The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help with Baguette

tamdn's picture

Help with Baguette

I've been trying to make a perfect baguette but almost 99% of the time, my bread comes out with only a few large holes. the recipe I have is a 68% hydration (100% flour, 68% water, .6% yeast, 2 % salt). It's a straight dough, improved mix with 1 1/2 fermentation with 1 fold. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, and am getting rather frustrated. Maybe it's my mixing technique? I use a kitchen aid mixer, 4-5 minutes on low, 4-5' on medium. Then I window pane the dough. My place is pretty cold. It's usually around 65F or so. I don't notice a lot of volume/rise to the dough before the fold. What is it I'm doing wrong? Maybe my windowpaned stage is not right? Can anyone help me with this situation?

I've seen on your baguette recipes that you mix it by hand, mostly, right? What about with a mixer? Could you help me determine what improved mix window pane should look like? Or possibly tell me what I'm doing wrong?


RonRay's picture

Why not look/ read some of txframers postings on the subject ?


ds99302's picture

If you want larger holes and more of them you need a looser dough.  Try increasing the hydration to 75%.  I've seen some doughs as high as 79% hydration.

fminparis's picture

Why do you want a lot of large holes? That's less bread to eat. To me that's silly. Small holes, fine.  Large ones, why?

AnnaInMD's picture

other than perfecting a personal challenge to create a piece of bread art with beautiful holes,  to **me** a baguette has -0- value. You chew air with a crust, nothing sticks to it, it falls through, using it for soup or mopping up gravy makes the crust soggy, so now you are eating warm air with a soggy crust.  And yet, I too will eventually bake the perfect baguette because my friends think it is magical, grin .....


Chuck's picture
Chuck falls through...

A common complaint when making a sandwich or spreading jelly on any holey bread (including many baguettes), but with a simple and foolproof solution: just slice the bread lengthwise! (like Subway does). We're so used to slicing pullman loaves crosswise we tend to forget there are other ways to do it. :-)

Lots of large holes are common in the "artisan bread" world. I've even seen pros mistakenly state such breads shouldn't be used for anything like a sandwich. Even when the crumb is holey, the crust is completely solid, so nothing can drip through onto your clothes.

AnnaInMD's picture

Hope that tasty-looking sandwich is one of your creations !

GeraldC's picture

It's not the holes, it's the way it chews. But, nevertheless, if you want holes....

It looks to me like you're saying the dough only gets four or five minutes machine work. I also knead by KA mixer with dough hook, and I need a LOT more time than that. Ten, and as much as fifteen, minutes on speed 2 before the dough looks right and pulls a real windowpane. I did find that I began getting the size holes I was after when I began to let the dough autolyse, getting it well mixed and leaving it alone for twenty to thirty minutes before kneading. That change alone made the difference. I could see the gluten formations distinctly in the finished bread.


"Window pane" can mean different things to different people. I just pull off a golf ball size hunk or more and work it out until I can see light through a substantial size area in the middle, and it doesn't tear. I get a vigorous first rise and a very vigorous second bowl rise after stretching and folding. But I mostly suspect it's not enough kneading for the basic bread. And since you didn't go into much detail and talked about "mixing technique," mixing and kneading are very different. Mixing is done just to the point that the ingredients are well incorporated. Then autolysis. Then kneading, by hand or by dough hook. And that basic recipe will tolerate multiple rises, as many as five perhaps, although I don't do more than three and sometimes four. I think five risks over doing it. Don't beat it up too much between rises. I think of the manipulation of bread dough as authorative but very controlled.

flournwater's picture

First of all, allow me to say that you don't need to work with 75 - 78% hydration for a baguette.  You will, in fact, find that you'd have one heck of a time maintaining much shape with a dough so heavily hydrated.  Your 68% hydration may even be more than you need.  My basic baguette formula uses 60% hydration ( and works very well.

You list you yeast at  .6%  or just over half a percent.  If that's correct, you're not using enough yeast in the formula.  

When you look at a window pane test you should see more than light in the window.  There should be a structure clearly visible that reveals the strands of gluten in the window pane; that's your structure. 

You mention "mixing" for various periods but I don't see any reference to kneading.  You can't knead using a mixing paddle, you need a dough hook if you're going to knead using your stand mixer.

Holes are not necessarily an indication of quality bread.  However, if you want holes, make adjustments to your consistent formula to obtain the holes you desire.  I'd suggest forgetting about the holes and develop enough skill to produce a consistent baguette.  That willl probably require a wetter dough however, if you knead by hand and don't deflate the dough too much (stretch and fold helps here too) you can get a structure with holes.

tamdn's picture

Okay. This is my mixing process from start to finish (using dough hook)

I add my flour, yeast, and water. Mix to just barely incorporated, but doesn't look like a dough yet. It's still shaggy with chunks of unhydrated flour. This takes somewhere from 1-2 minutes. I let that autolyse for 20 minutes, after which I add my salt and mix it on first speed for another 3 -4 minutes. Then I go to 2nd speed for another 4 minutes. I pull the window pane test. From what I learn from Michel Suas' Advanced Bread and Pastry, the window pane for improved mix will tear a bit. It's only intensive that doesn't really tear.

