The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baguettes a l'Ancienne with Cold Retardation

DonD's picture

Baguettes a l'Ancienne with Cold Retardation

My first post in April of last year was about a side by side comparison of two of my favorite baguette formulations by Philippe Gosselin and Anis Bouabsa that David Snyder had previously published here on TFL. It was a tough choice to decide which one was better. The Gosselin baguette had an unequaled sweetness due to the overnight cold autolyse and the Bouabsa baguette had an incredibly complex taste due to the cold retardation. I was thinking why not have the best of both world so I started to experiment with combining the two formulations. After a couple of tries, I have succeeded in making a baguette that has the best attributes of both.

Yesterday, at the request of my wife, I made a batch of Baguettes a l'Ancienne with Cold Retardation for her monthly Book Club Party. The formulation follows David's transcription of Gosselin's Pain a l'Ancienne with a few slight variations. I have to clarify that this is not the formulation that Peter Reinhart and Daniel Leader had adapted from the original Gosselin technique but the true ice cold overnight autolyse method that David had published. After the overnight autolyse and the incorporation of the reserved water, yeast and salt the next morning, instead of bulk fermenting, shaping and baking the same day, I partially bulk ferment the dough at room temperature for 3 hours then retard it in the refrigerator for 18 hours before shaping and baking. I use a mix of 94% King Arthur Organic Select Artisan Flour (11.3% protein) and 6% Bob's Red Mill Organic Dark Rye Flour with 70% hydration. I also reduce the yeast amount by 2/3 because of the extended fermentation. Here are the results:

The crust has nice caramelization from the extra sugar produced by the long cold autolyse.

The crumb is open and soft with a slight chewiness. The taste is sweet and nutty with a complex aftertaste.

The crumb is medium thin with nice crunchiness and the crumb shows good translucent gelatinilization.

P.S. Following a number of requests, here is the entire formulation.


 Flour Mixture:

  • - 470 gms Unbleached AP Flour
  • - 30 gms Dark Rye Flour
  • - 300 gms Ice Cold Water


  • - 10 gms Sea Salt
  • - 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast
  • - 50 gms Cold Water

 1- Mix flour blend and ice water w/ flat beater for 1 min. and refrigerate overnight.

 2- Add yeast and water and mix w/ flat beater for 3 mins or until all water has been incorporated. Add salt and beat for 3 mins or until dough slaps side of bowl.

 3- Let rest 15 mins and do S&F 4 times at 30 mins intervals (1 1/2 hrs total) and 2 more times at 45 mins  intervals (1 1/2 hrs total).

 4- Refrigerate for 24 hours.

 5- Divide dough in 3 and gently pre-shape in torpedo shape. Let rest 1 hr.

 6-Gently shape baguettes and proof on linen couche for 45 mins.

 7- One hour before baking, preheat oven to 490 degrees f w/ baking stone and cast iron skillet filled w/ lava rocks.

 8- Mist sides of oven then slash baguettes 4 times and transfer baguettes to baking stone in oven. Immediately pour 2/3 cup boiling water on lava rocks.

 9- Reduce oven temperature to 460 degrees f and bake 10 mins.Remove cast iron skillet, reduce temperature to 430 degrees F and bake for another 10 mins on convection mode.

 10- Remove baguettes from oven and let cool on wire rack.

Happy Baking!



bnom's picture

my crust was ciabatta thin not crackly thin.  Another incentive to get a convection oven!

hanseata's picture

Hi, Don,

I wonder whether your ears rang today at lunchtime, when the Andersons were praising your baguette as "Best I've ever eaten so far!". The loaves vanished so quickly that I couldn't even take a photo!

Though they didn't have quite as big holes as yours (my kitchen must be cooler, I should have proofed them a little longer) the crust was great, and the taste just wonderful!




DonD's picture

Hi Hanseata,

My ears were indeed ringing although it was from some clients talking my ears off in a meeting at lunchtime today. However, I cannot take any credit because you made those baguettes. BTW, who are those delightful Andersons with such impeccable taste?


bnom's picture

I made this formula last weekend and it was definitely the best baguette I've ever made.  I autolyzed during the day. Finished the dough in the evening (using Bertinet's slap and fold method and then a couple stretch and folds) and retarded until about 3pm the next day.  They were cooked and cooled for dinner. 

Wonderful color, the crumb was very open, crust and flavor--just what you want.  I can't wait to make again this weekend --- will try for pictures. 

Thank you DON!

tordoc's picture

Thanks so much for this post.  It seems like a great combination of all the techniques to wrench flavor out of a straight lean dough...

