Recently the bakers at the global HQ of Virtuous Bread had a baguette bake off. We compared four recipes and this is the winner!
This winning (and excellent) recipe is from Stockholm's Helene Johannson's wonderful book the Brunkeberg Bagerei baking book. Controversially, there is salt in the poolish! NO, I hear you cry. YES, we shout back! It's not a typo. We have probably changed your life.
- bowls, scale, scraper, baking tins lined with non stick parchment, several heavy cotton or linen tea towels, or a big, sturdy piece of linen or cotton.
For the Poolish
- 100 g Flour
- 100 g Water
- 1 pinch yeast of any kind
- 2.5 g salt
For the dough
- 700 g Flour
- 500 g Water
- 15 g Salt
- 2.5 g Instant yeast OR 5 g dry yeast OR 10 g fresh yeast
Make the Poolish
- 12-24 hours before you want to bake, measure the ingredients for the poolish into a bowl. Cover them and leave them on the counter until you are ready to bake. You do not need to proof the yeast – not even the dry active yeast – because the dough is so wet the yeast will dissolve on its own.
Make the dough
- Measure the flour into a bowl and make a well in it. Add the yeast and pour over enough of the water to fill the well. Leave it for 10 minutes.
- Add the rest of the water, the salt and the poolish and bring it together into a rough mass in the bowl. Leave it for 30 minutes in the bowl to think about itself and then knead it for 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it sit for 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. If your dough is going to rest overnight, make sure you let it warm up to room temperature before you shape it. This will take several 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. This depends on the LENGTH of the tray on which you will bake the baguettes. If your trays are VERY LONG, you can divide into 4. If your trays are short you will have 4 VERY FAT baguettes or you can divide into 6 or 8 pieces and have more slender baguettes. You choose!
- Cover the pieces with a tea towl and let them sit on their little, floury islands for 15 minutes.
- Flour the counter where you will work and, one by one, gently stretch each piece out into a small rectangle. Fold the top edge to the middle and gently press down the edge. Fold the bottom edge to the middle to meet the first edge and gently press down.
- Now fold the top edge right over to the bottom edge (use a scraper if that helps) and, using the heel of your hand, press down firmly along the bottom edge cupping the dough as you do this so that it keeps its round shape. Then, using the sides of your hands, seal both sides. This sealing is important as it keeps the air trapped as you roll out the baguettes.
- Pick up the dough and move it away from you. Roll it toward you moving your hands outwards, to the edges of the dough as you do. 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. I find the little ends just burn and get thrown away.
- Place the shaped dough on a heavy cloth or tea towel that you have heavily floured. Concertina the cloth between each dough stick so they do not stick together. Cover them up with yet aother tea towel and let them rest for 30-45 minutes.
- If your dough is room temperature, it should be ready to bake after 30 minutes.
- Pre heat the oven to 230 celsius.
- Slash the baguettes, or snip them with scissors, and put them in the oven.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes. Judge a baguette by its colour – they should be a deep golden. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.
If you have completely rubbish flour, don’t expect to be able to make a baguette with this recipe. However, do expect to be able to make rough, cigar shaped loaves that look rather plain but have great flavour and texture (even with rubbish flour). Don’t bother slashing them. They don’t have the strength to hold a cut. If you have fabulous flour, this recipe will still be a challenge because it calls for 80% hydration (this makes it hard) and the poolish is 90% of the total flour weight (this makes it harder). However, we all love a challenge and the worst thing that can happen is that your baguettes are rather ugly but as we here at the global HQ of Virtuous Bread always say: everything is good toasted. Even if it’s ugly.
Want to learn more? Come and take a bread course with us!