The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baguettes, Sesame Semolina, and Tasting

varda's picture

Baguettes, Sesame Semolina, and Tasting

What could be more simple, or more difficult than a baguette?   It's safe to say that in the few months since I decided it was time to learn to make baguettes, I have tried around 20 different approaches.   Many of these failed, and many were pretty good.   Many followed along with strategies outlined by TFLers.    And yet a tweak here, a chainsaw there, and pretty soon I was off on my own.  

So many decisions when it comes to the humble baguette:

1. Hydration - Is it really ciabatta when you head north of 72% or is that the place to be?

2. Flour -  If you add whole grains is it still a baguette?

3. Commercial yeast and/or starter?

4. Bulk and/or shaped retard?

5. Are you allowed to use baguette trays?

Ok probably more but that's it for now. 

So here are my answers, and I have to say this is what I've arrived at, and certainly not where I started:

1.  I don't care if it "should" be lower.   The best tasting baguettes I can make are 77% hydration.   Lower the hydration and the baguettes look nicer, but the taste isn't quite as wonderful.

2.  I love whole grains, but none shall sully my baguettes.

3.  I can't believe this is the answer but commercial yeast is the way to go.

4.  Bulk retard for both flavor and schedule.   Shaped retard?   No, at least not with my approach.

5.  Hooray for baguette trays - a pox on flipping shaped baguettes around.  

Just to be clear, I worked very hard to create an approach that gave me a very short preparation time in the morning without shaping the baguettes the night before.    This was entirely a function of wanting to sleep until 5 am on farmer's market days and still arrive by 7:30 with fresh baguettes.   Also I wanted a baguette that I could make with minimal fussing, as they would be made at the same time as many other breads, so my fussing time was limited.

So to make one 16 inch (short) 300 gram baguette:

Bread flour (KAAP)  167g

Water 129g

Salt 3g

Active dry yeast .5g

Pour water into bowl and sprinkle yeast on top and wet thoroughly.   Add flour and salt.   Mix all in mixer to incorporate and then for 2 minutes more to develop.  This time is for Verona Assistent speed 1 which does a lot in a short time.  Development is moderate.   Use spatula to consolidate dough in center of bowl.   Cover and refrigerate immediately (around 33deg F) for 17 hours.   Remove, cut and preshape into logs very very gently.   Rest around 5 minutes.   Shape as gently as humanly possible.   Do not seal bottom seam with your finger - just use the pressure of the rolling out and the stickiness of the dough to close things up.   Flour bottom liberally and place in baguette tray.   Proof 40 minutes.   Score and bake at 480 with steam = pour around a cup of water into a perforated pizza pan on floor of preheated oven (preheated for 40 minutes) at beginning and then another round at 8 minutes.   Total bake is around 30 minutes.

Scoring these things is brutal - sort of like scoring jello.   At that point in the process the shaped dough is just kind of lying there flat and dead.   It's almost impossible to believe that the scores are having any effect whatsoever.   And then magically (as Larry has described) they start to puff up.  Every now and then I even get some bloom.

These are a tender little treat.

Is this my last word on the subject?   I doubt it.

Inspired and reminded by breadsong,  I put together a sesame semolina batard.   I had forgotten that you can make breads with durum without going up to 50+% durum flour, and I had forgotten what a great combo sesame and durum make.  

This is 20% durum flour, 80% bread flour, 67% hydration, 20% prefermented flour from 67% white starter.   Now all I have to do is learn how to braid it. 

Finally,  a friend of mine who is excited about my bread hosted a bread tasting for me at her home.   I baked six different breads for it, a lot of people came, and it went very well.   We put together a bread centerpiece that had all the breads in it but the Borodinsky, which surprised me by being the hit of the evening.



Janetcook's picture

Hi Varda,

Nice to read that after all of your experiments  you launched yourself off on your own and came up with the version most pleasing to YOU.  I still get excited when I venture off the beaten path and come up with formulas that suit me and the people I bake for.  A yeah for allowing yourself to go ahead and use the IY…whatever works :)  And I think they are beauties - scoring and all.

Lovely display of your breads.  Sounds like word is spreading and that you will be kept busy throughout the winter.

I am always surprised when people praise the Borodinsky and the Moscow Rye loaf too since they are really different types of breads in flavor and texture.  Only one person has said she doesn't really care for dense rye loafs.

Take Care,


P.S.  A side note:  I was thinking of you the other night when I was kneading a Pan de Mie (IY version) with my Bosch compact (DLX was in use with a more complex dough.)  It took ages to develop the gluten and I was on #3!  I can't imagine how you kept up with your production line BUT I sure know why you went ahead and got the DLX.

varda's picture

I think of the Borodinsky as being just something I happen to like but I should get over being surprised when other people do.  

As for the Bosch it is a nice little mixer but doesn't have the pulling strength of the DLX so it makes up for in in speed which isn't that great a substitute.  

Don't know how busy I'll be.   I have to figure out where I want (and can) go with this.   I got assigned (by one of my helpful friends) to go take a look at a few tiny bakeries in the area just so I know what's out there.   Will do.   Cadco ordered.   Will be here soon.   Then the installation saga begins. 

Thanks Janet.  -Varda

dabrownman's picture

All of it lovely.  Not surprising the Borodinsky was the hit.  Your double chocolate malt likely would have brought down your friend's house.  When baked well few breads can compare to your master pieces or Borodinsky the DC Malt.

