Step by step sourdough baguettes with a classic, crunchy sourdough crust and a light and airy, chewy interior.
I'm very glad you've made it to this sourdough baguette recipe post!
There is something so wonderful about french baguettes. The best baguettes have an abundance of crunchy crust teamed with an airy, light, and chewy inner. It's absolutely delicious.
Making this sourdough baguette recipe is not that hard and if you read on you will see. I will start with an outline of my timings and go into more detail later on.
The timings show a 'range' of time in which you can complete these steps. They don't have to be exact, there is flexibility.
To make this french bread you will need a large mixing bowl. This recipe makes 4 baguettes, so there is a lot of dough to work with.
A flatter ceramic dish will come in handy for the coil-folding part of the recipe.
A baguette pan can be used to hold the baguette shape, or you can use floured tea towels.
- Between 7 am-9 am: Make a levain. This is the term for the fed sourdough starter that you will use in the recipe. This can sit between 4-8 hours, depending on when you're ready to start the next step.
- Between 12pm-2pm: Autolyse. Flour and water are mixed and left to autolyse in a warm place for about an hour, then the levain and salt is added
- Between 2pm-6pm: Bulk fermentation time. First, you will stretch and fold the dough (by the method of coil fold), for two hours, every 15 minutes.
- After the last fold, the dough will sit for another two hours before pre-shaping.
- Between 6pm-8pm: Pre-shape. On a well-floured bench, split the dough into four and shape and roll it into balls. Leave the balls to sit on the bench for about around 2 hours until they pass the poke test. Use a finger to prod the dough. If it pops back out slowly and leaves a slight indentation then it's ready. This may take longer if your room is cooler.
- After this, the dough balls are shaped into baguettes and placed in the refrigerator for a cold-proof of at least 8 hours, but up to 20.
- The next day - Baking day.
Usually, when I make my sourdough bread, I feed my main starter freshly every morning and then use some of that to make my bread, leaving some behind to re-feed the next time I bake.
For this bread, I'll be making a separate starter using a little bit of my bulk starter, and then I'll use that entire thing in the baguettes.
I'm making it at a ratio of 1:1:1 (equal weights starter, flour, and water) because I want it to rise quickly.
If you need more time, or you want to start your levain the night before, I'd suggest feeding it at a higher ratio of flour and water. 1:2:2 or 1:3:3, this will slow the rise down so your starter doesn't peak and collapse.
You want to use it when it has at least doubled, if not tripled, but before it has peaked and collapsed. Use a starter with a low acid content, that is refreshed often.
For the autolyse, the main flour and water are mixed in a large bowl and left to sit. This helps form the gluten strands in the flour, which will make a much more pliable and easy to work with dough.
It's just mixed into a shaggy dough. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest. The proper working of the dough will happen later when the stretch and folds start.
If you are comfortable working with wetter doughs and you have a baguette tray so the bread can hold its shape, you can add a little extra water. It creates a more open crumb. The wetter dough is harder to handle but not if you perfect the coil fold (in the video below). The coil fold is made for a wet dough.
If you have no baguette trays and are relying on just towels to hold the shape, I would use a lower ratio of water. I have given two options in the recipe below.
After the autolyse period, add in the levain and salt. Mix it together with wet hands until it is well combined, then put it in a glass, stainless steel, or ceramic dish.
Now it is time to start folding which helps build the structure in the dough. Coil folding is my favourite technique to use for sourdough stretching as it keeps the face of the dough nice and smooth.
Coil folds are when you lift up a part of the dough and fold it onto itself. Here is a video of my second round of coil folds of the baguette dough. Always use wet hands to handle wet dough. This stops it from sticking to you.
You can also use a regular stretch and fold method if that works better for you.
After two hours of coil folding your dough should be smooth and bouncy. There will be some air bubbles forming on top of the dough.
Now leave it to sit for two hours before pre-shaping. The dough should be showing plenty of signs of activity after this period.
Before the actual shaping of the baguettes, they'll be shaped into balls of dough.
These are left to bulk ferment for another 1-2 hours on the bench, depending on room temperature.
The dough is split into four.
Take one piece and form it into a square. Take each of the four corners of the square, and bring them, one by one into the middle to create a little parcel. Flip this parcel upside down so it's seam side down and then cup this gently in between your hands and rotate it around and around on the bench to form a ball.
Leave the balls on a floured bench, covered with a tea towel.
Once your dough has sat, you can shape each dough ball into a baguette and place it in-between floured towels, either in a baguette tray or pushed together so they hold their shape. Then they'll go in the refrigerator for 8-20 hours.
To shape the dough, grab a dough ball and on a floured work surface gently form it into a horizontal rectangle. Take the bottom third of the dough and fold it up to meet the middle. Use your palm to push it down and seal it together. Rotate the dough 180 degrees, and do the same to the top third of the dough.
Now starting at the top right corner, fold over the top layer again with your left hand, but in small increments. Each bit you fold down, use the opposite palm of your hand to push it in and elongate the dough.
Then start rolling it on the bench to lengthen it to about 38cm/15 inches, tapering off at the ends to get that traditional baguette tip.
