Tuesday, October 10, 2017

French Baguette #BreadBakers

This month's Bread Bakers is being hosted by my friend and bread baker extraordinaire, Karen, of Karen's Kitchen Stories. Karen chose the theme Breads with a preferment.  Think sourdough which is most commonly known, but it could also be a poolish or a biga or a soaker.  Yes.....I was shaking my head as well.
"A preferment is a preparation of a portion of a bread dough that is made several hours or more in advance of mixing the final dough."  As defined by the King Arthur Flour website
The themes for this year were bid on and chosen way back in January.  Many of you know that I LOVE my bimonthly Cuisine at Home magazines.  Every 2 months, when the new one arrives, I pull out the past issues and place them all on my end table.  Then I thumb through them for seasonal recipes and ideas.

As luck would have it, the Jan/Feb issue from 2007, happened to have a recipe for French bread started with a poolish.  Hah...now I didn't even have to look up poolish, biga and soaker. I just marked the recipe and set it aside for nearly a whole year, making a note in my calendar so I would remember where to find it.

At the beginning of the month, I saw the note on my calendar and pulled out the magazine.  On Saturday, I made the poolish and put it in the fridge until Monday.  So far so good.

Monday morning, I pulled out the poolish and it was pretty and bubbly and fermented. Everything was going great.  I made the dough, using the poolish.  I let it rest for 15 minutes and then, using my kitchenaid and dough hook, let it knead for about 10 minutes.  Checking after about 8 minutes to see if it passed the windowpane test.

What's that? you ask.  You take a small piece of the dough and stretch it as thinly as possible, until you can "see" through it.  If it tears, the dough needs more kneading.  Mine needed 2 more minutes with the dough hook.

Then the dough needs to go into a warm spot for it's first rise.  Yep, this is a time consuming project so make sure you plan it for a day when you are planning on staying home much of the morning. It takes six individual rises and/or rests to make this bread and that doesn't include the poolish mixture made ahead of time.

The last rise requires placing rolled towels on each side of the baguettes so that they don't lose their shape.

Finally, after nearly 5 hours, it is ready to be baked.....but not so fast.....first you need to slice slashes across the bread.  Don't press, the recipe warns, or it will hamper with the rise while in the oven.  Nope, don't put it into the oven yet, first you need to mist it so that the surface is wet. Now....Now you can put it onto a preheated baking stone. Wait a minute....don't bake it yet....first mist the inside walls of your oven.  Okay, NOW you can push in the rack and close the oven door.....but only for 30 seconds.  Open the oven, mist again, close the oven, reduce the oven temp and YES....you can now bake the bread.

Bake them until they are a beautiful golden brown and you are done?  Well, not quite yet.  The recipe goes on to explain that the baguettes continue to cook while cooling.  Cutting into them too quickly will leave you with a moist bread instead of a light, airy bread.  Cool them at least 2 hours on a wire rack.  

Finally!!!!  Finally you can slice the bread, slather on some butter and enjoy.  It was amazing.  It was light and airy with a chewy crust, just like a good baguette should be.   Was it worth 3 days and 7 hrs. worth of work and anticipation?  Well, if it is important to you to have the satisfaction of baking and serving your own bread then, yes.  As for me?  I'm hitting the French Bakery while I am out running errands, taking walks, playing with Melody, shopping, visiting friends or whatever else I want and can find to do instead of spending 7 hrs. babysitting dough.

French Baguette
as instructed in Cuisine at Home, Issue #73

Poolish Starter:

1 1/4 c. bread flour
3/4 c. room temperature water (70-90*)
1/4 t. instant or active dry yeast, room temperature 

Rehydrate the yeast by mixing with 1 T. of water taken from the 3/4 cup.  Combine the flour, water and rehydrated yeast in a medium sized bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 3-4 hrs, until surface is bubbly.  Refrigerate overnight or up to three days before using in bread dough.


2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. active or instant dry yeast, room temperature
1/2 c. room temperature water (70-90*)
Poolish Starter (see above)

Rehydrate the yeast using 1 T. of water from the 1/2 cup.

Combine 1 1/2 c. of flour and salt in the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook.  Add the rehydrated yeast.  Stir the water into the poolish starter.  Stir the starter into the flour with a wooden spoon until blended.

