They say that baguettes are the hardest bread to make, and that a good baguette is the hallmark of a good baker. The Rex Baker has made literally hundreds of baguettes since the Village Day launch back in June, they are the centre piece of every week’s Bake List and we often sell out of any extras made for the Pick Up Point.
What’s so special about a baguette?
Some people say that even in France, baguettes aren’t what they used to be. Baguettes date from the 1800s in France with the name deriving from the Latin baculum, for “rod” or “stick.” In baguette contests, the best are judged to have an open hole soft & springy interior structure which gives off the scent of flour with yeast; with a chewy irregular coloured rustic-looking crust, a & of course the taste must be irresistible.
Like many of our British supermarkets, some French boulangeries today bring in “industrial baguettes” which are frozen white dough with preservatives. One tell-tale sign to these is the braille-like dots you sometimes see on the underbelly. In addition many French bakeries now undercook baguettes in the belief that softness, palest colour & doughy texture is in demand. With these underbaked baguettes, a caramelisation flavour & browning process known as the Maillard effect which happens at the end of baking, has not had time to occur. There’s a place for a soft white bap, but how could anybody want that for their baguette?? Tell us what you think in the comments!
The traditional artisan baguette method, which the Rex baker exclusively uses, takes time & hand crafting.
Care & loving attention is given to the ingredients (see below) and technique. Everything matters in the process, from the temperature of the water added to the dough, to the gentleness in handling the dough during shaping; the folding of the separating cloth & even the depth & distance of the cuts.
All good things take time. Rex baguette dough is left “retarding” for 12-18 hours in the fridge to develop complex flavours & an irregular hole structure. We put it in the fridge to make the yeast work really, really slowly. The Rex baker then shapes & bakes the baguettes within a few hours early Saturday morning, ready for the Pop up Point collections.
|Organic stoneground White Flour|
|Barley Malt Extract|
You will spot a small addition of Barley malt extract in the ingredients above, which gives a good colour to the crust. It is a natural sugar extracted from Malted Barley, which tastes a bit like Shreddies and has the texture of golden syrup.
This makes the Rex baguette rather more than the Baguette Ordinaire, which by French law may only contain flour, water, salt & yeast.
Some baguettes have pointy ends to look especially artisan, or are presented as an “epi” which can be broken off as rolls. But the Rex Baker wonders whether our Rex Friends would prefer round ended baguettes so that even the ends are easy to eat? Let us know your preferences in the comments.