A crisp home-baked baguette, with all the character, complex flavour and crunch that you might otherwise have to travel to France to find, is a dream for many bakers. Of course, you can make baguettes with your local bread flour wherever you live, but the particular characteristics that French millers give to their premium darker bread flours through the wheat varieties they mill gives the loaves made from it a deep rich colour, a delicate beige crumb, and an almost brittle crackle to the crust.
This is now within your grasp, as BakeryBits has partnered with one of France’s most esteemed millers, Foricher Les Moulins, to bring you the pick of their product range, including their CRC T80 and Biologique T80 flours. These flours have part of the wholegrain finely milled through, so they behave a little more like wholemeal flour, but have a much lighter texture and a beautiful pale beige colour. Best for medium rather than very long fermentation, T80 delivers a much bolder flavour and a delicate crumb texture. Also they’re excellent for mixing with your favourite white bread flour to give more character to the crumb of a white loaf. Years ago in the 90s I was utterly obsessed with T80 flour which, at that time and afterwards, was difficult to buy in the UK. Now, thanks to BakeryBits you can use it too.
Here, I’ve used it for a simple yeasted baguette, using about 72-74% water to flour (depending on how water and flour much your sourdough starter adds). If you don't have a sourdough starter then the night before, mix together a pre-ferment with 50g flour, 50g water and 1g yeast, cover and leave overnight: then continue with the recipe as written, but use this pre-ferment in place of both the yeast and sourdough in the recipe.
Makes four medium baguettes
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the water and mix together evenly. Leave this for 30-60 minutes at room temperature, cover the bowl if the room air is dry and liable to form a crust on the dough.
Add the sourdough, together with the yeast if using (dissolved in 10g water first), and mix everything together smoothly. Leave for 10 - 15 minutes then add the salt and mix in gently.
Leave to rise at a cool room temperature (around 21C) for 2–3 hours until the dough starts to puff slightly then chill for 6–8 hours to develop the flavour and slow down the rise.
Divide the dough into four equal parts (about 240g each) and shape them into balls while cold. Place them on a tray, cover and leave to rise slightly at room temperature for an hour. Have ready a BakeryBits Heavy Duty Couche Proofing Linen for Baguettes, rubbed with flour, as this will provide support for the soft baguette dough as it rises.
Dust the worktop with flour and shape the pieces into baguettes. Place these seam-side upward on the floured couche, then cover and leave at room temperature to rise by half. I don’t recommend refrigerating the baguettes overnight as the T80 doesn’t have the strength to cope with very long fermentation. Heat the oven to 220C, and have your Challenger Bread Pan ready and a Flipping Board (Planchette à Pain) to move the baguette dough from the couche to the bread pan. If you don’t have either, you can use a baking sheet in the oven and use a long piece of sturdy cardboard to transfer the baguette dough to it.
Place the planchette along the length of the couche and flip the dough onto it (by pinching the couche’s fabric upwards and tipping the baguette onto the board). Then turn the dough onto the base of the preheated Challenger Bread Pan, place the lid on and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the top of the bread pan and bake for a further 5–10 minutes until golden. Then bake the remaining baguettes.