stir everything together so that it is all blended (it will look ragged) and then let the dough sit for 10 minutes. Add the salt and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Put the dough back in the bowl and cover the bowl with a shower hat.  Let it sit for two hours.

If you are using fresh or instant yeast measure all the ingredients except the salt into a bowl.  Stir everything together so that it is all blended (it will look ragged) and then let the dough sit for 10 minutes.  Add the salt and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Put the dough back in the bowl and cover the bowl with a shower hat.  Let it sit for two hours.

Remove the dough from the bowl, put it on a floury surface, and divide it into at least four (if not six or eight) pieces.  Let these sit on little floury islands for 15 minutes.  Take each one and gently stretch them out into a small rectangle.  Fold the top edge to the middle and gently press down.  Fold the bottom edge to the middle and press down.  Now fold the top edge right over to the bottom edge and, using the heel of your hand, press down firmly to seal the sides and the bottom edge, cupping the dough as you do this so that it keeps its round shape.  Pick up the dough and move it away from you.  Roll it toward you applying pressure with your hands to the sides to stretch out the dough.  Don’t apply downward pressure – just stretch the dough out sideways.  I don’t like pointy ended baguettes so I leave them rounded so that the entire baguette is the same diameter.

Place the shaped dough on a heavy cloth or tea towel that you have heavily floured and let it rest for 30-45 minutes.

The baguette bakeoff babies lying in their beds - a thick linen cloth, heavily floured, that supports them as they ferment.

The baguette bakeoff babies lying in their beds – a thick linen cloth, heavily floured, that supports them as they ferment.

After 30 minutes poke it with your finger.  If the indentation comes out within a minute, the dough is ready for the oven.  If not, leave it for another 10 minutes or so.  Pre heat the oven to 230 celsius.  Humidify the oven by lavish use of a plant sprayer.  Slash the baguettes and put them in the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes and then remove. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Want to learn more?  Come and take a bread class with us!

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