Place the baguettes on two generously floured kitchen towels or a baguette pan. If using towels, crease up the sides of the towels to create ‘walls’ for the baguettes to rest against.
Place them in the refrigerator for a long cold-proof. I cover mine with a tea towel.
When you are ready to bake the bread, preheat your oven and two oven trays to 230°C(446 °F) fan-bake. If you're using a standard oven, increase the oven temperature to 250°C(482 °F)
Once the oven is up to temperature, flour the hot oven trays generously. Remove the shaped baguettes from the fridge and gently tip the baguette from the floured towels onto the heated oven trays.
Removing the baguettes from towels
Flour a flat wooden board or something similar that’s flat, and lay it next to one of the baguettes. Lift up the tea towel on the side opposite to the wooden board, so it flips the dough upside down on the board. Transfer the baguette to the oven tray.
Sprinkle with a little flour and give at least three big angled slashes in the dough with a razor blade to allow the air to escape. How many slashes you do is up to you but if you don't do enough or they aren't deep enough, the air will burst out where you might not want it to. You can use a sharp knife but this can tear the dough.
Place a large bowl of water or ice cubes in a tray at the bottom of the oven alongside the baguettes. This will create the steam that will let the baguettes rise to their full potential.
Bake the baguettes for 30-35 minutes until they are browned to your liking. Take care when opening the oven door as steam can rush out.
Let them cool on a wire rack before serving. Or, break the sourdough rule and tear into the crispy crust of a hot baguette!
Have you made this? Tag me and let me know! @home_grown_happinessnz
If you’re after a traditional sourdough loaf, try my Basic Sourdough Loaf.
- 70 g sourdough starter
- 70g flour
- 70g water
- 900g strong all-purpose flour or bread flour (minimum 11% protein)
- 600-650 ml water
- (650ml is at 75% hydration which is a wetter dough. 600ml is the stiffest with a 70% hydration, and this is the easiest shape.)
- 15g salt
- Start off by making your levain. Mix the 70g starter, 70g flour and 70g water and stir well until completely mixed. Add it to a clean jar and cover it with a loosely balanced lid. Leave it to sit for at least 4 hours until it has well-doubled, but not collapsed. *See notes on starter in the post above.
- Once your levain is well underway and at least nearly doubled, you can start the autolyse.
- Mix the 900g flour and the required amount of water and use wet hands to bring it together into a rough ball of dough. Leave this to sit for around an hour.
- After it has sat and the levain has doubled, add the salt and levain to the dough and mix it well together using wet hands. Transfer it to a glass or ceramic tray that's a bit flatter. This will make folding easier than a large bowl. If you are just doing regular stretch and folds, the dough can stay in the bowl.
- For two hours, coil-fold or stretch and fold the dough every 15 minutes. See the video in the blog post on how to do a coil fold.
- After two hours of folding, leave the dough to ferment in a warm spot for two hours.
- Gently tip the dough from the tray onto a lightly floured workbench and cut it into 4 even pieces.
- Take one piece and form it into a square. Take each of the four corners of the square, and bring them, one by one into the middle to create a little parcel. Flip this parcel upside down so it’s seam side down and then cup this gently in between your hands and rotate it around and around on the bench to form a ball.
- Leave the balls on a floured bench, covered with a tea towel, for around 1-2 until slightly puffed and pass the poke test. Use a finger to prod the dough. If it pops back out slowly and leaves a slight indentation then it's ready. This may take longer if your room is cooler.
- Once your dough has sat, it's time to shape.
- To shape the dough, grab a dough ball and place it seam side up on a floured work surface. Gently form it into a horizontal rectangle. Take the bottom third of the dough and fold it up to meet the middle. Use your palm to push it down and seal it together. Rotate the dough 180 degrees, and do the same to the top third of the dough. Now starting at the top right corner, fold over the top layer again with your left hand, but in small increments. Each bit you fold down, use your right palm to push it in and elongate the dough. Lengthen them to around 38cm/16inches.
- Then start rolling it on the bench to lengthen it, tapering off at the ends to get that traditional baguette tip. It's helpful to brush some of the flour away before this step of the shaping, as the baguettes will need to grip on the bench a little bit to create surface tension in the roll.
- Place the baguettes in a baguette pan or in-between generously floured kitchen towels. Crease up the sides of the towels to create ‘walls’ for the baguettes to rest against. Then they’ll go in the refrigerator for 8-20 hours.
- When you are ready to bake the bread, preheat your oven and two oven trays (or baking stones) to 230°C(446 °F) fan-bake. If you're using a standard oven, increase the oven temperature to 250°C(482 °F)
- Once the oven is up to temperature, generously flour the hot oven trays. Remove the baguettes from the fridge and gently tip the bread from the floured towels onto the heated oven trays.
- Give at least 3 big angled slashes in the dough with a razor blade to allow the air to escape. How many slashes you do is up to you but if you don’t do enough or they aren’t deep enough, the air will burst out where you might not want it to.
- Place a few ice cubes or a small dish of water in the oven alongside the baguettes to create the steam that will set the crust.
- Bake the baguettes for 30-35 minutes until browned to your liking.
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