Wednesday, October 26, 2011


There just wasn't enough water. It's a typo, I'm sure of it. 500 scant g's of water almost ruined this batch of baguettes, I begrudgingly confess. You know by now that I feel that Tartine Bread can do no wrong.

Alas, I squeezed and smashed and kneaded, but the large amount of leftover flour in the bottom of the bowl got more and more crumbly and hard and grody. You know what I mean. My poor dough was practically screaming for a sip.

So I added more h2o. It's my blog. I'm allowed.

I didn't add so much as to obscure the formula. After all, I am baking my way through this book, so I try to keep the formulae as close to the book as possible. Well, as close as I'm able to. You know, when I get in there, I always monkey around and do something differently. I'm an artist. I have a vision. What can I say.

I thought it was me. Remember last week? When I blamed lack of coffee for getting the whole deal wrong? Well, it turns out that it wasn't lack of coffee that caused a mis-measure, because what happened this week happened last. The only difference is that this week, I did have my coffee first, and I was cognizant enough to fix things.

Once I ameliorated the water situation, this batch of baguettes was a hoot. Mine turned out to be more like Pixie Sticks, really, because the Tartine book declares that this formula makes 4, but I wanted a bushel of 'em, so I made 'em 8 and skinny. And listen to this, friends, the hootiness of the whole shindig was elevated because the appliance delivery guy brought me a brand new oven at a bright and shining 10 am. No more toggling, guessing, scorching the crust. No more lost steam from the oven door that never really closed all the way. Can you believe that I baked so much bread with a broken oven y'all? All these months. Yeah.

I learned some things that I wanted to relay to you. The number one consideration is the length of your baguettes in relation to your baking stone. Two of the loaves from my first batch of baguettes were more like S's than pin-straight spears, because I had to curve them to fit them onto the stone. Not a bad thing, if you're baking snakes for your 5 year old son's Jungle themed birthday party.

I don't have a son.

In order to circumvent the 'S factor', I found it helpful to keep a ruler extended to the ideal length of the baguettes (minus a couple of inches to cushion the expand factor) at the top of my work surface so that I wouldn't exceed the desired length of the loaves. I seriously recommend this little maneuver. You can see what I'm talking about in the series of shaping pix below.

The next thing I learned is that it is really easy to overhandle the dough, because, well, you have to handle the dough more to shape it into baguette form. Be light of finger when shaping the dough.

With that said, I must say that the shaping was not as difficult as I thought it would be, in terms of handling. In fact, the dough was uber easy to handle from autolyse through proof, and I even used flour on my board instead of olive oil. You know, I just had to conquer that fear. It was starting to hamper me.

The best part of baguettes, aside from sharing the lot, is that they bake in 30 minutes. Plus, an hour to an hour and a half is shaved off of the proofing time. So this means that baguettes are like the 'fast food' of the bread world.

But enough opinionated blather, here goes the how, the why and the whatever for.


The poolish and the levain times posed a bit of a conundrum. Levain, as we all know, takes 8 hours to fully ferment, the poolish only 4. But the book dictates that you can refrigerate your poolish overnight, which would bring it to the finish line right around when the levain is finished doing its thing. It all worked out just fine.

200g KA AP flour
200g 75 degree h2o
3g active dry yeast

Mix together the ingredients for the poolish, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

15g mature starter, I used my rye starter
200g KA AP flour
200g 80 degree h2o

Mix together the ingredients for the levain, cover and let it bloom at room temp for at least 8 hours.


All of the poolish
All of the levain
600g  KA AP flour
350g KA bread flour
50g KA whole wheat flour
600g + 50g h2o
25g salt

(NOTE, the Tartine book does not use whole wheat flour at all, it calls for 350g of bread flour and 650g of AP. I like seeing little flecks of whole wheat in my baguette. And again, the Tartine book calls for only 500g of water, plus 50g more when the salt is added. Trust me. It's not enough. I wish I would have remembered to photograph it. In fact, I will next week so you can see for yourselves because I plan to do more baguettes with some changes).

OK. Here we go:

Dissolve the poolish and levain in 600g of water. Add the flours and mix until you achieve a cohesive, shaggy mass. The dough will be quite firm. Autolyse for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, add the salt and the remaining 50g of water. Mix well. The dough will feel well hydrated, but still firm.

Let this stand for 30 minutes, which is the first 30 minutes of your 4-hour bulk fermentation, then perform one series of turns every 40 minutes, for a total of four series.

The turns look like this: dip your hand beneath the belly of the dough, fold the bottom portion of the dough up over the top, spin the bowl 1/3 turn, fold, then spin the bowl a 1/3 turn and fold again. This is one series.

Let the dough ferment for another hour and 20 minutes unmolested. Your bulk fermentation should total 4 hours.

fully fermented dough

When the 4 hour fermentation is complete, pour the dough out onto a floured workspace.

