It might seem a little weird for you to find a recipe for French baguettes on a German food blog. But let me tell you: German people love baguettes and they are insanely popular here. I would pick a French baguette over a plain breakfast bread roll any day.
There’s almost no German bakery where you can’t find baguettes on the menu. It’s a standard item that every bakery has to offer.
A visual guide to baguettes
Preparing the baguette dough and leaving it to rise is not any different from making regular bread. What is special is the shaping technique. To succeed, you need to do a two-step shaping. First, roll the dough into a cylinder. Then leave it to rest for 10 minutes so the dough can relax before you elongate it. Also, be careful to not deflate the dough!
My shaping technique is not complicated as you can see in the pictures below. I work quickly and efficiently when shaping baguettes.
Scoring the proofed baguettes is easy. You can see the traditional scoring pattern in the picture below. I always lightly grease my scoring lame with a bit of oil so that it doesn’t stick to the dough.
Look at that oven spring. Incredible! These baguettes are made with the addition of 0.5 % soybean flour. You can see that they showed more oven spring than the baguettes shown in the recipe picture. The baguette in the recipe picture was baked without the soybean flour. Both variants are delicious. However, if you have it at hand, I highly recommend adding soybean flour to baguette dough.
And lastly, it’s time to inspect the end result. Looks wonderful to me. If you compare this batch to the baguette shown in the recipe picture then you can see the effect of soybean flour. Amazing! With or without soybean flour, baguettes are amazing which is why I love to bake them regularly!
Important points to consider when making baguettes
If you want to follow the recipe exactly, then it is important that you measure the temperature of your dough with a thermometer. That is because otherwise, my recipe is worthless. If your dough is cooler or warmer than mine, then your proofing time will be different. If you’re experienced, you should have no problem adjusting the proofing time. But if you are new to baguette baking, it’s best to follow the time and temperature guidelines.
My baguette recipe uses a hydration level of roughly 70 %. That is conservative as far as baguettes go. At 70 % hydration, the dough is only slightly sticky and can easily be scored. The crumb is irregular and open. If you’d like to achieve an even airier crumb, then you can try to increase the hydration to 75/ 80 %. However, at higher hydration levels, it becomes harder to shape and score the dough nicely.
I use organic German Type 550 flour from a local mill. This flour is only moderately strong by German standards. It has 9.8 % protein. If you’re from the US, I would go with all-purpose flour or only moderately strong bread flour unless you like your baguettes to be chewy. If you can source it, you can use the French Type 650 flour which is very similar to the German Type 550 flour.
High gluten flour isn’t required to bake baguettes. In fact, I prefer the soft crumb that weaker flours lend to my bread. The organic wheat flours that I bake with have around 10 % protein. Not a lot by American standards but they make great bread.
For the poolish:
- 0.5 grams (0.02 ounces) fresh yeast
- 90 grams (3.2 ounces) water, at 30 °C (85 °F)
- 90 grams (3.2 ounces) white soft wheat flour (German Type 550)
For the main dough:
- 90 grams (3.2 ounces) water, at 25 °C (78 °F)
- 165 grams (5.8 ounces) white soft wheat flour (German Type 550)
- 1.5 grams (0.05 ounces) soybean flour (optional)
- 6 grams (0.2 ounces) salt
- 1 gram (0.04 ounces) fresh yeast
Prepare the poolish:
- Dissolve the yeast in the water and mix with the flour until no dry spots remain. Cover and leave to ferment at room temperature for 2 hours. Transfer to the fridge and leave to ferment for 18 more hours.
Prepare the main dough:
- In a bowl, combine the poolish, water, wheat flour, and soybean flour for the main dough. Mix until no dry spots remain. Cover and leave to sit for 20 minutes (autolyse). Add the salt and fresh yeast and gently knead the dough until smooth, about 6-10 minutes by machine. It should pass the windowpane test. If the dough tears if you try to stretch it, continue kneading it. The kneaded dough should have a temperature of about 23-25 °C (73-77 °F).
- Cover the kneaded dough and leave it to bulk ferment for 1.5 hours. Stretch and fold it twice. After 30 minutes and after 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven with a baking steel or pizza stone inside to the highest setting that it can go. Place a roasting tray filled with water on the bottom to generate steam.
Shape, proof, and bake the baguettes:
- On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into two pieces. Flatten the dough pieces lightly without deflating them too much. Roll into cylinders and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Working with the palm of your hands, roll the dough into a baguette shape. Lightly dust a baker’s couche with flour and place the baguettes on it to proof them.
- Proof the baguettes for about 30-45 minutes. Slash with a sharp knife at a 30-45 degree angle.
- Transfer the baguettes into your pre-heated oven. Lightly spray the surface of the baguettes and the entire oven with water. Bake the baguettes at 250 °C (480 °F) for about 15-20 minutes or until browned to your liking.