I want to achieve the large holes that an improved mix gives you. So far, I've not got it! Does anyone know what I'm doing wrong?

Leandro Di Lorenzo's picture
Leandro Di Lorenzo

Try just to develop the gluten of the flour. (BTW which flour r u using?) Don't window pane the dough if u r gonna let ferment for 1.5 hours with a fold, but don't under-develop it either. If the dough has to much strength The CO2 won't have enough energy to inflate the gluten.
If u r using highly active dry yeast u can put a bit more than .6% on the dough without affect the taste (highly active dry yeast don't affect the taste like fresh or instant yeast).
A bread flour like KA is, in my opinion, too strong to get a crumb that u want.
Try to use a poolish. The protease activity is very high on this preferment. And those enzymes will act on the strength of the flour.
There is an amino-acid called l-cysteine that will decrease the force of the flour, or u can use deactivated yeast, it will do the same. If u r going to use one of those above , it will decrease the mixing time a lot. (BTW, The dosage of the amino-acid is 10 ppm and the other is around .5%)
Do a 20 min autolyse. That will help on the protease too.
But is u r looking on french websites or videos of the boulangers. It will be almost impossible to get that crumb with the flour available in America ( they r simply too strong for that results)
I'm trying some new stuff with starch that I plan to post latter, I separate the wheat starch from the gluten and latter adding like 20% to a regular flour. The taste is remarkable, but the results still unreliable hahaha...
Anyway,,, just trying to help. And remember that the french add stuff to get the flour strong.. all the way around from here.
P.S. Sorry about the bad English, i'm from Brasil.. =)

Chuck's picture

First, I'd quibble that there's no general rule that says a "perfect baguette" has "large holes"; be sure you're not chasing a chimera:-)

But assuming that for you there's a need for more large holes, the tip that helped me the most was to do only what was necessary to make the bread hold together through shaping and rising and baking, but no more (dmsnyder has expressed a very similar idea as "develop but don't organize the gluten"). This means:

  • use a lower gluten flour (probably "all purpose", or maybe even some mixture of "all purpose" and "cake", but definitely not "bread" flour)
  • mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly before you combine them with the wet ingredients, so you have to mix the completed dough only a little bit
  • mix mostly by hand to minimize the possibility of over-developing the gluten with a machine
  • forget the "window-pane test", as it's very likely to lead to developing your dough too much to produce large holes
  • let the dough "rest" untouched as much as possible (the modern term is "autolyse")
  • knead either with something like stretch&fold or by scooping with a dough-scraper/bench-knife, rather than traditional kneading where you "squish" the dough

(It sounds like your mixing procedures are already reasonable, so several of the above points won't apply to you. The flour would be my first suspect.)

I found a relatively high hydration made producing large holes easier  ...but was neither a "requirement" nor a "magic bullet". If you're "close", increasing hydration a little more will probably be enough to push you over the edge of success - but if you're "not even close yet", even ultra-high hydrations may be insufficient. 60% hydration is way more than enough if everything else is just right. Hydrations significantly above 70-75% hold their shape so poorly they need help from something like a banneton/brotform while rising, and so are typically unsuitable for traditional baguettes. When hydrations go much above 80-85%, you'll either have a shapeless mass of dough (i.e. "pancaking"), or it will be so sticky it's impossible to handle, or both.

(I use an oil mist on my work surface and either oil or cool water on my hands to avoid sticking. The reason is that using flour to prevent sticking, it's all too easy to wind up mixing so much flour into the dough that the final hydration level is very different from what you mixed up [10-15% less!]. That can be a hole-killer.)

Some other things that help produce large holes are a) fairly high baking temperatures and b) steam in the oven. But these are hard enough to use correctly that I personally don't recommend them as one of things to consider early on.



Le Copain's picture
Le Copain

For me, large holes are an indication for a perfect baguette, too. It's the taste (lot of surface) and the chewing...

After chasing for them for a long, long time (including following the high-hydration-hype...), I succeeded using 2 tricks

Preferments and Autolysis

Ideally combined for me in the recipe Chad Robertson uses in Tartine Bread:

Using 40% of a fresh leaven and 40% of a poolish (both with 100% hydration) the overall-hydration in the end is only about 64%... (!). Letting the dough rise both bulk and proofing in the fridge (total time about 20 - 24 hours) You'll get a baguette that has French aroma, a crust that stays crisp even overnight and a crumb that is... perfect.

And, by the way: there is no need for kneading at all... just a couple of stretch'n'folds...

May the dough be with You...