Divide the dough and shape it into rough rectangles (I divided mine into 8 pieces, if you have a wider oven and want to make longer baguettes, you can divide yours into 4 as the book directs). Let it rest on the bench for 30 minutes.


Take a rectangle.

Pull the bottom of the rectangle up to the center of the dough.

Stretch the sides of the dough to elongate it.

Pull down the ears.

Press the ears into the dough.

Pull down the top of the dough to the center.

Press the seam.

Fold this roll in half, and press down on the seam to close.

Now roll the dough back and forth, gently stretching, to elongate it into your baguette shape, keeping in mind the length of your baking stone.

Get the dough onto a couche that has been liberally dusted with brown rice flour, pulling up the slack between the baguettes to make snug compartments for each one.

Wet a towel with warm water and squeeze well, drape over the dough, then pull the leftover couche flap (or another dry towel) over the wet towel.

Let it proof for 2.5 to 3 hours, checking at 2.5 to see if it has fully proofed.

30 minutes before you plan to bake, preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a cast iron pan on the floor of the oven. At the last 5 minutes of preheat, fill a one-cup measure up with ice then fill with cold water. Dump this into the hot cast iron pan. Let the oven fill with steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough onto an inverted sheet pan (a peel will not be wide enough to hold the full length of the baguettes) that you have layered with a piece of parchment. Score the baguettes **and be sure to score horizontally. Scoring horizontally creates the ears on baguettes. When you slash straight down into the dough (like I did on 6 out of 8 of my baguettes) the score marks bleed open and do not develop prominent slashes.

Jerk the parchment onto the hot peel, close the door quickly, and turn the oven down to 475 degrees. Immediately open the oven door a hair and squirt the left wall with a water bottle whose nozzle has been set to 'stream'. Squirt until the side of the oven stops hissing, then repeat with the right wall. Do this every 4 minutes for the first 16 minutes. After the 16 minute steam, pull out the cast iron pan if it still has water in it. You no longer want steam in the oven. If it does not, leave it there so it's good and hot for the next batch of baguettes. Rotate the baguettes after 20 minutes for even browning. Bake until the loaves are brown. Mine took 30 minutes total. Repeat with the next batch, if you must bake in batches, and be sure to refrigerate the other doughs while they are awaiting their turn in the oven, so that they do not over proof.


Crust: Very crisp. A little on the rustic side. Didn't have the sheen that you get with commercial ovens with 'real' steam, but good, crisp crust nonetheless. Crumb: Open sesame! As you can see. Try not to overhandle the dough! Flavor: Pretty darn remarkable. But try not to overbake, especially if you make skinny loaves, to maintain a tender crumb. My French friend Francois love the flavor of the baguettes that I gave to him. Yes, he is my tester when it comes to all of my breads. So far so good for every one, including these! Ease of handling dough. Simple Notes: Be sure to keep a measuring stick on your workspace so you don't make your baguettes longer than your stone. Try not to overhandle the dough. This is tricky, and it will take more than one batch to work this out. Be careful not to overproof the dough, it proofs quickly. What I would do differently: I am undoubtedly going to try a lengthy and cold proof, because, well, you all know how much I love a good, long proof. I want my baguettes to get the lovely blisters and brittle crust that develop with long, cold fermentation.Remember, it's because  it allows the sugars to fully release from the flour and thus caramelize in the oven. I am also going to play around with the commercial yeast factor. How much and all of that good stuff. Whatever I do, I will report back at once. Frankly, I think the next few posts are going to be baguette posts, because the next couple of breads rely on a the formula for them. I have to perfect it if I am to move on and expect any sort of success with the upcoming breads.

To the staff of life!

This pixie post was spirited off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting.

All recipes in this post are derivative of those in the Tartine Bread book. I urge you to get your own copy.


  1. My gosh! Look at all that delicious bread and awesome shots! I love the step by step shots too!

  2. Russell, thanks so much for the note! And thank you for helping me discover your fabulous blog (brownie cookie bars?? how divine!) :)

  3. Fabulous baguettes! --Glenn

  4. Wow, what a beautiful crumb! When I grow up, I want to be able to make bread like that :o) I can't tell you how often I've brought Tartine home from the library but just chickened out, returning the book w/o baking anything from it. One of these days... Your blog sure is a good motivator!! :o)

  5. Aw, thank you Hanaa. The only way to learn bread is to do it, and to make mistakes ;)

    - Frankie

  6. Just my kind of baguettes! I love rustic bread. So tasty... I also love the detailed write-up and photos. Very helpful (and gorgeous to look at). Thank you! The S-shaped baguettes made me smile. I have had my share of those as well.

  7. I really enjoy reading your posts...very thoughtful write-ups and great photos! love your attitude towards are a hoot...

  8. i enjoy reading your experiments and i love your country bread. but you seem to have trouble forming baguettes and/or bake without the use of the combo cooker. with forming, it takes practice. with steaming your oven though there's a suggestion i have. you can learn how to steam your oven without doing your current method (or even chad's) by visiting this vid:

    -professional baker



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