My best tasting baguette is just the opposite of yours.  Sourdough - no yeast, 20% whole grain, no pan, shaped before a very long retard,  78% hydration is very close to yours though.  We have different tastes I'm guessing but yours look about 10 times better than mine :-)

Well done and happy baking Varda. 

varda's picture

DA,  My thoughtful and inspirational response to your post has vanished into thin air.   You'll have to take my word for it.   Anyhow I think I said something like vive la difference.   Or please god save me from my addiction to white flour or....  In any case, thanks for your nice comments.  -Varda

dmsnyder's picture

Lovely breads.

If you have found one style of baguette that works for you, that's great! If you keep at it, you can make other styles work for you too, but maybe after a break, eh?

Happy Baking!


varda's picture

In a few months all the answers to the questions above will have changed and I'll be convinced that this time I'm absolutely right.    But in the meantime....  Thanks so much David.  -Varda

holds99's picture


Your baguettes are absolutely inspirational and the crust and crumb on the sesame semolina batard is outstanding.  In fact, your entire bread display is lovely.  Lucky people who got to attend the tasting.  After reading your post and looking at your photos I want to go to the kitchen and make some baguettes.

Thanks for the thought and work you put into your post.  It was very informative and interesting.


varda's picture

And good luck with your baguettes.   -Varda

isand66's picture

Great looking breads all around.  Thanks for sharing your method.

I love that semolina bread also.



varda's picture

I wasn't going to have anything to do with baguettes, but then I got sucked in... Eek!  Thanks Ian.  -Varda

breadsong's picture

Hi Varda,
Beautiful baguettes! And I'm with you on the relationship between hydration and flavor :^)
I think that's fantastic you've worked out a way to manage the fermentation so you can go straight to shaping and proofing, to be ready for your market days.
Your sesame semolina looks lovely, too - it is a tasty bread isn't it? 
What a tempting bread basket - I see some beautiful braids in that gorgeous assortment...!
:^) breadsong

varda's picture

your perfect little braided rolls.   I haven't tried your method of braiding from the middle yet.   I gave someone a slice of the sesame semolina and she asked if there was butter or olive oil in it.    Funny how the durum flour can make the bread so creamy tasting.   Thanks breadsong.  -Varda

Mebake's picture

Inspirational! I can related to the effort you put forth there, varda, NOT a task for everyone (especially waking up at 5:00 am). I'm happy for you, as you seem to be right on track, and things are starting to shape up pretty well for you.

Those baguettes are excellent no doubt, and i agree with you on the instant yeast and high hydration thing. The semolina bread looks great!

I'm waiting for news on that new Cardco oven of yours.

all the best to you,


Mebake's picture

Inspirational! I can related to the effort you put forth there, varda, NOT a task for everyone (especially waking up at 5:00 am). I'm happy for you, as you seem to be right on track, and things are starting to shape up pretty well for you. Those baguettes are excellent no doubt, and i agree with you on the instant yeast and high hydration thing. The semolina bread looks great! I'm waiting for news on that new Cardco oven of yours.

all the best,


varda's picture

Hi Khalid,   I am always better at figuring out what to do when I know where I want to go.   Right now, I'm just waiting for a little more clarity on that point.   And baking like crazy in the meantime.   Do you have a plan?   I know you are getting more education which is something I should do as well, but haven't figured out how to fit it in.   Thanks so much for your support.  -Varda

Mebake's picture

Well, education is one step forward towards the goal. What you want to do is totally up to you; my ultimate goal is to run a small artisanal bakery of my own some day. If that is what you want, then, yes, pastry education or even apprenticeship takes you closer to your goal. Why don't you do some apprenticeship with Mark Sinclair? Paul, among many others have trained with Mark, and he believes that every moment was worth it. He does pastry too, so that may be a chance for you to learn. Joining a course on pastry is a significant undertaking, but is well worth your money and time in the end.

Wishing you the best in your inspiring endeavours, Varda!



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss


Your bread looks absolutely fantastic!

varda's picture

I was very relieved that everything came out and that I didn't have to leave any loaves behind.   Thanks Juergen.  -Varda

bakingbadly's picture

Beautiful spread of breads. Can't wait to see more once you get your new oven!

As you may already know, I intend to open a small sourdough bakery, doing deliveries only (to homes and shops), at least initially. I'd like to dress the delivery man as a milkman but that's going off tangent.

I already have a likely client (i.e., a sandwich shop owner) and I've been tasked to bake baguettes... To this day I had never attempted one. Suffice it to say, your tips has proven to be helpful.

Cheers and happy baking,


varda's picture

Hey Zita,  Sounds like you are moving fast.   That's called just in time learning.   Fun but a bit scary.   Good luck on the baguettes.   Just as a note, this dough is not easy to work with and if you are trying to get something that works quickly you might want to go with something like Hamelman's poolish baguette which is excellent and much more manageable.   Thanks for your kind words.  -Varda

SylviaH's picture

Easy to see why they were such a crowd pleaser.  Your baguettes look very delicious and it must be very satisfying knowing you have come up with a system and formula that works for you and your clients.  Plus you can sleep in a little :)  Your sesame loaves are lovely and one of my very favorite breads.

Beautiful display of breads for your party a real crowd pleaser!



varda's picture

The whole thing was pretty much fun.   Almost felt like a baker.   -Varda

Skibum's picture

I dream of getting holey crumb like that! I will need to try your formula - yet another on a list that keeps getting longer and longer . . . I have the flavour profile I want now, so time to work on the holes. Beautiful baking and I wish you commercial success. Who would not want to bu your beautiful bread products?

Best regards, Brian

varda's picture

Hi Brian.   I was optimizing taste and schedule when I fiddled with this.   The holes were a side benefit, and I had made these around 20 times before I got them.   But really holes or not, the taste is worth it.    Hope you try it and like the results.   Thanks so much for your kind remarks.  -Varda