Ultimate Sourdough Baguettes: NOT for the birds.

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How does this…

Become this…

…and then this?

It’s the MAGIC of sourdough!

Sourdough starter may put you in mind of ultra-sour, San Francisco-style sourdough bread. But it’s SO much more versatile.

Basically, sourdough starter can be used in any recipe where you combine flour with water or another liquid.

Pancakes and waffles? Classic and delicious. Cake? You bet. Pizza? SO good…

And sourdough baguettes? They’re a natural. The baguette’s simple flour/water/yeast/salt dough, when made with sourdough starter, acquires deep, nuanced flavor impossible to obtain from “straight” dough: one made without a starter.

That richly flavored, crusty loaf, so wonderful when fresh, quickly loses its glamour, though. A sourdough baguette straight from the oven? Heaven. Next day? Well, unless you reheat it… meh, not so good.

Which isn’t to say it’s for the birds. Day-old or stale baguettes make remarkably good crostini – “little toasts,” in Italian.

Cut the baguette into thin crosswise slices; spray or brush with olive oil, if desired; and toast in the oven until crisp. Top with a dab of caponata; a dollop of soft cheese, or a drizzle of imaginatively flavored oil.

Instant appetizer!

First, though, come the baguettes. Ultimate Sourdough Baguettes. Let’s do it.

Start with a batch of sourdough starter. It should be cream-colored, about as thick as very thick pancake batter, and, if you’ve fed it, nice and bubbly.

Why would you use UNFED sourdough starter?

If you feed your sourdough before using, the loaves will rise better; but if you’re in a hurry, unfed sourdough will simply lend its flavor, while the yeast in the recipe takes care of the rise.

Combine the following in a mixing bowl:

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 cups sourdough starter, about the consistency of thick pancake batter; fed, or unfed
4 1/2 to 5 cups (17 to 21 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten*

No vital wheat gluten? Leave it out; your baguettes won’t rise quite as high, but will still taste fine. Or substitute King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour for the all-purpose flour.

Stir everything together to make a rough dough. Then start to knead (using a stand mixer, or your hands), adding only enough additional flour as necessary; a slack (sticky)  dough makes a light loaf.

The dough will probably stick to the sides of the bowl (or your work surface) at first; scrape it off the sides, and continue kneading for about 7 minutes in a stand mixer; or 8 to 10 minutes by hand.

Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, cover the bowl…

…and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into six pieces (for thin baguettes) or three pieces (for thicker Italian loaves).

Shape each piece into a 16″ long loaf (or 15″ loaf, if you’re using baguette pans). Here’s how:

Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape it into a rough log. Fold it lengthwise, and use the heel of your hand to press the edges together. Fold it lengthwise again, and again press the edges together; you’ll notice that during this folding process, the dough has naturally lengthened.

Turn the log over so the seam side is down, and gently roll it into a 15″ to 16″ log.

Place the logs onto two greased or parchment-lined baking sheets; or into two lightly greased baguette pans. Cover them gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let them rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until they’re nice and puffy.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F.

If desired, gently brush the loaves with egg yolk glaze – 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water. Sprinkle them generously with Pizza Seasoning, Artisan Bread Topping, or the toppings of your choice. If you’re not brushing the loaves with egg yolk, spray them with olive oil spray; this will help them brown.

For a classic look, make three diagonal slashes in each loaf, cutting about 1/4″ deep. For taller, rounder baguettes, don’t slash.

Bake the baguettes for about 25 minutes, or until they’re a rich golden brown.

Remove the loaves from the oven. Turn off the oven, crack it open a few inches, and return the loaves to the cooling oven, without their pans. Letting the loaves cool right in the turned-off oven helps preserve their crunchy crust.

Remove the loaves from the oven when they’re cool.

(If you can’t wait until they’re cool, go ahead – rip right into one while it’s hot. But leave the others in the cooling oven.)

Break one open; enjoy its lovely, hole-riddled interior.

The loaf on the right was slashed; on the left, unslashed. Your choice.

OK, what about those other five baguettes, the ones you didn’t wolf down right away? Unless you’re having a party, you probably won’t eat six baguettes in one day.

Whatever you don’t enjoy the first day, either reheat in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, lightly tented with foil, to restore the loaves’ crunchiness; or slice and make into crostini.

Crostini are a great snack to have on hand for unexpected holiday guests. Add cheese, or olives, or guacamole, or any kind of topping, and you’re good to go, appetizer-wise.

Slice stale baguettes about 1/3″ thick. Brush or spray with olive oil, if desired. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 minutes or so, until crostini are crunchy and starting to brown.

Remove from the oven, cool completely, and store airtight; they stay fresh and crunchy for weeks. Serve with toppings of your choice.

And pat yourself on the back for being OH-so-ready for impromptu holiday entertaining!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Ultimate Sourdough Baguettes.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. piercesb

    These look great! I’m always looking for new recipes for my starter. Can this dough be made in the bread machine?
    You can definitely mix the dough in your bread machine, but if you’re looking for something similar in texture to a baguette, baking the dough in your bread machine will not give you that. ~Mel

    Reply
  2. "Bobbi Krasuski"

    Those loaves look awesome…I am wondering why mine tend to spread more than puff when rising & baking…have I not added enough flour? They do taste great though! Thank so much!
    There are a few reasons your loaves may be spreading more than rising during the proofing stage. A too-wet dough can cause the dough to not hold it’s shape. Overproofing during the final rise can also cause the dough structure to slightly deflate and look wider rather than higher. If your dough is under or over-kneaded, the gluten is either not developed enough or basically “broken” if overkneaded. If this happens, the dough does not have the structure to hold the air and can deflate causing a flat loaf. If you have specific questions, please give us a call on the Baker’s Hotline and we’ll be happy to help! ~Mel

    Reply
  3. Roberta

    This looks great, and I’m going to give it a try soon ! When I printed the recipe, I noticed you gave “Baker’s Notes” for cutting the recipe in half. First off, I really appreciate that, since I have a single-person household. My question is that your instructions say to cut all the ingredient amounts in half, except for the yeast, which stays at the original full-recipe amount. Is that a good rule of thumb for cutting all bread recipes in half? Thanks in advance !

