Sourdough Baguettes via @theperfectloaf

Sourdough Baguette Recipe

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I’ve fallen hard for these pointy sticks. Their beautifully exaggerated shape starts with a thick center and transitions into dangerously sharp ends. Crust color ranges from the periphery of black to almost-too-light, a contrast that elicits stares. A creamy and tender interior that’s so porous it soaks the butter inevitably spread thick during moments of eager anticipation. A sourdough baguette recipe is a tricky thing, but when everything lines up just right, all your past shortcomings discovered in testing vanish in an instant.

As with many things with baking, they simply require practice.

These sourdough baguettes do take concerted effort and practice, but the results are absolutely worth the work. Ok, technically, these are demi-baguettes, given their shorter stature and reduced dough weight, but the nature of this bread holds to the ideal. The slender shape, thin crust, and delicate interior simply exude baguette, even if their specs are a little skewed.

I’ve been working on this recipe relentlessly, and if you follow me on Instagram, you know this, but all the work put into these revolves around the simple fact baguettes are just plain challenging.

Sourdough Baguettes via @theperfectloaf
One cannot deny the beautiful crumb on these sourdough baguettes. It, too, can be yours.

I find that beyond the required attention to fermentation, flour selection, hydration adjustments, cold versus warm bulk decisions, and seeking that correct proof point, there’s the matter of coercing the dough delicately into the correct shape.

As with many things with baking, they simply require practice.

Their challenge stems from the fact that even small shaping mishaps will show themselves quite clearly in the end result. There’s a reason why many bakers consider baguettes to be one of the hardest breads to make. A benchmark of sorts. But even if the shape or the interior isn’t exactly perfect, they’re always delicious. Plus, the more you make them, the more the process slows down internally, and the more all the small adjustments add up to large improvements.

Because shaping these sourdough baguettes can be frustrating at times, I’ve written an entire guide to shaping baguettes—complete with a video (which is also included below) to help illustrate things in real time. Be sure to give that a read—and even a bookmark—for when you’re in the kitchen and need a helping (virtual) hand.

Let’s talk about flour.

Sourdough Baguette Recipe Crust and Crumb

Sourdough Baguette Flour Selection

Sourdough Baguette Recipe Baking Schedule

In my early iterations of this formula, I worked in 10% spelt flour. My intention was to introduce more extensibility in the dough along with the classic and wonderful flavor of spelt. After many trials, I decided to drop the spelt mostly because, with medium-protein white flour and hydration at around 70%, coupled with a length autolyse, this dough had plenty of extensibility.

Baking Schedule

The entire process is split up over the course of two days. This affords you the option to bake the baguettes the next day when you want them—for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner.

Similar to my Kamut demi-baguette recipe, I utilized a short warm bulk fermentation followed by a longer, cold bulk fermentation. When I tested cold-proofing these baguettes in shape, the results always yielded a slightly thicker crust compared to a warm final proof. Further, a cold bulk also adds to the flexibility and convenience of this dough.

Sourdough Baguettes via @theperfectloaf

Sourdough Baguette Recipe

Update: I recently updated this sourdough baguette. It is now the same recipe that’s in my sourdough cookbook—and believe me, the results are significantly better than the previous version!

Vitals

Total Dough Weight2,000 grams
Pre-fermented Flour6.5%
Hydration70.0%
Levain in the final dough17.4%
Yield6 x 325g sourdough baguettes (appx 14″ long)

Total Formula

Note that this is the Total Formula which lets you know all the ingredients, in baker’s percentages, that you need for this recipe. Scroll down to the Method section for what you need in each step.

Desired dough temperature: 78°F (25°C) (see my post on the importance of dough temperature).

WeightIngredientBaker’s Percentage
1143gWhite flour (about 11.5% protein; Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft Plus)100.0%
743gWater 1 (Levain and autolyse)65.0%
57gWater 2 (Mix)5.0%
21gSalt1.8%
37gRipe sourdough starter, 100% hydration3.3%
All of the ingredients you’ll need for this baguette recipe.

Method

1. Prepare the levain – 9:00 a.m

WeightIngredientBaker’s Percentage
74gWhite flour (about 11.5% protein; Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft Plus)100.0%
74gWater 1100.0%
37gRipe sourdough starter, 100% hydration50.0%

Use your sourdough starter when ripe, mix the above ingredients in a jar, and leave them covered at a warm temperature, 74-76°F (23-24°C), to ripen for 5 hours.

Sourdough Baguettes via @theperfectloaf

2. Autolyse – 1:00 p.m.

WeightIngredient
1068gWhite flour (about 11.5% protein; Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft Plus)
668gWater 1

Warm or cool the autolyse water so that the temperature of the mixed dough meets the FDT (final dough temperature) of 78°F (25°C) for this recipe. Place the flour and water 1 in a large bowl. Use wet hands to mix until no dry bits remain; the dough will be shaggy and loose. Use a bowl scraper to scrape down the sides of the bowl to keep all the dough in one area at the bottom. Cover the bowl and place it near your levain for 1 hour.

