My Best Ever Baguette Recipe

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From the collection of Recipes from Charles van Over

What is particularly great about this recipe is that every mix gives you three baguettes…two bakes and you’ll have enough for a week’s supply and maybe an extra to share with a friend. You can also shape a batch of this bread into a rustic country-style loaf. I use King Arthur’s All Purpose Flour also called Sir Galahad’s or their Organic Artisan Flour.

Three 14 - inch loaves 
Fermentation: 3 hours at room temperature, 70°F to 72°F. 
Retardation: 6 hours to overnight, 40°F to 45°F. 
Proofing: 35 to 40 minutes at room temperature.

Unbleached all purpose flour 500 grams 1 pound 3 1/3 to 4 cups 100%
Raw Wheat Germ,
optional
10 grams 1/3 ounce 2 Tablespoons 2%
Fine sea salt 10 grams 1/3 ounce 2 teaspoons 2%
Instant Yeast 3 grams 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon 0.5%
Water 340 grams 11 ounces 1 1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp. 68%
Cornmeal or rice flour for the baking sheet
 
  1. My Best Ever Wood-Fired Baguette RecipePlace the flour, salt, yeast and wheat germ in a 14-cup food processor fitted with the metal dough blade. Using an instant-read thermometer, adjust the water temperature so that the combined temperatures of the water and the flour give a base temperature of 145°F in the Cuisinart Power Prep Plus.* With the machine running, pour the water through the feed tube. Process for a total of 45 seconds.
  2. Stop the machine and take the temperature of the dough with an instant-read thermometer, which should read between 75°F and 80°F. (A finished dough temperature of 80°F is ideal when working with the instant yeast.)
  3. Remove the dough from the processor and place it in a large ungreased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to ferment for about 3 hours at room temperature, about 70°F to 72°F. The dough will have increased in volume somewhat, but don't be concerned by how much.
  4. Retard the dough in bulk in the refrigerator for 6 hours to overnight for increased flavor or proceed to step 5 immediately.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With a dough scraper or kitchen knife, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Shape the dough into rough balls. Cover them with a sheet of plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. In preparation for the final proofing, spread a sheet of canvas or a heavy linen cloth on a counter or tabletop and sprinkle it lightly with flour. (If using a baguette pan, spray it with vegetable cooking spray.)
  7. Sift a fine coating of flour on the work surface. Place one ball of dough on the surface and gently pat it down to an even thickness of 1 inch. Do not attempt to deflate every air bubble. Using the heels and palms of your hands, flatten the dough into a crude rectangle measuring about 4 x 5 inches and 1 inch thick. Fold the long side farthest from you a little over 2/3 of the way. Using the heel of your hand, gently press the folded edge to seal the dough. Pick up the dough and turn it 180 degrees. Fold over the other long edge of the dough about 2/3 of the way, and seal with the palm of your hand.
  8. To make a compact cylinder easy to roll into a baguette shape, use both hands and fold the log in half lengthwise. This time, as you fold, press your thumbs gently inside of the fold to create tension on the surface of the log. Using your fingertips, press the edges together to seal the dough into a taut cylinder. This will produce a visible seam running the length of the dough.
  9. To roll the dough into a baguette shape, place both hands on the center of the log with your fingers spread apart. Using light uniform pressure, gently roll the dough back and forth into a long snake. Taking care not to stretch the dough, move your hands from the center of the dough to the ends as the dough begins to lengthen to about 14 inches. If the dough resists rolling, let it rest for 5 minutes before continuing. Repeat steps 6 through 8 with the remaining dough.
  10. Using both hands, gently transfer each baguette, seam side up, to the lightly floured cloth. Fold the fabric up to form channels in which each loaf will rise. (Place the baguettes close together so that they rise and don't spread out.) Sprinkle the loaves with flour and cover them loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let the baguettes rise for 30 to 45 minutes, until dough increases by half its size. It should feel soft but still spring back slightly when poked with your finger. (Hint: Underproof slightly for better looking baguettes when baked.)

IMPORTANT: We are including here two versions of baking. One for use in a conventional oven and the other for a wood fired oven.

CONVENTIONAL OVEN

  1. One hour before baking, put the oven rack on the second shelf from the bottom of the oven and place a baking stone on the rack. Place a small pan for water on the floor of the oven. Preheat the oven to 460°F.
  2. Uncover the loaves. Place them seam side down on a peel or on the back of a baking sheet that has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Or place the loaves in greased and lightly floured baguette pans. Sprinkle each loaf lightly with flour, and slash the top several times diagonally with a razor blade.
  3. Carefully pour about 1/2 cup of hot water into the pan on the oven floor. Slide the baguettes from the peel or the back of the baking sheet onto the baking stone in the oven. Or, place the baguette pan directly on the baking stone.
  4. Bake for about 20 to 22 minutes to a deep, golden brown. Tap the bottom of the loaves; a hollow sound means they're done. Or, insert an instant-read thermometer into the bread, and if the internal temperature is 205°F 210°F, the bread is done.
  5. Remove the bread from the oven and immediately place the loaves on a wire rack to cool completely before storing.

WOOD FIRED OVEN

  1. When the wood fired oven has reached 600°F, remove all the embers and coals from the oven, placing them in a fire-proof container. Brush the floor with a tampico floor brush. Wait until the temperature is down to 500°F.
  2. Uncover the loaves. Place them seam side down on a long-handled wood peel that has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Or place the loaves in greased and lightly floured baguette pans. Sprinkle each loaf lightly with flour, and slash the top several times diagonally with a razor blade.
  3. Slide the baguettes from the peel onto the oven floor. Or, place the baguette pan directly on the oven floor.
  4. Bake for about 18 to 22 minutes to a deep, golden brown. Tap the bottom of the loaves; a hollow sound means they're done. Or, insert an instant-read thermometer into the bread, and if the internal temperature is 205°F 210°F, the bread is done.
  5. Remove the bread from the oven and immediately place the loaves on a wire rack to cool completely before storing.

*Base Temperature: Original Cuisinart and KitchenAid type food processors, 130°F, Cuisinart Power Prep Plus 145ºF, Braun 150°F. For the Viking, try 140ºF to 145ºF

© Charles van Over, 2009

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