Rustic baguettes with overnight poolish 

Poolish is a pre-ferment starter – it’s simply a mixture of flour, water and yeast but it allows the yeast to get to work on breaking down the gluten in the flour without the addition of salt and adds an extra depth of flavour to your bread. It’s not essential but it’s similar to marinating meat ahead of time. The poolish doesn’t require much effort; it’s simply a question of being organised.

Ingredients:

For the dough

  • 680g strong white flour
  • 500g poolish, see below
  • 5g fresh yeast/1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 330ml water
  • 10g sea salt

For the poolish

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 250ml water
  • 3g yeast, approximately 1⁄2 teaspoon

Makes 6.

Tip

These freeze well. After defrosting at room temperature, run the baguettes under a light tap for a couple of seconds before putting back in the oven to crisp up again.

Method:

  1. For the poolish, combine the flour, water and yeast in a clean bowl. Mix together to form a wet batter-like consistency. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and allow to sit at room temperature overnight.
  2. To form the dough, combine the flour and salt in a clean bowl. Mix together the water and yeast and add to the flour. Add the poolish. Bring all the ingredients together to form a dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until the windowpane effect is achieved (about 10 to 15 minutes). If at the beginning you find your dough a little wet, resist the temptation to add extra flour. The dough will come together, just be patient.
  4. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to prove for about 60 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size. Preheat the oven to its highest setting 240oC/gas mark 8V.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface and knock back. Divide the dough into six even portions approximately 250g each. Shape each portion of dough into a ball.
  6. Working with one ball of dough at a time, form a baguette. Flatten out the dough evenly into a rough rectangle. Taking the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a tight cylindrical shape, crimping the edges as you roll to create a tight seam (see image). The dough should resemble a sausage about 6 inches in length.
  7. Using the palms of your hands, starting in the middle, roll the dough out moving from the middle to outside. Roll the dough out to about 12 inches in length.
  8. Using a well floured tea towel, arrange the baguettes seamed side up side by side with the tea towel acting as a barrier between each. Leave the baguettes to prove for 30 minutes.
  9. The dough is ready to bake when pushed lightly with your finger it quickly springs back. Gently roll each baguette out of the tea towel and lift onto a baking tray. Score the baguettes five or six times at an angle using a sharp knife or razor blade, with each incision overlapping slightly. Place the baguettes into the preheated oven and spray with water to create a burst of steam. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Recipe Series: Breaking Bread

Discover the joys of baking your own bread with expert baker Patrick Ryan of the Firehouse Bakery, who takes us back to basics and beyond.

Recipes in this series:

Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan