This recipe for Italian style baguette is easy to make at home, requires no specialised baking forms/moulds and taste really great The method involves taking a portion of the flour, yeast and water and using it to make a “Biga“, or pre-ferment. Italian bakers usually do not slit the dough of baguette loaves before baking, rather the baguettes are baked with a smooth upper surface and the natural cracks and splits that usually form in the sides. Here I made baguettes with and without cut dough, however my personal preference is for the cut loaves.
Italian style baguette recipe
90g water (32-34 degrees)
3g instant yeast
150g white wheat flour 550
In a bowl mix the flour, water and yeast by hand until incorporated and formed into a soft ball. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to ferment for 8-10 hours (overnight).
Main baguette dough
Biga from above
280g water (32-34 degrees)
5g instant yeast
400g white wheat flour (550)
10g sea salt
The fermented Biga should be full of air bubbles, elastic and little sticky. Scrape the fermented Biga into a large mixing bowl and add the water. Break up the biga a little to make it easier to incorporate into the main dough ingredients. Add the flour, salt and yeast and knead either by hand or with the dough hook of your mixer for 10-12 minutes. The dough should become very elastic and stretchy, if not knead for a another minute or two. Place the dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to ferment at room temperature for 1.5-2 hours.
Prepare a large baking sheet (or bakers peel if you have one) with parchment paper and dust with flour. Turn out the fermented dough into a floured work surface and divide into 3 or 4 equally sized pieces, (3 loaves for fatter, rustic loaves and 4 for slimmer baguettes). Take one piece of the dough and form into a flattened rectangle. Then fold it over once lengthwise. Roll and stretch out by hand until you have formed a long slim log. Place it on the baking sheet and form the rest of the baguettes. Leave the baguettes to proove at room temperature for 45 minutes. In the meantime pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees and place a baking sheet or baking stone in the oven to pre heat. For steam place a roasting tray of water onto the floor of the oven.
After 45 minutes using a sharp serrated knife make diagonal cuts 0.5cm deep into the loaves. If you prefer the italian rustic style loaves don’t make the dough cuts. Carefully slide your loaves onto the pre-heated baking tray or stone in the oven and bake with steam until lightly golden, ~25-30 minutes. Allow to fully cool before cutting open and enjoying.