Freshly made baguettes are fantastic, a real treat, but one of the hardest breads to make. I started making sourdough baguettes from scratch once I created my own sourdough and starting baking breads. I didn’t attempt to make them until I had lots of experience with bread dough. (I made the baguettes above in the UK).
Baguettes are tricky because of the shaping and the high hydration in the dough. The wet dough is tougher to handle, and there is a lot of shaping in making a perfect baguette. After making my own sourdough starter, researching the best sourdough baguette recipes (I used one from my bread friend, David, from The Fresh Loaf site) and watching videos on how to shape a baguette, I finally took the plunge. I made many attempts before getting the results you see on this page.
I use a special baguette baking rack, which makes the handling and baking a bit easier. The dough “proofs” right on the rack, covered in a plastic bag. Right before popping in the oven, I scored it with three slashes that are parallel.
I didn’t do the greatest job shaping these, as you can see this one has a bit of an hourglass shape–that’s what happens when you are shaping the dough without even pressure!
I enjoy baking the baguettes in the U.S. and the U.K. You might be able to tell that the baguettes pictured below were made in England; the ones on top are California baguettes. A bit of an uneven bake on the ones below! I do see differences in the flour in the U.S. vs the U.K., so I am always learning as I go.
I have baguette “tools” in the U.S. and U.K.
The “crumb” or holes in a baguette are very open. The higher hydration in the dough causes it be more open and airy.
With a slight change in the recipe, you can make Italian demi-loaves, photos below. These are a bit shorter and fatter and have a slightly different flour content.
I made these Italian demi-loaves in California.
I love it when they bust open.
So, here’s my baguette advice. If you are just starting out making your own sourdough, begin with an easy, round loaf. Practice your skills before you attempt the baguettes. When you’re prepared, try it and keep practicing and perfecting your techniques. Don’t get discouraged! I guarantee that you will love the baguettes, hot from the oven!