whole wheat baguettes
Mastering the art of making baguettes at home, in my experience, is really no art form at all — it’s actually very similar to making a sandwich bread or a free-form loaf, but instead you shape the dough into a torpedo. And somehow it tastes just that much better that way.
And making whole wheat baguettes at home, in my experience, is very similar to baking regular baguettes — but with whole wheat flour.
I baked these last week with a Snowstorm of Doom in the day’s forecast. It was cloudy and snowing (and snowing, and snowing), I was housebound, my dinner date for burgers with friends was cancelled — you know how it goes. Baking bread — specifically, baguettes — was the only thing that could calm me down (I was really bummed about not getting a burger).
After all these years of baking bread, I’ve found myself getting into a rhythm that begins the minute I pull out the bowls, the stand mixer, the yeast, the flour. It’s like my brain shuts off and my muscle memory scoops, measures, kneads, waits, shapes and bakes. It’s like that feeling you get when you do yoga: you let your mind focus on nothing but the stretch in your body as you breathe out the tension. Or when you play an instrument: to get the notes right, sometimes you just have to play — stop thinking about what you’re doing, and just play.
I find so much enjoyment in those moments — especially the ones that result in delicious, fresh-baked baguettes.
The trick to making whole wheat baguettes is getting the dough just the right stiffness and softness. I know that sounds ridiculous, to have something be both at the same time, but such is the frustration — and joy — of bread. It’s more of a feeling than anything else. Because whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid, you have to make sure the dough doesn’t dry out too much — at the same time, it can’t be too wet, or the baguettes will never hold their shape. I find with this recipe, I don’t need to add any more water, but I do add up to a half-cup of extra flour to the dough as I knead it.
This photo does a decent job of showing you what the dough should look like when it’s too soft (left, above) and when it’s just right (right, above).
You know what else I love about this recipe? Using Red Star PLATINUM yeast. I truly mean it when I say it’s the best performing instant yeast I’ve used. I always end up with well-risen, domed loaves when I put it in my bread recipes. So I highly suggest when you make these baguettes, use the PLATINUM yeast. Bonus: It rises faster than regular yeast, which means baguette-eating time comes sooner.
Even with another snow day, I can’t be mad at that.
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Red Star PLATINUM instant yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (about 120 degrees F)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine whole wheat flour, brown sugar and yeast. Add water; stir to combine. Add all-purpose flour and salt; stir to combine.
- Knead dough on a well-floured surface 10 minutes, adding more all-purpose flour as needed until dough is smooth and slightly sticky, but holds its shape. OR, if using a stand mixer, replace paddle attachment with dough hook; knead dough 5 minutes on medium speed, adding more all-purpose flour as needed until dough is smooth and slightly sticky, but holds its shape.
- Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased large bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 1 hour until doubled.
- Punch down risen dough; divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece carefully into a thin log, about 12 inches long. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Place loaves a few inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.
- Use a sharp serrated knife to cut three 1/2-inch deep slashes on top of each loaf. Cover dough with a tea towel or plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise 30 minutes until nearly doubled in size.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake loaves 30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.
Disclosure: I received compensation from Red Star Yeast for recipe development purposes. All opinions are my own.