When making sourdough baguettes, I like to use the autolyse technique to help gain extensibility in the dough and also reduce the total mixing time.

3. Mix – 2:00 p.m.

WeightIngredient
57gWater 2
21gFine sea salt
186gRipe levain

Add the salt and levain to the top of the dough that was just in autolyse and use a splash of water 2 to moisten. With wet hands, mix thoroughly. Add the remaining water if the dough feels like it can handle it. Next, knead the dough for a few minutes using either the slap and fold technique or folds in the bowl. For this dough, I kneaded for about 5 minutes until the dough smoothed and became elastic.

With sourdough baguettes, I find spending a few more minutes developing the dough upfront helpful in achieving a more open crumb. A spiral mixer can help mix this dough quicker and more effectively.

Transfer the dough to a bulk fermentation container and cover.

4. Warm Bulk Fermentation – 2:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

This warm bulk fermentation will last a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes. During this phase (of the two-step bulk fermentation phase), give the dough three sets of stretch and folds, starting 30 minutes after the beginning of bulk. After the last set, let the dough rest untouched until the full two and a half hours.

5. Cold Bulk Fermentation – 4:45 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. (next day)

After the warm bulk fermentation, place the covered bulk fermentation container in the refrigerator overnight.

6. Divide and Preshape – 9:00 a.m. (next day)

My baguette dough, when removed from the fridge, had plenty of activity but was not exceedingly gassy or risen. The dough was active yet relaxed.

Sourdough Baguettes via @theperfectloaf

Gently scrape the dough from the bulk container to an un-floured work surface. The dough will feel cold, slightly damp, and firm. Divide into 325g pieces and preshape the pieces of dough into rounds (my preference) or rough tubes. Because the dough is cold and firm, very little bench flour is needed to pre-shape. 

Let the preshaped dough rest for 35 minutes, uncovered.

7. Shape – 9:50 a.m.

Prepare a board with a couche (aka baker’s linen) or a large kitchen towel and place this next to your work surface.

Sourdough Baguette Recipe dough resting on couche.
Couche laid out on top of a thin shaping board to hold shaped baguette dough.

At one side, where you will start laying down shaped baguettes, roll a section so that it stands up by itself, creating a strong edge (see above). Then thoroughly and evenly dust flour on a 3- to 4-inch-wide strip down the couche, from farthest from you to nearest, where the first piece of shaped dough will sit.

After the preshaped rounds have rested for 35 minutes, shape each piece into a long baguette, approximately 14″ long for the home oven (or as wide as your baking surface).

Watch the quick video below for my step-by-step approach to shaping.

Once you’ve shaped a piece, place it in the flour-dusted channel on the couche, seam side up. Then, using both hands at the edges, pick up and drag a little of the couche toward the dough (like making a pleat in the couche) so that it forms a matching wall of the channel to hold the dough while it’s proofing. Once the new wall is formed, it will look like the dough is nestled between two straight walls.

Flour a new strip down the couche on the other side of the newly formed wall in preparation for another piece of dough. Repeat this process for all the preshaped rounds.

Shaping baguettes requires practice through repetition (see my baguette shaping guide page for more instructions). Try not to get discouraged when shaping; take it slow and focus on one motion at a time.

8. Proof – 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Keep your proofing board away from drafts, as the dough can quickly develop a crust on the outside. It may help to drape the edges of your linen over the shaped baguettes or cover them loosely with plastic. If you cover it with plastic, be aware the dough may stick.

Proof the pieces until they pass the poke test, about 45 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.

Sourdough Baguettes via @theperfectloaf
Covering the shaped pieces of baguette dough with the end of the couche to prevent drying.

9. Bake – 10:45 a.m.

Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C) for an hour with baking stone/steel inside.

Divide the bake into two sessions if you only have one baking surface. Bake three baguettes first, and chill the rest in the fridge for the second session.

Prepare a pizza peel with parchment paper matching the width of your baking surface.

Grab and end of the couche and pull it out, moving the piece of dough away from the rest. Then, using a dough transfer board (a smaller pizza peel or a small cutting board could also work), place the board to the inside of the baguette (the side closest to the rest of the dough pieces). With the hand holding the couche, quickly flip the dough onto the peel by tugging up and slightly over the transfer board. The baguette should now be seam-side down on the transfer board.

Repeat until you have three pieces on the peel.

Score each baguette with three overlapping slashes (see below).

How to score a baguette
Scoring a sourdough baguette with three cuts.

Transfer the dough onto the baking surface in the oven using the parchment paper. Next, steam the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the steaming pans and bake for another 20-25 minutes until done.

Cool on a rack. Repeat the process for the remaining baguettes in the fridge.

I steamed my oven in my usual way, described here in my post on how to steam your home oven for baking.

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Sourdough Baguettes via @theperfectloaf

Sourdough Baguette Recipe

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  • Author: Maurizio Leo
  • Prep Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 24 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 baguettes
  • Category: Lunch, dinner, snack
  • Cuisine: French
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Description

These exquisite sourdough baguettes have a delicate wheaty flavor with malty notes from the caramelized crust. They’re perfect for breakfast (pan con tomate anyone?), lunch, or even just a snack with a spread of butter on top.


Ingredients

Levain

  • 74g white flour (about 11.5% protein)
  • 74g water
  • 37g ripe sourdough starter, 100% hydration

Autolyse

  • 1068g white flour (about 11.5% protein)
  • 668g Water

Main Dough

  • 57g water
  • 21g fine sea salt
  • 186g ripe levain

Instructions

  1. Levain (9:00 a.m.)
    In a small bowl mix the Levain ingredients. Cover the jar and keep it at a warm temperature for 5 hours.
  2. Autolyse (1:00 p.m)
    In a mixing bowl, add the Autolyse ingredients until no dry bits remain. Cover the bowl and let rest for 1-hour.
  3. Mix (2:00 p.m.)
    Add the salt and levain to the top of the dough in autolyse and use a splash of the remaining water to moisten. With wet hands, mix thoroughly. Add the remaining water if the dough feels like it can handle it. Knead the dough for a few minutes using either the slap and fold technique or folds in the bowl until the dough smooths and becomes elastic. Transfer the dough back into the bowl. Transfer the dough to a bulk fermentation container and cover.
  4. Warm Bulk Fermentation (2:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.)
    This dough will require 2 sets of stretches and folds during bulk fermentation at 30-minute intervals. After the second set, let the dough rest, covered, for the remainder of bulk fermentation.
  5. Cold Bulk Fermentation (4:45 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.)
    After the warm bulk fermentation, place the covered bulk fermentation container in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Divide and Preshape (9:00 a.m., the next day)
    Gently scrape the dough from the bulk container to an un-floured work surface. Divide into 325g pieces and preshape the pieces of dough into rounds (my preference) or rough tubes. Because the dough is cold and firm, very little bench flour is needed to pre-shape. Let the preshaped dough rest for 35 minutes, uncovered.
  7. Shape (9:50 a.m.)
    Prepare a couche and dust it with flour. Shape each piece of dough into a baguette shape.
  8. Proof (10:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.)
    Proof the pieces until they pass the poke test, about 45 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.
  9. Bake (10:45 a.m.)
    Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C) for an hour with baking stone/steel inside. Divide the bake into two sessions if you only have one baking surface. Bake three baguettes first, and chill the rest in the fridge for the second session. Prepare a pizza peel with parchment paper matching the width of your baking surface. Grab and end of the couche and pull it out, moving the piece of dough away from the rest. Then, using a dough transfer board (a smaller pizza peel or a small cutting board could also work), place the board to the inside of the baguette (the side closest to the rest of the dough pieces). With the hand holding the couche, quickly flip the dough onto the peel by tugging up and slightly over the transfer board. The baguette should now be seam-side down on the transfer board. Repeat until you have three pieces on the peel. Score each baguette with three overlapping slashes. Transfer the dough onto the baking surface in the oven using the parchment paper. Next, steam the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the steaming pans and bake for another 20-25 minutes until done. Cool on a rack. Repeat the process for the remaining baguettes in the fridge.

Sourdough Baguette Recipe FAQs

Why are these scaled to 325g?

This dough weight makes for baguettes that fit my home baking surface at 14″ long. It makes for a fatter baguette in the end, but one that’s perfect for the home oven.

Why is scoring difficult with baguettes?

One (of the many) reasons I like to do a cold-proof with almost all my other doughs is because scoring is much easier. When the dough is warm, it’s easy for your blade to drag and get stuck. The best advice I have here is to use a new, super sharp blade and make your cuts as smooth and fast as possible. If you notice you didn’t cut through the skin of the dough sufficiently in the first pass, lightly drag the blade inside the cut to give it a little help.

Sourdough Baguettes via @theperfectloaf

What’s Next?

This sourdough baguette recipe results in exquisite delicate baguettes. The brittle crust grounds the eating experience and gives added body to the otherwise tender bread. It’s through this contrast that the bread is elevated to the next level—a baguette with a soft, flimsy crust would be a sad baguette indeed.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million times more: fermentation is a mysterious and beautiful thing. I hope you try this recipe and you show up to your next gathering with an armful of exquisite and incredibly delicious pointy sticks.

Now that you’ve made baguettes, how about a large, crusty loaf? My Sunflower and Sesame Sourdough is a hefty loaf with a robust, deep flavor that’s captivating.

Buon appetito!

Picture of Maurizio Leo
Maurizio Leo
Maurizio Leo is a home baker, James Beard Award winning and New York Times Bestselling author, and the creator of the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. He has spent the past decade baking sourdough bread in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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