I am Italian, and of course I am proud of our cuisine. A never-ending discussion will start if you ask if it is better than the french one. But I admit that when we talk about bread, the cousins are superiors. And their most emblematic bread, the baguette is something simply delicious.
If you’ve read my article on how to make a sourdough Pain de Campagne, you may remember about the book “In Search of the Perfect Loaf” from Samuel Fromartz. The first article he wrote was actually about baguette.
I tried several times his method, which delivers good results, even tough I realized overtime how simplify it without a degradation of the result. By working the bread a little bit more we’ll reduce how the dough will stick to the hands and everywhere in the kitchen.
You can use 100% white flour, but I realized that semolina gives further crunchiness on the crust and the small amount of whole wheat provides a much intense flavour.
The ingredients for 4 small baguettes (or 2 regular ones):
- 90g sourdough starter
- 180g filtered water at ambient temperature
- 15g organic whole wheat flour
- 15g semolina flour
- 270g organic un-bleached all-purpose flour
- 6g sea salt from Sardinia
- 5g dry yeast
- Semolina flour to dust the baking sheet
Day 1, Morning
Refresh the Sourdough by mixing 30g ripe sourdough starter, 30g water and 30g flour. Let it ferment at ambient temperature about 6 hours.
Day 1, Afternoon
Pour starter and yeast in a bowl, add the water and mix together with a spatula. Add all the flours and incorporate with your hands. It will be sticky for a while, continue until the dough become smooth and shiny.
Make an indentation in the dough, put the salt on it and 15g of water. Do not mix. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit 20 minutes.
Moist your hands with warm water and, without removing the dough from the bowl, stretch and pull the dough out from the edges and fold them in the middle. This phase will strengthen the gluten. Do it about 10 times then turn the dough over so that the part that was in the bottom of the bowl is now on top. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit about 20 minutes.
Repeat three times the operation then place the bowl in a refrigerator on in a room no warmer than 55 ºF as long as 24 hours.
Put the stone on the middle rack of the oven, place a pan on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat at 480ºF (250ºC) for at least 60 minutes. Meantime, lightly dust with semolina flour the counter, place the dough over the flour cut in four parts (or two for regular sized baguette) and gently stretch them into a square 5×5 in (for regular baguette it will be 5×7). Pre-shape the dough by stretching and folding an edge to the middle then again folding to the bottom.
Let the dough rest about 10 minutes.
Shape the baguettes by pressing the dough gently and folding again with the seam side up. Use your fingers seal the seams and to sharp the two edges of the roll. Place each roll on some parchment paper, about 5 in one loaf from the other.
Roll up some kitchen towels, and place them in between the loafs, when proofing they will maintain the shape. Let the last proofing happen, about 30 minutes.
Time to bake!
Remove gently the towels from under the parchment paper and slide the loaf into a flour-dusted cutting board or a pizza peel.
Dust the top of each loaf with some flour and make 4 or 5 cuts angled about 20º on the top of each loaf with the help of a razor blade or a sharp office knife.
Slide the baguettes on the hot baking stone. Pour a half cup of hot water in the bottom pan of the oven; this will generate a lot of steam that will help the crust. Shut the oven door and let them cook for about 20±3 minutes.
They should be dark brown and crusty. Let them cook some minutes on a cooling rack.
They are best if eaten within 4 hours.