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Author Notes: This recipe/process is my attempt to streamline the practice of making chewy crusty baguettes for frequent baking. The idea is to simultaneously mix the dough for today's baguettes while refreshing the starter for tomorrow's.
I first learned how to make sourdough baguettes by following Dan Leader's recipe from his book Local Breads, which uses a 70% hydration starter. Then I started making a recipe by a woman who goes by the username txfarmer; her outstanding recipe called 36+ hours baguettes can be found at a website called The Fresh Loaf. PLEASE LOOK AT HER RECIPE IF NO-KNEAD SOURDOUGH BREADS INTEREST YOU. Her recipe uses a 100% starter and makes four smaller size baguettes. Instead of kneading she does what are called S&F, or stretch-and-folds, which are an excellent method, I do more of roll because I do it one-handed.
Shaping high hydration dough into baguettes can be tricky and there are lots of videos online. Some people don't do any shaping; they simply pull a blob of dough into a long log shape. I like to pull the piece of dough into a rectangle and fold it lengthwise once, then seal with the outside edge of my hand. Finish up with a little pull then a little roll to smooth out and elongate. In any case you want to handle the dough as little as possible before baking.
This "system" means no kneading, no mixer, no converting starters, less bowls to wash, less hand washing, etc.
Makes 3 baguettes
- 160 grams refreshed starter (about 3/4 c. +1 T. when bubbles are pressed out)
- 440 grams unbleached AP flour (about 3-1/2 cups)
- 350 grams filtered water (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 12 grams salt (about 2 tsp.)
- 10 - 15 grams or so olive oil for the bowl (a few teaspoons)
- two shot glasses or tiny bowls for salt and oil - optional
- 4-5 ice cubes for baking
- 1 cast iron skillet for steaming
- REFRESH THE STARTER: 12-24 hours before baking refresh the 25 grams starter with the flour and water. Allow to double in volume then store in refrigerator until ready to make dough; can store in fridge for up to two days.
- MIX THE DOUGH: Mix the flour and water until it becomes a "shaggy mass." Allow to rest in fridge for 12-24 hours. Remove a portion of this dough that weighs 25 grams and store it in a lidded container; this will be a new starter, see Step 9 below.** The remainder of the dough will be the baguettes.
- GET READY TO NOT KNEAD: Pull dough and starter out of the fridge and let warm up a little for about an hour. Pour salt and oil into shot glasses if desired. It makes the following steps more manageable.
- ADD STARTER & SALT TO DOUGH: After it has rested overnight in the fridge the "shaggy mass" will be now very smooth and supple. With a large stainless steel spoon or rigid plastic spatula incorporate the starter and the salt. Mash the dough to the sides of the bowl and add the starter in small chunks. Sprinkle in about half of the salt and mash. Scrape sides and fold over the center. Mash down and add remaining salt. Scrape and fold again and allow to rest. The starter and salt does NOT need to be well incorporated at this point.
- STRETCH AND ROLL: Scrape dough out of the bowl with a spatula. Stretch into a horizontal oblong about 24" in length and let the right end drop into the bowl. Pick up right edge of dough with right hand and roll dough up from one to the other. Grab each coiled end of roll and stretch; roll ups and pinch ends then wrap under. Drizzle a little oil on dough, wipe it around top of dough with your hand and place in bowl oil side down. Allow to sit for a half hour.
- 3 HOURS - MORE STRETCH & ROLLS: Continue to make two stretch-and-rolls as above every 1/2 hour or so for about three hours; all salt should be incorporated into dough by third or fourth S&R. Oil dough as needed after each S&R. Cover and store in the fridge for another 12-24 hours.
- DIVIDE & SHAPE: Turn cold dough onto an oiled surface. Cut into three equal pieces and shape each into a baguette. Place in a linen or parchment paper couche to proof, about 2-4 hours, see poke test below. See my separate post on making a couche and shaping high hydration dough baguettes.
- POKE TEST: Stick an index finger into the loaf. If dough springs back and dent disappears they are not ready, or under-proofed. If dent stays and does not spring back at all then loaves are over-proofed and will not rise fully. But if the dent fills in about halfway then they are ready to bake.
- SLASH & BAKE: Place cast iron skillet and baking stone - or upside baking sheet - in the oven and preheat until 460 degrees Fahrenheit. Slash baguettes with a serrated bread knife and slid onto hot stone/sheet, drop ice cubes into the skillet and close oven door, lower temp to 450. Bake 10 minutes; turn stone/sheet around. Lower temp to 425 and bake another 11 or 12 minutes. Allow to cool one hour before eating.
- **NEW STARTER: Allow container of starter to develop at room temperature for 4-8 hours or until doubled in volume, then place in fridge for next time. It can be stored for about a week or so before it will need to be refreshed. This will need to be refreshed before baking again.
Refreshing the starter
- 25 grams 80% hydration starter* (about 1/4 cup)
- *note: after first round the starter above will be already be measured out and stored in fridge, see Step 9 below**
- 75 grams unbleached AP flour (about 3/4 c. + 2 tsp.)
- 60 grams filtered water (about 1/4 c. + 2 tsp.)