I have been working on these mini baguettes for a while now. Personally, I found that they took a lot of practice to get the fermentation and shaping dialled in just right. However, since the first attempts they have tasted great, I just wasn't getting the visual appearance I liked. Now that I've got my system figured out I am able to consistently get results that I am happy with. If baguettes are something that you are interested in trying don't hesitate!
One thing to note about baguettes is that unlike a loaf of bread, they don't keep well. They will be light and crispy with a very thin crust on the first day but by the second day they become tough and chewy and not nearly as enjoyable to eat. Because of this I typically only make up two at a time. That is enough for two deluxe sandwiches or I will cut them up into pieces and serve them as a side with dinner along with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Since I only make two at a time and we eat the end result in a matter of minutes I've decided to add a loaf of bread into the mix as well. As you will see below everything happens pretty much the same as one of my regular loaves, just a bit quicker. Immediately after the final coil fold the baguette dough goes into the fridge and the bread dough continues its bulk fermentation as usual. The idea behind this is to develop the gluten early on in the process so that the majority of the dough rise happens after the shaping of the baguettes takes place. I really like doing this method, especially when I started making baguettes, because even when I got baguettes I wasn't very happy with I was still able to pull out a great loaf of bread!
Ingredients (One loaf and two demi baguettes)
480g (80%) Robin Hood "Homestyle White" Bread flour
120g (20%) Anita's Organic Whole Wheat
420g (70%) Water
120g (20%) Levain
12g (2%) Redmond Real Salt
9:30am- Levain build with 20g Starter: 60g warm water: 60g Flour (75% white, 25% Rye)
1:40pm- Autolyse with 410g of the water
2:40pm- Mix in 120g of Levain
3:00pm- Mix in salt with the remaining 10g of water
3:20pm- Coil Fold
3:40pm- Coil Fold
4:00pm- Coil Fold
4:40pm- Coil Fold
5:20pm- Coil Fold
6:20pm- Divide off 370g of dough and place in a separate bowl. Coil fold both doughs separately. Cover the 370g dough with plastic and place in the fridge (this will be baguettes). Allow the other dough to continue its fermentation in a warm location.
8:40pm- Shape the bread dough, place in banneton, cover, place in fridge overnight.
7:00am- Preheat Challenger Pan to 500°F (for the bread)
7:30am- Bake at 450°F for 22 minutes with the lid on and 20 minutes with the lid off. I usually add an ice cube just before putting the lid on to generate more steam.
9:00am- Take the baguette dough out of the fridge and divide in half (185g). Preshape while cold on an unfloured countertop into a tight little ball.
9:30am- Shape baguettes and place onto a floured "Couche". This is going to take some practice. I've included a couple videos demonstrating this process to help explain. Essentially you are going to be folding the dough onto itself four times and then rolling the tips to taper the ends. The first two folds are are simple straightforward folds. The second two folds are kind of a pinching/stitching motion. You want to use your thumb and forefinger to fold a little bit at a time back into the middle. Using the heel of your palm on the other hand you want to follow along and press the recently folded piece into the dough to seal into place. As you are doing these folds think about creating more and more tension on the underside of the dough. By this point your ball will now have turned into a log. The only thing left to do now is to taper the tips. To do this you want to evenly roll out both ends of the dough to a point without adding too much length. The centre of the dough does not need to be rolled much, focus more on the tips. Keep in mind the length of your pan, in order to fit nicely in my Challenger Pan I usually aim for about 10 inches.
After shaping, pick up the shaped baguette and place it with the seam facing up (there should be a seam) on your floured couche. See photos below on how I set up the couche. Once the baguettes are sitting nicely in the couche place them somewhere warm to continue their bulk fermentation (remember we cut it short yesterday). I like to cover the dough by placing a plastic bag over the top so that they don't develop a skin on them. This is where a proofer really helps. I'm able to put these straight inside my Brod & Taylor proofer!
12:30pm- Once the dough has risen nicely and looks plump, take out of the proofer and place in the fridge. Yes, we're delaying these even further! I find that with these I get significantly better results when baked from cold.
4:30pm- Preheat Challenger Pan to 500°F
5:00pm- Take the dough out of the fridge. With floured hands gently pick up a piece of dough and flip it over so that the seam is on the underside and place directly into your pan or onto a piece of parchment paper. Score the dough with long diagonal slashes and try to keep the angle of your blade low (like when you are trying to get a nice ear on a loaf of bread). Since I am able to bake these in a pan with a lid, I like to put in an ice cube to help generate some extra steam. I find that this noticeably improves my results.
Bake at 450°F with the lid on for 15 minutes and then 10 more minutes with the lid off. Spin the pan halfway through the lid off phase for a more uniform look.
Practice, practice, practice. Take notes and photos to keep track of what worked and what didn't.
On a standard loaf of bread my bulk fermentation time tends to be 6 hours. I generally do the first part of the baguette fermentation for just over half of that (3.5 hours). After pulling out of the fridge the next day I will typically do another 3.5 hours, but some of that time is spent warming up. So these actually take more fermentation time than a loaf of bread (only because of the temperature). When trying to judge how long they should be in the couche for, just keep in mind how long the total fermentation time has been.
If you are making longer baguettes you may need to use a pizza peel or something similar to transfer the dough from the couch to the pan. With short cold ones like these picking them up works just fine.
Your fermentation times may vary depending on a lot of different factors. Use these times for the folding and the duration of the Bulk Fermentation only as a guideline. What worked for me may need to be tweaked a little bit for your bake.