Authentic Baguettes at Home
Why This Recipe Works
For a homemade baguette that rivals the best from Parisian boulangeries, we took a trip to France to learn firsthand what it takes. The problem with most published recipes, we discovered, is that all the small details that matter are glossed over. For an authentic wheaty flavor, we add a bit of whole-wheat flour (sifted to remove some of the larger pieces of bran that would otherwise add bitterness and make the loaf dense) to the white flour. Mixing the dough in a machine and then using a series of gentle folds to develop the dough creates the perfect tender, irregular internal crumb. Next we employ a long, slow rise in the refrigerator, which delivers the complex flavor of fermentation while making the recipe flexible, since we can bake the loaves anytime within a three-day window. To shape the loaves perfectly without overworking the dough, we employ a multistep approach that gradually transforms them into baguettes. Finally, we ensure a crispy, crackly crust by moistening the couche, the pleated linen cloth that holds the loaves as they proof, and by starting the loaves beneath a pair of upturned disposable roasting pans to trap steam as it evaporates from the exterior of the dough.