Really I’ve been putting this off for far too long. I have a workable and tasty sourdough recipe, an oven setup that works well, and all the tools to make a baguette. What’s been holding me back? Fear. A baguette is the bread baker’s resume. It’s got a mélange of components that all have to cooperate for the greater good: crust, crumb, scoring technique, forming technique, flavor, structure. Of all the rustic breads, the baguette is the one with which people are most likely familiar. The eating of a baguette is primal and visceral—you tear into it like a wolf after the kill—and people from Hanoi to Lyons to San Diego know the best way to enjoy a baguette is to keep it simple. How would my baguette stack up against such a global pantheon of well-made breads?
First things first, roll out some cigars. I mean baguettes. If you’ve made snakes out of Play-Doh or clay as a child you can make baguettes. I pressed the side of my hand, karate-chop style, along the long axis of the dough and pinch-sealed it to get a good tight form.
I proofed my baguettes in long sheets of parchment paper. Though you can’t flip the loaves out onto a board and slide them in the oven, you can score and bake the bread right on the paper. Now, you may be asking how long these were, and I can answer with pride: 17-19”. I measured so I’d be sure they would fit in my oven. Did they fit? No. Nota bene: a thin measuring tape might fit diagonally in a small oven but a thick loaf of bread will hang off the edges and butt up against the glass door. So I’ve heard. Thus the first of three had to be bent to fit in the oven, but with the rest I compressed them stem-to-stern so they would just fit. Result? They didn’t bloom quite as much as a bigger loaf but I think the oven was drier, considering the small amount of dough in there compared with the large batards I usually bake. The flavor, however, is delicious and the crust magnificent. I’d give them an 8 out of 10 overall. As always with bread, there’s room for improvement!