184g (11/2 cups) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour
170g Water (3/4 cup)
A pinch of instant yeast
298g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 to 2 tsp tsp salt
All of the Poolish
170g water (3/4 cup)
First make the poolish 12-16 hours before making the dough. Combine the ingredients of the poolish and let it rise at room temperature, covered for 12-16 hours. It should rise slightly on top and look aerated and bubbly. Instead of King Arthur flour, this time I used ‘dr gram’ Unbleached Organic Bread-Making Wheat Flour.
The next day, after 12-16 hours, from the dough list, mix the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Add in all of the poolish. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you’ve made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. Knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2 of a stand mixer if you use one. The dough should be sticky, but should come off the sides of the bowl. If needed, you may have to add very small amounts of water or dough to accomplish this. I had to add about 2 Tbs more of flour.
Transfer the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let the dough rise for 2 hours. During this time fold the dough a few times to strengthen the gluten.
Divide the dough into three pieces and gently form the pieces into rough logs. I weigh the pieces to get even sized loaves. Rest these for 20 minutes, and then shape them into baguettes. Proof the baguettes, covered, on the baguette pan until they are puffy taking 30-45 minutes. It’s suggested that the baguettes be shaped to about 16 inches long, but I make mine shorter to fit my bread bin.
Pre-heat the oven with your baking stone if you have one to 230˚C and place a shallow metal tray in the oven for streaming. Before placing the loaves into the oven, slash the tops of the loaves several times about 1 cm deep. Spritz the loaves with water and place them in the oven.
Bake baguettes at 230°C for 20-30 minutes, until the crusts are brown and golden.
If the baguettes are shaped properly (meaning there is enough surface tension to hold the shape) you don’t need a pan. In fact, the pan alone will never be a good substitute for a hot stone. The best crust and crumb come from baking on a hot stone with steam, just like with any artisan breads.
The primary difference between making bread with a starter and making bread with the direct or straight yeast method is that breads made with starters, require much more time to prepare, but the flavour and texture of the bread is almost impossible to achieve with other leavening methods. Bread made with starters like poolish and biga also tends to keep better, compared to bread made from straight doughs. Pre-ferments are important for best tasting bread – You can call it a starter, biga, poolish, preferment, or sponge – they all do sort of the same job and only really differ by water content.