The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

adapting no-knead bread to baguettes

christopher's picture

adapting no-knead bread to baguettes

My first post here! I've been baking for a little over a year now, everything from brioche to sourdough. But I have to say, my favorite recipe is still a basic no-knead boule. I use Bonnie Ohara's version, which uses a 12 hour bulk ferment with one stretch and fold. It gives a great loaf without too much effort. I also like how it fits into my schedule. Typically I mix and bulk ferment at night, then shape/proof/bake in the morning. Other times I mix in the morning, shape at night, and proof overnight in the refrigerator. Either way, it doesn't require many interruptions and I have great bread ready for lunch.

But, my family has been craving the baguettes I've made. I've done Ohara's traditional recipe with pre-ferments, as well as Reinhart's version from ABED with cold proofing in the fridge. The former was a lot more work, and the latter just doesn't taste quite as good and has a more closed crumb.

So, I was wondering if I could adapt the basic no-knead method to baguettes. I tried the Ohara recipe (75% hydration, 0.2% yeast, 1 S+F, 12 hour bulk ferment), but shaped them the next morning as baguettes. After a 45 minute proof, I baked on an upside baking sheet with steam. Here are the results. They look ok from the top:

But on the sides you can see they split open:

Crumb is reasonably open--more than the other baguette recipes I mentioned above--but a little irregular:

Is it possible to make this better? My ideas:

  1. Kneading: do I need more stretch-and-folds? I would have thought the long bulk ferment would develop gluten sufficiently.
  2. Shaping: maybe I didn't properly seal the seams or place them under the dough during baking.
  3. Scoring: I had more trouble than usual scoring deeply, which you can see. The dough was very soft and would sort of stretch when I tried to score it. Incidentally, I used a sharp serrated knife, which I find works better than a razor.

I guess the bigger question is if it's possible to make a decent no-knead baguette. Or alternatively, is there a way of using a long ferment (no pre-ferments) that fits easily into my schedule? The Anis Boabsa baguettes look interesting, but I would need to adapt so there's less work in the morning (perhaps by fermenting during day and proofing overnight).

PeterS's picture

Your filones don't look too bad.  Baguettes are deceptively frustrating to shape; it looks easy, but takes lots of practice to master.  Your scoring indicates to me that your dough is sufficiently developed.  More stretch and folds will make the crumb more even with smaller holes.  Blowouts happen at weak spots, like a seam that is not well sealed.

The final shape of the lower baguette implies that your dough was unevenly distributed when you shaped it.  Be sure to firmly press (I use the heel of my palm) on the final seam of your dough and center it underneath the loaf when baking.

I use also use this formula for all kinds of breads.  It's very easy an makes a tasty product.

To practice, you could try dropping your hydration to 68-70%, this will give you a firmer, less sticky dough that will make shaping easier.  Rounding the dough into boule and letting it rest before final shaping will help to evenly distribute it in the final loaf.  I would also recommend cutting the bulk ferment down an hour or two, if you do this.  The added step and shaping will extend your proofing time.  You'll want to make sure that your dough has enough life left in it to properly proof.  Also better to underproof & bake that overshoot.  One you get this in hand, you can ratchet up your hydration.

christopher's picture

I tried again following the suggestion of a lower hydration (70%) dough, slightly less fermentation, and being sure to place my seams on the bottom. This batch came out better but not perfect. This time only one split:

I set aside some of that dough after fermentation and cold proofed in the fridge. I baked these the next day. This time I covered the baguettes with a lasagna pan instead of steaming the oven with a hot pan. Much improved!

(Why only one baguette? I accidentally dropped my lasagna pan on the other when I was about to bake so it was really ugly!)

So my main takeaway is this: no-knead dough absolutely can make baguettes. Lower the hydration a bit made it easier to work with. But the real secret is how you steam them. I've ordered some big foil trays and can't wait to try again (with slightly longer baguettes).

PeterS's picture

Looking better. :)

If you are going to cold ferment (retard en Francais), I suggest reducing the bulk ferment.

Baking cold dough is now a mainstay of commercial & supermarket baking, but a lot of accommodation has been made to get the results that they do.  At home, for optimal rising and oven spring, the dough should be at room temp (60-80F) before going into the oven.

How do you hold your blade when you are scoring?  For a good grigne (ear), it should be about 30 degrees.  The slacker the dough, the shallower the cut.  Like everything here, it's a bit trial and error to determine the optimum depth for your doughs--in your kitchen.

Something to watch for: As the humidity rises with the season, so will the water content of your flour--and visa versa if you're heading into winter.  It's only a few percent, but it will make a difference.

Be patient and practice; baguette perfection is a high bar :)