The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sam Fromartz's Award-Winning Baguettes

wally's picture

Sam Fromartz's Award-Winning Baguettes

It's not often that someone can lay claim to producing the best baguettes in a city, but in Washington, DC Sam Fromartz has done so, thanks to a competition sponsored by a local publication - the Washington City Paper

The competition, held in 2009, challenged metro-area bakeries to submit baguettes which were then blind tasted by a panel of experts, including Mark Furstenberg, who introduced artisan bread baking to DC.  What the experts didn't know was that Fromartz, a writer by trade but a bread enthusiast, had submitted his own home-baked baguettes as well.  When the dust settled, the judges had awarded perfect scores to the two loaves baked by Fromartz.

The story is fascinating, and you can read the City Paper article here:

But the baguettes are fascinating as well!  I've baked them on numerous occasions and they produce a delightful flavor and crust.  For those who want Fromartz's recipe from the horse's mouth, it can be found here:

Sam Fromartz's Parisian Baguette Recipe

The following will produce two 16" baguettes weighing in at around 280g apiece.

Ingredient                                              Weight            Bakers %

AP flour (I use KA's Sir Galahad)              295g               95

Whole wheat flour                                          5g                 5

Water                                                           210g                70

Starter (100% hydration)                             45g                15

Salt                                                                6.5g                 2

Instant dry yeast                                           1 tsp                .9 (may be reduced in summer or warmer environment)

The mix - Desired Dough Temp = 76°-78°

Day 1: Begin by adding the starter and water and mixing to break up the starter.  Fromartz adds his yeast as well, but because I use instant dry I instead mix it into the flour.  To the liquid mixture add the flour and salt.  Fromartz mixes by hand and uses the slap-and-fold technique to knead.  I initially followed this method, but my last bake produced great results using my stand mixer and left me with clean hands to boot!  (I mixed 4 minutes on speed 1 and 4 minutes on speed 2, which produces a dough with moderate gluten development).

Place the dough into a lightly oiled container and cover.  It then receives 3 folds at 20 minute intervals.  After the final fold, place again in covered container and retard overnight in the refrigerator.

Day 2: Preheat oven to 470°.  Remove dough from the refrigerator. Fromartz immediately divides and pre-shapes, but I allow the dough to sit for about 1 hour before dividing.  After dividing and pre-shaping I let the two pieces of dough bench rest for about 30 minutes before shaping into two 16" baguettes.  I couched them, seam side up, for an hour, before placing them on a parchment-covered peel and scoring them. 

I pre-steamed my gas oven with about 1/4 cup of water, and then immediately after placing the baguettes on my baking stone I carefully added 3/4 cup of water to lava rocks that I have piled up in a cast iron skillet at the bottom of my oven.  Bake for 18 - 20 minutes.  Because of the overnight retardation, these have a rich crust with almost a reddish coloration.

The flavor of these is truly wonderful.  The small addition of whole wheat flour and sourdough gives them a nuttiness that I've only found in poolish baguettes.

I was pleased with my slashes (despite the problems gas ovens create by venting steam), and the crumb was the most open I've achieved with his recipe.

So - want to enter your own competition with Sam Fromartz - then give his award-winning recipe a shot!


Edit: Oops!  Don't know where my head was when calculating bakers percentage, but AP is 98% and whole wheat is 2%.


Sam Fromartz's picture
Sam Fromartz

Larry, Beautiful baguettes. This recipe took some time to develop and included a trip to Paris to work at Boulangerie Delmontel in the 9th; after that experience, which I wrote about for Afar magazine, it really came together. 

They don't use starter in their baguettes (though others like seminal baker Eric Keyser does) but I felt that the baguettes needed the starter to get towards the flavor I was experiencing in France. The slight whole wheat I think adds a slight nutty shadow to the flavor and I think also helps activate the low percentage of sourdough in the dough. If others have any insights into why these work, please weigh in. 

For a more in-depth account of how I came up with these, please read my account on my ChewsWise blog.

For the Afar article (with INCREDIBLE pictures of boulangeries in Paris) please check out the PDF I've included in this post on the experience

Happy Baking, Sam 


wally's picture

for being gracious and allowing me to share YOUR recipe with TFL, Sam.  I wasn't sure about the sourdough addition at first; it certainly seemed non-traditional.  But I frequently use a small amount of sourdough in place of yeast when I mix poolish, and Dan DiMuzio has pointed out on this blog that before the widespread use of commercial yeast this was common practice.  Anyone fearing that the result will be 'sour' baguettes can rest easy.  It's a pleasing hint of nuttiness that comes through.

SylviaH's picture

That was a great write-up and photos of your lovely baguettes.


wally's picture

thanks so much for your comment!  It means a lot coming from you.  I still drool when I look at your fresh pastry pictures!

Janknitz's picture

I am blown away by the formula and the blog  posts and article--Thank you Wally and Sam.  The photos were awesome in the article!

I've been looking for the "ultimate" baguette formula to bake at home and I'm looking forward to trying this.  

wally's picture

Thanks!  I have to admit that Sam Fromartz's recipe is definitely challenging - if you factor in the component parts of the starter when computing bakers percentage, the actual hydration of the dough is 73% - certainly daunting.  But completely worth the effort.  The overnight bulk retardation really gives the crust a beautiful hue that you can't quite achieve in a same-day bake.  Good luck!