    Yeah, usually the yeast stays the same, Roberta, whether you halve or double a recipe. Although I have to say, when I halve, I do cut back the yeast a bit; I think in this recipe, I’d use 2 1/2 teaspoons. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  4. dmurray407

    Could I bake this in my long covered baker? Should I use the full recipe or the half recipe-I think the recommendation for the baker is to use a 3 cup flour recipe . . .
    Thanks!
    Deb
    Deb, you can halve the recipe (be sure to check out the notes about halving in the “tips from our bakers” section–leave the yeast at 1 tablespoon) and then bake in the long covered baker. Just keep in mind that it will be more of an “Italian-style” loaf instead of a baguette. ~Mel

    Reply
  5. mitzimuffins

    My loaves don’t brown as nicely as the one pictured. The loaves are baked but don’t brown. What’s the secret?
    Have you checked your oven temperature lately? If it’s not exactly as hot as the dial says, that could play a part. You could also try leaving them in a few minutes longer, or place your pan on the uppermost rack in your oven. You can always give us a call on the Baker’s Hotline too and we’ll be happy to help troubleshoot! ~Mel

    Sourdough can be very tough to brown; if it goes too long during its rises, the yeast completely consumes any sugar in the dough (or sugar it’s converted from starch), and there’s nothing left to brown. As the recipe suggests, try brushing the loaves with an egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, or with olive oil; both will help with browning. PJH

    Reply
  6. kim smith

    Really An Ultimate One ! how cool was that to prepare for long period of time. Yummy to have for the entire day.

    Reply
  7. nursemary

    Dang! I just got my order from KAF and the box appears to have been dragged here behind the truck instead of inside it. The cap of the bottle of Fiori di Sicilia was smashed and it soaked everything. My jar of sourdough starter was under the bottle of boiled cider, smashed with the starter inside the plastic bag instead of the in the jar. The aroma of the Fiori di Sicilia is finally leaving the house but we were coughing while trying to sort out what was salvageable from what wasn’t. I don’t think I’ll need scented candles for a long time! I was so hoping to make sourdough soon. Anyway, the good news is, the person I spoke to at KAF is replacing the damaged items and she didn’t even want to see the pictures I took. I am always delightfully surprised these days when I get excellent customer service and this was one of those occasions. I will be making this and my fruitcakes as soon as my replacement ingredients arrive.

    Thanks KAF!

    Mary O’Brien

    So sorry for your troubles, Mary – how unfortunate! I hope you get your replacement ingredients ASAP – it’s fruitcake time for sure! PJH

    Reply
  8. "Cookie Munster"

    From Roberta’s post I learn the yeast should not be halved along with the other ingredients. Does the rule of not halving the yeast apply to all yeast bread recipes- specifically, the Classic Baguettes, Soft White Dinner Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls?

    Yes, that’s right – yeast usually remains the same when doubling and, as I mentioned, I sometimes reduce it a bit when halving – I like to use 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons of instant yeast for a typical 3-4 cup of flour yeast recipe (unless it’s very sweet, in which case you might increase to 1 tablespoon). Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  9. John

    I want to try the recipe for sourdough baguettes and want to know if I can get good results if I omit the gluten and instant yeast if I use my really well fed starter? I am fairly new to sourdough baking but have been getting great results using KA flour and the great pans I bought from you.
    Thank you!
    You can certainly omit those ingredients if you’d like. The dough will take longer to rise without the added yeast, though. ~Amy

    Reply
  10. Sharon

    Thanks for already answering all but one of my questions. Can I freeze some of the dough to use later?

    When it comes to freezing dough, you want to take care that the dough is able to rise somewhat before you freeze it: this ensures that some of the yeast is active and will create a better loaf when thawed and baked. Be sure that you freeze the dough as quickly as possible and then use within 1-2 months of freezing. Also, it should be wrapped well to protect against frost bite (aka freezer burn) and odors in the freezer–airtight, too! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  11. Mary

    I have an older bread machine (Chefmate). It will make a 2lb loaf of bread. I would like to sometimes try the sourdough bread/baguettes etc., in this machine, but since most of the recipes for the sourdough make 2 loaves. How would I revise the recipe to work in my bread machine?

    You will just need to cut these recipes in half to make one loaf!-Jon

    Reply
  12. Steve

    I have a starter made from KA Whole White Wheat Flour. Can I use that for this recipe? How much WWWF can I substitute for the white flour in the bread recipe and still get an airy crumb? Should I switch to KA Bread Flour if I swap out some white with the WWWF flour? My goal is to go all whole grain, where possible, but I still want an airy crumb.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sure you may use your WWW starter for this recipe. I recommend only substituting 1-2 cups of WWW for the white flour so the character is not altered too much. You may need to increase the amount of liquid when making this substitution. Add 1-3 t. more liquid per cup of WWW. The wetter the dough the more open the crumb. Switching to a bread flour will lend a chewier interior and a higher rise. For the first try, stick with AP for the remainder of the white flour in the recipe, Steve. If you are not achieving a nice rise, move towards bread flour. Good luck! Elisabeth@KAF

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