The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Overnight Baguettes

davidg618's picture

Overnight Baguettes

I finally invested in a new baking stone, one that fills an oven shelf with only a couple of inches to spare. Now I can make baguettes that approach 18" to 20" in place of the stubby ones I baked before. Consequently, along with sourdough, sticky buns, foccacia, and getting familiar with spelt, I've been baking my own baguette formula that has borrowed heavily from Anis Bouabsa's formula and especially his process, and, in the most recent batch, Peter Reinhart's pain a' l'ancienne procedures. I've made this formula three times, tweaking a little each time, not the ingredients, the procedures. I've nicknamed them "Overnight Baguettes.

Formula for 1000 g finished dough

              All purpose flour    575g    100%

              Water                   414g      72%

              Salt                        12g        2%

              Instant Yeast         1/4 tsp.   ???

I mix all the dry ingredients together in a wide bowl, and add the water. Using a plastic dough scraper I incorporate the water into the dry mix, cover and rest it for one-half hour.I turn the dough out onto a very lightly dusted board and French fold until dough passes the window pane test. Chill (details follow: I tweaked here.). Remove from chiller. Bring to room temperature (details follow: tweak #2). Preshape, rest, shape, and final proof. Preheat oven to 500°F. Pre-steam oven. Load slashed loaves reduce temperature to 450°F immediately. After ten minutes remove steam source (if you can do it safely), vent oven and finish baking.

I did all my mixing with ingredients at room temperature (low seventies-ish) for the first two batches. For the first batch, ala Bouabsa, I left the dough in the refrigerator 21 hours @ 38°F. For the second batch I placed it in our wine closet @ 55°F for seventeen hours. For both batches I did two stretch-and-folds after the first 50 and 100 minutes. These two S&F's leave the dough very elastic and smooth (I think it feels "silky").

In both cases, after I turned out the chilled dough (again, following Bouabsa) I immediately divided the dough into three equal amounts, preshaped, and let the dough rest for one hour.

The first batch's dough increased about one-and-a-half its original volume in the refrigerator. Despite dividing and resting the dough was still chilled when I final-shaped it, and final proofing took two hours and fifeteen minutes.

The second batch's volume tripled in the wine closet (I worried about losing any chance of oven-spring). The dough was particulary puffy after resting an hour (more oven-spring worry). Final proofing took 90 mins. My worries were dispelled in the first ten minutes in the oven. Both batches exhibited good oven-spring, but the flavor of batch #1 was distinctly more bland then batch #2. The crumb of both batches was open, light, and slighty chewy.

I was generally happy with both batches, but the second batch's flavor won out. Whatever flavoring chemistry goes on in retarded dough appeared to work harder at the wine closet's elevated temperature.

Despite the oven-spring experienced in batch #2, I was still worried I was setting myself up for future failures letting the dough triple in volume during its retarded proof at 55°F. I recently broke down and bought Peter Reinhart's  "The Bread Baker's Apprentice". His anecdote about capturing the hearts and minds of his more reluctant students when they are first introduced to pain a' l'acienne dough pushed me to skip to its formula. I was intrigued by his "shock retardation" using ice water to mix the dough.

I mixed the third batch's dough with ice water, and also placed it in the wine closet during its autolyse rest. I checked the dough a couple of times after performing the two S&F, and was a little worried by almost no apparent action. Encouraged by the few little bubbles I could see through the bottom of the plastic container I went to bed, but set the alarm to remove the dough after fifeteen hours chilling. The dough was just short of doubled when removed.  Following Reinhart's directions I let the dough sit, undivided at room temperature (high sixties-ish) for two hours. When I got out of bed the second time the dough was well doubled and the top of the dough was stretched in a couple of places by large gas bubbles. I liked what I saw, and felt.

I divided the dough, preshaped, and let it rest twenty minutes. Following, I shaped, and final-proofed for ninety minutes (I use a poke test to decide proofing status, but I keep track of time too.) Baking proceeded as described above.

The results:

We are delighted with the flavor, and crumb! This is going to be our "go to" baguettes: no more tweaking. 

David G





ehanner's picture

That looks perfect David. Great job!


Yippee's picture


Beautiful baguettes! 

From my experience, 1/4 tsp of yeast is about 1g, which will account for appr. 0.174% in your formula.


Yippee's picture


I was testing my new spoon scale and it turned out that 1/4 tsp of yeast weights 0.7g, which changes my previous caculation to 0.122%.  


SylviaH's picture

What a wonderful crumb!  I also use two stones in a shelf fitted for them that came with my oven.  When the stones cover the length of the oven I have found it is best for me to steam from above if not using a steaming lid.  How do you steam your baguettes when on your new stone?  From above or below with the shelf over steaming pan?


davidg618's picture


I steam from below. I use a half-sheet pan, lined with towel, and wetted with either boiling or tap hot water about five minutes before I load the bread. I ordered my new baking stone a generous 2 inches less than the width of my oven, and I have approximately one inch of clearance between the backwall and the stone, and 1/2 inch between the door glass and the stone.

I was concerned, prompted by an earlier thread you contributed to about steaming from below with a large baking stone, that I might not get sufficient steam with the half-sheetpan on the rack below the stone. However, I've observed steam escaping around the top (and bottom) of the door, well above the stone--fortunately, not a lot. I also have to cover the oven's vent, which is on top of the stove, to prevent steam escaping. Consequently, I'm confident that I'm getting a good quantity of steam to my loaves. Lastly--and the best test--I'm getting the oven spring expected in sourdough formulae I've been baking routinely (weekly) for about four months, using the above and earlier techniques for steaming.

I've settled on this steaming method for two reasons. First I think it's safer than dashing hot or cold water into a pan of heated lava rocks. Secondly, and to me more importantly, I can safely remove the half-sheet pan when the steam has done its job, and finish the bake in a dry oven. I couldn't do that with the earlier methods I'd tried: lava rocks in a pan, or ice cubes on the oven's floor.

However, I also intend to try lowering my baking stone to the lowest rack position, and putting the steaming half-sheet on the topmost rack. If I notice a discernable difference, I'll switch, but I don't expect to based on what's happening now.

In your case, I'm betting the manufacturer's design staff knew stone was a "good thing", but knew little or nothing of what a home artisanal baker does to produce steam, or why.

Thank you for your kind praise. Honestly, I haven't had a "real" French baguette for more than forty years, but I think these come close to what I remember.

David G

LeeYong's picture

Beautiful Baguettes!!! I can't wait to try these myself!

Happy baking!

davidg618's picture

Made my 15 hour retarded, 55°F chill temperature, baguettes last evening/this morning.

Began at 4 o'clock. Forgot the ice water "shock retarder", and made 5 S&F's at half-hour intervals as the dough chilled. Dough doubled overnight;divided into three 325g preshapes immediately after removing dough from wine closet. Rested 1 hour, final proof 1 hour at room temperature @ 70°F.

Definately a "keeper" formula.

David G