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Apr 18, 2013

Pain à l’Ancienne Baguettes

I have not had the best of luck baking baguettes. They get all squiggly when I move them to the stone and they collapse when I slash them. I try to put a positive spin on it. "While they don't look that great, they sure are tasty!"

Ahem... right....

I posted one of my attempts using Julia Child's French bread recipe. Everything went well until it came time to slash the dough. Pfffft.

I can rock an amazing sourdough boule, make the perfect focaccia, take two days to make croissants, make killer tangzhong, crank out a marbled rye while I'm doing six loads of laundry, but I can't make the perfect baguette with those lovely slashes.

An amazing thing happened. One of the members of the bread blogging community found this post about cold fermented dough on my blog and gave it a try... and loved it... yay! What's even better, she decided to take the dough and create lovely rustic baguettes. This I can do! No slashing involved.

These baguettes are amazingly flavorful. Excellent dipped in olive oil and balsamic, slathered with butter, or sliced lengthwise to make an awesome sandwich. And the holes.... the holy grail of artisan bread bakers.

Pain à l’Ancienne Baguettes

Adapted from Bitter Baker (sadly, the site no longer exists), who adapted it from me, who adapted from Peter Reinhart. Phew!

Makes four baguettes.


1 1/4 tsp instant yeast 
2 C cold bottled water
1 tsp salt
567 g bread flour
1 T olive oil


  • Add the ingredients to a large bowl and stir for about 2 minutes. 
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and give it a "stretch and fold." (See the video in this post for a demonstration). 
  • Place the dough seam side down into a new large oiled bowl.
  • Let the dough sit for 10 minutes and repeat three more times, every ten minutes. There should be a total of four "stretch and folds." 
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for one to four days. These baguettes were made after three days. 
  • About one to three hours before you are ready to bake, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it sit, covered. 
  • Gently scrape the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface (I used granite). 
  • Cut the dough into four pieces. 
  • Stretch the four pieces into rectangles and then fold them into thirds, like envelopes. 
  • Spray them with spray oil and cover them loosely with plastic wrap.
  • Let them sit for an hour, stretch them into rectangles again, and refold them like envelopes. 
  • Let them sit again for an hour, covered lightly with plastic wrap. 
  • Fold them for the third time and cover.
  • Prepare your oven for steam by placing a baking stone on the second lowest rack and a broiling pan on the lowest rack (you can also use a baking sheet if you don't have a baking stone) and preheat to the highest temperature your oven will go (usually 500 to 550 F). Bring one cup of water to a boil. 
  • Spray a heavy duty piece of parchment with spray oil and place it on top of a pizza peel. 
  • When your oven is ready. dust the four dough pieces with flour and stretch and the pieces out to about 18 inches (or the length of your baking stone) and twist it a bit. Place each piece parallel on the parchment.
  • Drag the parchment, with the dough, onto the stone, dump the cup of water into the broiler pan, and close the oven door and bake for 10 minutes. 
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. The baguettes should be golden brown. 
  • Cool on a rack. 
Best baguettes ever! 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Lovely texture. The holes are beautiful!

  2. You truly amaze me Karen! I purchased a bagette pan probably 15 years ago and have yet to use it. I'm sure bagettes will come up sooner or later with TWD; or maybe I'll give this recipe a try. Your loaves and slices look lovely.

  3. I love the holes in your bread! Yum!

  4. Gorgeous looking heavenly little babies...I bet they didn't last long. I am thinking about all different kinds of ways to make them disappear as I type this comment. Cheers for sharing with us :)

  5. The taste of Pain a l'Ancienne is really unbeatable. My favorite baguettes! I bake them every week, and they are hot sellers. I use the formula from BBA, though (no folds).

    1. I love the flavor. I've done the BBA version too. Peter Reinhart added the folding technique once he wrote ABED.

  6. Sounds amazing. Love how you aired it... never thought about that. Lovely photos. Cheers!

  7. Beautiful Karen! Haha, I like your list of adaptions! The more bakers, the better the bread, right? ;)

  8. I made ciabatta out of this very same pain a l'ancienne dough last week and it was so amazing! Baguettes are next on my list - these ones look awesome.

  9. Hi! When you are making the folds during shaping I am assuming that you are folding into thirds and getting squatter, squarish rectangles, not the other way and getting thinner rectangles, right? What is the purpose of the folding? Is it to trap more air? Anyway, on occasion, if you don't have time can you just stretch the dough, let rise and still get good baguettes? Thank you!

    1. Hi! If you're asking about the final folds, you are correct. Rectangles like business envelopes. That is to give it more height and prevent it from becoming a puddle. I haven't tried it without it but I bet it would be too flat otherwise.

  10. I can't understand how you can have a crunchy crust if you are spraying/using OIL

    1. It's a light spray so that the plastic wrap doesn't stick. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to prevent a crispy crust.

  11. Questions:
    Question #1 - "Fold them for the third time and cover." How many minutes from this final fold do you put them into the oven?
    Question #2 - "About one to three hours before you are ready to bake, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it sit, covered. Gently scrape the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface (I used granite)." How long to you let the dough sit before you gently scrape the dough out and divide it?

    1. 1. I used as long as it took my oven to heat, so maybe 30 minutes.
      2. It's been a while. You just want to make sure the dough reaches room temp.

  12. How long do you let the dough ‘sit, covered’ after taking it out of the refrigerator, before scraping it out of the bowl?


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