The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Saturday Baguettes - Week 27 (The exciting conclusion!)

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Saturday Baguettes - Week 27 (The exciting conclusion!)

Victory is mine!  If you haven't been following my occasional series of posts, six months ago I set out to improve my baguette skills by making a batch Hamelman's "Baguettes with Poolish" every Saturday and blogging about it here.  I haven't been entirely rigorous about the blogging, but I've kept up the baking, skipping only one weekend in all that time.  Here's what I said I wanted to achieve in week 1:

My objective: produce a reliable, tasty and beautiful baguette through practice, trial and error. I don't really imagine that I will truly master the baguette--better home bakers than I have tried in vain, I know. But I'm hoping to turn what is usually a hit-or-miss process into something I can do over and over again well, if not perfectly.

I submit to you that I have achieved this objective.

Exhibit A: Last week's bake (week 26 if you're counting)

What is notable about this batch is not how well they turned out, per se (though they aren't bad, eh?), but the fact that I did several things wrong, and they still came out quite well.  The plastic wrap stuck to the baguette in the middle, making it hard to score, I forgot to turn the oven down from the pre-heat temperature for the first 6 minutes of the bake, and I purposely omitted the "leave in the oven with the door cracked" step because I needed the oven.  And still they were good.  Crust was a bit chewy, but it was thin, the crumb was nice and the flavor was great.

Exhibit B: Todays bake




 The scores didn't come out quite perfectly--the baguettes took longer than usual to proof, and may have stil been a little under-proofed.  But everything else was spot on.  Crust was thin and crisp, crumb open and creamy, flavor sweet and nutty.  If every baguette I ever make again is like this, I'll be happy.

More to the point, if every baguette I make again is a random draw from the last 4-5 weeks of baguettes, I'll be more than happy.  There is still room for improvement, but at this point I think the benefit of making my baguettes a little bit better is less than the benefit of making a wider variety of breads (or even a wider variety of baguette recipes), and much less than the benefit starting a new quest (I have a couple in mind, but that's for another post).

Thanks to everyone who has followed along with my occasionally long-winded adventure, and thanks especially to those (Larry in particular) who helped point me in the right direction early in the process.  It has been a wild ride the last 6 months (not least due to the birth of my daughter in week 6).  Sometime soon I'll write up a post specifically reflecting on the lessons I've learned from Saturday Baguettes.

Happy baking, everyone,




wally's picture

You've come a long way in your baguette technique and the photos of Exhibit B are proof enough: nice, uneven holey crumb.  It's a baguette I'd love to sink my teeth into!

You picked what many regard as the simplest of breads (in terms of ingredients) and the most complex (in terms of mastering the techniques to produce a real baguette).

Good on you for putting in the time and practice.  And yes, nice bake!



Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

I feel like the best part of this weekend's bake is I know exactly what I need to do it again!

Syd's picture

I have been following you all the way, Ryan and you certainly have come a long way.  There are so many things to master in a baguette:  crust, crumb, flavour and scoring all have to be just right to make the perfect baguette. Sometimes you get only one of them right, other times two or even three, but when they all come together there is such a sense of achievement.  Well done!


Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Thanks Syd!

dmsnyder's picture

You've certainly followed the advice we give so often - to concentrate on a small number of breads until you've mastered them. "One" is a small number, and you chose the most difficult of breads to master. Good job!

The sort of bad news is that, if you leave baguettes for a few weeks, you will lose some of the feel for them you've gained. I'd say the benefits of enjoying a variety of wonderful breads is worth it, at this point.

So, what's the next challenge? (Besides contending with a mobile infant, which you will face real soon, in all probability.)


Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

For a next challenge, I'm debating between ciabatta and sourdough dinner rolls -- I'm going to write up a post about it soon.  (Although yes, a mobile infant is right on the horizon.  She's pretty close as is...)

jennyloh's picture

Ryan - I admire your perseverance and determination. certainly beautiful loaves you got there!

Thaichef's picture

Hello Ryan:

 Your Baguetters are beautiful!!! You should be proud of yourself.

I just came back from an Artisan Bread fair in Asheville,NC and one  French  Baker-chef"Lionel Vatinet " who taught the class I attended said that the Baguette is the most difficult bread to master and you just did it.

  Bravo! Great job.