Sourdough baguettes

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Shatteringly crisp baguettes, full of flavour and with wonderfully open crumb structure: surely the epitome of baking simplicity! Don’t get me wrong, I love throwing in goodies such as olives, roasted garlic, fresh herbs and the like in with doughs, but the refreshing lack of embellishments here absolutely hit the spot.

About this recipe

I have baked my way through many sourdough baguette recipes over the years, tweaking things here and there, as well as incorporating other flavours as I feel at the time, but this is one I come back to time and time again, given to me by a friend many years ago.

My only tweaks are:

  • increasing the water content
  • reducing the amount of starter

The dough really doesn’t need much starter: while the dough doesn’t seem to rise a lot, and you might feel as it has all been a disaster, once it goes into the oven it will significantly expand.

Sourdough baking

I have waxed lyrical about the joys of baking sourdough bread on many occasions and I cannot stop recommending it.

My key post on sourdough, which includes detailed guidance for making a starter, making loaves and dealing with things such as handling the dough, shaping and scoring can be found here.

Patience please!

They baguettes are very easy to make, needing just a bit of gentle stretching and folding initially, although you do need to wait for up to 2 days for the very best flavour: and I really cannot underplay the flavour of these baguettes!

That said, the dough simply waits for you in the fridge, developing its flavour as it sits there, until you are ready to shape it.

Recipe: sourdough baguettes – makes 6

  • 500g strong plain white flour
  • 100g strong wholemeal flour (or use rye flour or all strong white flour)
  • 420ml water (cold tap water is absolutely fine!)
  • 90g active sourdough starter (fed up to a day earlier)*
  • 12g fine sea salt mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • fine semolina and/or rice flour to dust

*I normally feed it in the morning, so that I get to make up,the dough in the afternoon: see my notes on making sourdough starter in my sourdough bread post here.

(1) Mix the flours, starter, water to give a shaggy mass of dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave for an hour. Or even two hours: return when you are ready!

(2) Add the salt and its water and mix well into the dough with your fingers until fully incorporated.

(3) Do 4 stretch and fold sessions at about 30 minute intervals. The link to my sourdough post above gives the fuller details on stretching and folding. Ok, this will take a couple of hours in total but you can get on with other things…and the actual stretching and folding takes moments each time.

(4) Refrigerate for up to 48 hours, covered with clingfilm:  it will rise in the fridge very slowly, to about half its original volume. The longer you leave it, the tangier and more open crumbed the bread will be. Alternatively, you can leave at room temperature.

(5) Remove the dough from the fridge and leave to come to room temperature for an hour or two.

(6) Gently turn the dough out onto a work surface that has been lightly dusted with fine semolina and/or rice flour. Cut into six equal pieces.

(7) Lightly stretch each piece to a rectangle that is a little shorter than the length of the baguette tray and roll up fairly tightly like a Swiss roll. Using both hands, gently roll down the length of the dough, putting a little more pressure at the ends to taper them a little. You need to go gently as you want to keep as many air bubbles in the dough as possible.

(8) Lift onto baguette trays, seam-side down, that have either been liberally dusted with rice flour and/semolina or have a strip of greaseproof paper place on them. Alternatively, place on well dusted baking cloths, tea towels, crinkling the cloths to form ridges to hold the dough in shape.

(9) Dust the tops with more rice flour and/or semolina and cover loosely. Leave to prove at room temperature for an hour or two to slightly rise.

(10) While the baguettes are rising, preheat the oven to the highest setting and place solid roasting tin in the bottom of the oven (this will be for water to be poured on to create steam).

(11) Dust with a little rice flour and/or semolina, slash diagonally a few with a sharp knife. If using baking cloths/tea towels, remove gently onto a hot solid baking sheet: I normally pop one into the oven while the oven is preheating.

(12) Place in the oven and after 10 minutes turn the temperature down to 220C for a further 20-30 minutes until well risen and deep brown.

(13) Transfer to wire racks to cool. And then really enjoy these!

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