Scrape the dough onto a well floured counter with a dough scraper. Using the dough scraper, keep turning the dough, adding the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, as needed, just until dough can be worked with your hands.  Turn the bowl over the dough on the counter and let rest for 15-20 minutes

Return the dough ball to the bowl and knead, using the dough hook and kitchenaid mixer, for 8-10 minutes. (alternately you can knead by hand for 15-20 minutes, not adding more dough but flouring hands as needed).  After 8 minutes, remove a small amount of dough and pull it slowly apart.  If it stretches thinly enough to see through the dough is ready, if not continue to knead, checking every minute until it stretches without tearing.

Place dough in bowl that has been well oiled (I used olive oil).  Turn the bread dough to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Degas the dough by folding one third into the center, fold the other half over the first half and flip it over in the bowl.  Cover and let rise for another hour.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Shape into rectangles, approx. 8" x 5".  Cover with plastic wrap that has been treated with cooking spray.  Let rest for 15 minutes.

Placing the dough of the baguette in front of you lengthwise.  Pull the dough from the far side over and around the loaf, tucking the end underneath the bottom.  Do this with both loaves.  Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and let rest.

Reshape the loaves as stated above and roll them into 14" long baguettes. Place them on a silicone mat or onto parchment paper that has been placed on an upside down baking sheet.  Roll two towels and place on each side of the baking pan under the mat or parchment paper.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap that has been treated with cooking spray and let rise for 30 minutes.

During this last rise, place a baking stone on the middle shelf of your oven and preheat to 475*.  (if you don't have a baking stone you can use an upside down baking sheet.).

Make 3-4 diagonal slices across the top of each loaf, using a straight razor or serrated knife.  Mist loaves heavily with hot water, until they are visibly wet.  Transfer the silicone mat or parchment containing the loaves onto the baking stone.  Mist the inside of the oven walls with 10 or 12 sprays of water.  Close the oven for 30 seconds, then open and mist the oven walls again.  Reduce oven temperature to 450* and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire racks before slicing.  Print Recipe

More Breads Made with a Preferment

BreadBakers#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com


  1. I am cracking up reading this! You made my day. Excellent loaves. I hope that they aren't your last!!

    1. My guests last night were very impressed....maybe during a cold winter storm when I'm not going anywhere anyway LOL

    2. I'm such a homebody... maybe that's why it relaxes me =)

  2. HA HA HA.. Wendy, I have a feeling you will be baby sitting that dough soon again :D I just know it.

    1. It shouldn't be as nerve wracking the second time around Ansh.

  3. Ha, ha. Sourdough bread is a labor of love. Your loaf looks great, though.

  4. I'm with you on this one. Even though I don't work and I don't really have much to do everyday this recipe just sounds too complicated. But I'll bet it tasted amazing! Nothing like warm bread slathered with butter. My mom used to make an Amish type bread that used a starter much like what you called polish.

    1. Yes, when I started making it, it did remind me of Amish Friendship bread. I had gotten the starter from my sil and used it for quite a while before I let it die.

    2. That sounds like the same one my mom used!

  5. So funny! I sent my friend a pic of the schedule for baking my loaf. Day 1 - do this. Day 2- do this for 5 minutes.Then this for 5 then 30, then wait, then 30...CRAZY! You have to really love it to keep doing it.

  6. Wendy I loved reading this post and most of all loved that patience baguette that is so crusty and airy. Beautiful bread, my favorite crusty bread.

  7. Hats off to your patience and labour Wendy. A perfect baguette was the reward. I would perhaps try it once and then after that find it easier to walk to the shop to buy it than baby sit it for so many hours. Having said that, if I want a perfect baguette in Mombasa then I would have to bake it as none of the bakeries sell the actual baguette.

    1. Well then I can recommend this recipe Mayuri because I can't believe it turned out so well.

  8. Lovely post and seems pretty time consuming but the perfectly made French baguettes look like it's well worth the time and effort.

  9. Your baguettes came out perfectly, and I am so impressed that you refer back to older magazines for recipes. I tend to mark them and then forget them! This was a another great challenge and I appreciated the push to try sourdough!

    1. It was a great challenge. It moved many of us out of our comfort zone.


I enjoy getting comments and feedback from my audience. Please let me know what you think, keeping in mind that we are all entitled to our own beliefs and opinions. I am happy to hear yours as long as they are stated nicely.