I'm trying this as written.  The only exception is that I am using a food processor for the mixing.  I'm doing a doubled recipe as I'm expecting guests tomorrow.  I did the original mix in the processor with 30 seconds of spinning once a ball formed.  I also cut in the extra water, yeast and salt with 30 seconds in the FP.  Worked like a charm.  Normally i'd leave the dough in the FP and for each S&F I'd turn on the machine until a ball forms again (couple of seconds) let it spin for 3-5 seconds, and turn it off.  The double batch is too big for this so S&F will be by hand.

bnom's picture

As I've noted previously, I love this baguette, Great flavor, crumb, and the ruddy crust color is so lovely.  It's often a Saturday night dinner party bread.  It works best for me to start the cold hydration Friday morning, finish the dough Friday evening.  Retard overnight and pull it out around 3 pm for a 5pm bake on Saturday.

This past weekend I doubled the recipe with the thought of holding back some dough  pizza on Sunday.  Alas, while the flavor was pretty good, it was rather tough and heavy.  I think because of the lack of olive oil and a rather tired dough (it'd been up since Friday morning after all). 


mage789's picture

What are these lava rocks that you are referring to?  Is there a substitution for this? 

bnom's picture

Lava rocks are the ones that are sold for some gas grills. They're a red pumice stone.  You can purchase them at hardware stores during bbq season.  They hold heat well and increase thermal mass.  I like them because they're also light and can be used forever.

If you've got a old jaw of bolts, screws and other hardware, I've heard that works well.

Chuck's picture

The stuff that comes out of a volcano is "lava". It's quite foamy and full of air, so when that magma cools the "rock" it makes is very light. The rock easily stands up to high temperatures, as the volcano already boiled away any low-temperature ingredients.

These things are sold in any store that sells barbeque grills; their intended use is to "refresh" a grill that uses them to distribute the heat of a gas flame. I picked up a bag of them at Home Depot for a couple dollars. (In a few areas of the country -like parts of Hawaii- these things are so ubiquitous you can't escape them; mostly though you'll only see them in stores.)

There's not really any substitute (there are completely different ways to produce "steam" though:-).

It's been argued (convincingly to my mind) that the principle that makes lava rocks work for generating steam is not really "thermal mass" - the rocks are much too light and frothy to hold a whole lot of heat. I suspect what's really going on is first the rocks "cover" much of the surface of the water and keep too much surface evaporation from dropping the overall oven temperature too far, and second the frothy nature and very large surface area of the rocks makes them "wick" bits of water up where it can be evaporated much more easily.

phalanxausage's picture

This is the best home-baked baguette formula I have had. After my last trip to France I was determined to make bread as close as possible to what I had over there. In order to refine my technique, I chose one bread (Reinhart's Pain de Campagne) to make every few days until I had it down solid. I saved half the dough to use as a pate fermentee for the next batch (as a brewer & yeast fanatic, I was also interested in seeing how the culture & the bread it made would change after a few weeks) & made one loaf with the other half. We ate a lot of bread at the house while I was doing that but I didn't feel we were being excessive. After a few weeks, I felt ready to branch out. This bread was the winner of best bread ever! In fact, it's too good. My wife made me stop baking regularly because we devoured the entire batch within a day or two every time & she thought she was getting fat. So, I make this on special occcasions or when we have company. *sigh* I just started the dough for Thanksgiving & wanted to let you know how thankful I am for your research, experiments & kindness in sharing the results. I am more excited about the bread I'm going to eat on Thursday than anything else!

jennaleighlegge's picture

Wow absolutely beautiful. I know this post is old, but say I wanted to make 15 baguettes. How would I go about converting the recipe?

DonD's picture

Each recipe makes 3 baguettes, so multiply by 5.

jennaleighlegge's picture

Would love to bake these at the bakery I work for...but unfortunately I need to be able to bake baguettes every night. Is there anyway I could make this a two day process instead of a three day process? 

DonD's picture

if you shorten the process. If you stagger and prepare the dough 3 days in advance, you can bake every night.

Sarah8233's picture

Late to the table here, but I just started making these last week and have been practicing my shaping technique daily. these never last long around my house - thank you Don!


!Baguettes a l'ancienne

itsmen's picture

Those are gorgeous looking loaves and thank you for sharing your recipe and technique.  I am curious if you ever calibrate your oven, is your 490 actually 490 or higher?  Most sources I have read all recommend to bring the oven temp up as high as possible to get the initial oven spring when baking baguette.  Also, after the over night refrigeration do you let the dough come up to room temp before reshaping the loaves?

lkarten's picture

Don...I researched for the perfect baguette to emulate my fave in Paris..and Voila! your recipe is superb and I had gorgeous delicious results, merci. Since I am a novice at bread baking, I was wondering how precise I need to be about the 24 hour refrigeration period on 2nd day.. will it alter results if I do 22 hours or say 25 hours? Thank you in advance for your reply.