The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Difference in two baguette recipes

obrien1984's picture

Difference in two baguette recipes

After baking whole-wheat and rye breads exclusively for about six months, I decided this weekend to try my hand once again at the elusive baguette. I returned to my old, trusted source, Dan Leader's Bread Alone, but also consulted the all-wise Internet, just to refresh my memory on all the tips and tricks to getting the perfect baguette.

That's when I ran across this recipe at the King Arthur site. The pictures at the top of the PDF were so exquisite that I wondered if, perhaps, I had come across the Holy Grail of French Stick recipes. I compared it to Leader's recipe, and after figuring out the baker's percentages, I discovered they were almost identical except for two points.

First, the KA recipe calls for using 100% of the prepared poolish in the final dough, whereas Leader's calls for 1/2 the poolish, but makes it up with more flour and water. Not so big a deal, in my opinion. I would rather not waste all that poolish anyway. 

However, the second difference was a big one: KA's recipe called for over FOUR TIMES as much yeast in the final dough. It works out to be about 1.5 tsp, whereas Leader's recipe calls for 1/4 tsp (1/2 tsp if it's moist yeast). Even the percentage of salt is the same.

So, I guess my question is, who's right? And I'm sure the answer will be, "whatever works for you!." Still, I can't help but wonder why there is such a difference in yeast quantity in otherwise similar recipes. Is it possible that the KA recipe over-compensates for the possibility of weak yeast? Does the extra yeast even make a difference over the course of three hours? Perhaps they are keeping up their sales? Or maybe they're using a different kind of yeast? Perhaps I'm looking into this way too deeply!

I would love to hear some opinions on this. What do you folks think?

Happy Baking! (And Happy Independence Day for those of you in the States!)


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When you see large discrepanicies in the amount of yeast, look carefully at the recipe and the book.


Look for a clear statement as to the kind of yeast that is being used.


There are three kinds of yeast commonly available to home bakers.  The labelling may say something different, but they remain these three types.


When the yeast companies prepare yeast for sale, they have huge vats of a molasses based media that they add yeast to.  The yeast follow the ancient Biblical injunction and they are fruitful and they multiply.  At some point the yeast company decides the time has come to harvest the yeast.


I suspect that they do something to minimize the molasses taste.  Some of this is put into railroad tank cars and sold to commercial bakeries as liquid yeast.  It is pumpable, easy to handle, and very popular with LARGE bakeries.


Next, a lot of the liquid is removed and the yeast company is left with a pasty moist solid.  This is formed into various sized bricks and sold as fresh or compressed yeast.  You can often find it in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.  It has a shelf life of about 2 weeks, so it needs to be used very quickly.  Some bakers feel that this is the best yeast to use.  Other bakers feel the next two forms of yeast are just as good.


The paste is further dried.  One process is at fairly high temperatures.  The resulting dry yeast is ground up somewhat.  The yeast is covered with dead yeast cells.  The product is called active dry yeast.  The yeast companies suggest this yeast needs to be proofed before use.   Because this has a lot less water in it, you use a lot less of it.  Typically about 1/3 as much as you use of the fresh yeast.  The dead yeast contain glutathione (I just KNOW I mispelled that) which acts as a dough relaxer.  Some people feel active dry yeast gives you a more extensible dough.

Another, more recent, drying technique is done at lower temperatures and the result is instant dry yeast.  This process does not kill much yeast, so the live yeast cells are unprotected by dead yeast cells.  When the yeast cells are put into dough, they start working at once.  The "instant" in the name refers to the fact that the yeast is ready to work right away.  The yeast companies suggest against proofing this yeast.  In fact, if the water is too hot or cold, that will kill the yeast.  The yeast companies suggest  putting this yeast in with the flour and mixing it with the flour to protect it against hot or cold water.  (If you use the rule of 240, some times of the year you may be using very hot or cold water to get the dough to the right temperature.)   You use about 1/3 less instant dry yeast than active dry yeast, or around 1/3 the amount of fresh yeast.


So.... recheck the recipes and see what kinds of yeast they are using.  Over yeasted bread is quite unpleasant.




obrien1984's picture


I neglected to say that Leader specifies 1/4 tsp of ADY. The instructions on the KA PDF (above) only say "yeast," although I found  a more detailed version which specifically mentions 1 tsp of active or instant yeast.

Regardless, I'm glad I went with Leader's suggestion for 1/4 tsp, because the dough ended up being quite active. During the rest period between dividing and shaping, bubbles appeared beneath the skin. I only let them proof a second time for 30 minutes, because things seemed to be highly active. If I had used a full teaspoon, it probably would have exploded.



Oldcampcook's picture

I attended one of the KA baking demonstrations some months ago and watched the lady prepare baguettes. 

I came home and followed the recipe in the little booklet to the nth degree.

I used ADY.

While the baguettes were pretty good, I much prefer a recipe that I found on the interenet and having been using for well over a year.  It is as good as anything I had while I was stationed in France a thousand years ago.

The recipe is called: "The Ultimate Baguette" and I found it by googling.

You might want to give it a try, too.