450 grams King Arthur Flour bread flour
115 grams freshly milled hard spring wheat flour OR good-quality whole grain wheat flour
396 grams filtered water, cold
12 grams salt
110 grams levain, at its peak
In a mixing bowl, mix together the flours, water, and salt until no trace of dry flour remains and mixture is homogenous. Place the mixing bowl on the counter, lightly covered, and let it rest for 4 hours. If you need a shorter rest time to accommodate your schedule, omit the salt in this step and add it during the next step, and let your dough rest for only an hour or two. By the end of this step, you should be able to pull a good windowpane from your dough.
Spread the levain over the dough, and, if adding salt at this step, add the salt. Mix until the levain is fully incorporated into the dough, allowing the dough to rest for 5 minutes at a time to prevent tearing, if necessary.
Move your dough to a clean clear glass or plastic bowl, cover loosely, and let stand at room temperature for 3-4 hours or until you see that fermentation has started to take off. During the first hour of bulk, perform 2 rounds of stretch and folds half an hour apart, starting half an hour after the beginning of bulk. Once you see strong fermentation taking place, move the bowl to the refrigerator to continue a slow cold bulk overnight. In the morning, your dough should be quite well proofed, but not proofed to its max; if not, don’t fret—just remove it from the fridge and let it continue proofing at room temperature until it’s where it needs to be. Don’t worry if your dough doesn’t display a massive show of bubbles on top like you see in the photo above—that’s just our starter being extra spunky. The important bubbles are below the surface, populated throughout the whole dough mass, and are what will give your baguettes their light, airy texture. Once your dough looks like this, it’s time to divide and preshape your dough. Divide and preshape
Gently dump the dough onto a moderately floured surface and, using a bench scraper, divide the mass of dough into four equal parts. Lightly shape them into rounds and set aside to rest for 30 minutes or until relaxed enough to shape. Don’t rush this last point; you want your dough amply relaxed so that it doesn’t fight you during shaping.
Grab one piece of rested dough and flip it over onto a very lightly floured bench. Go sparingly with the bench flour; you don’t want the dough to end up coated in so much flour that it won’t adhere to itself as you shape it. Lightly stretch the dough into a circle (if it resists this light stretching, leave it to rest a bit longer before continuing). Grab the top edge of the circle and fold it down toward the middle of the dough, then rotate the dough on the bench so that the bottom edge of the circle becomes the top edge. Fold the top edge down toward the center, just as before. Using your thumbs to gently crease the center of the dough, fold the top edge all the way down to meet the bottom edge and, using either your thumbs/heels of your hands or the outer edges of your pinkies, press the two edges together to form a seam against the bench. To finish, gently place your hands over the demi-baguette as if you were going to use it as a rolling pin, with your fingertips and heels of your hand firmly contacting the bench and your palms gently touching the dough, and roll it into shape, tapering the loaf with more pressure at both ends. Any pressure that your hands are exerting on the dough should be very gentle. The shaping comes from your hands where they’re touching the bench around the loaf. Your final length should be between 9 and 10 inches long. If you don’t have a measuring tape handy, just pop the baking surface of your Challenger Bread Pan on the bench next beside your dough before shaping as a guide for how long your shaped loaf should be. Proof
Grab two large cutting boards or inverted cookie sheets and line each with parchment paper. Heavily dust the parchment with flour. Place two shaped loaves onto each piece of parchment with enough space in between each loaf to pull some of the parchment between them to provide separation and support. To support the other side of each loaf, you can get creative by rolling excess parchment paper up against them, or by nestling a rolling pin or bottle of wine by their sides. Be sure that you flour the dough anywhere it is touching the parchment to avoid sticking when it’s time to bake. Leave to rest, either uncovered or lightly covered with a tea towel, for 90 minutes or until fully proofed. Bake An hour before baking, place your Challenger Bread Pan into the oven and preheat at 450 F° / 230° C. When the loaves are ready to bake, cut the parchment paper between two of the loaves and trim it so that they are each sitting on its own slip of parchment. Using a very sharp blade, score the loaves as you wish (three diagonal slashes or one long slash down the length of the loaves are good options) and load into the pan. Cover and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove the loaves from your pan and bake the other 2 loaves. We recommend eating these loaves hot from the oven, either plain or slathered in any combination of salted butter, soft cheese, jam, and mustard. If you don’t eat them right away, be sure to eat them within 24 hours of baking for the freshest results; otherwise, they’re fantastic either toasted or refreshed in the oven for several days beyond that.
Nicole Muvundamina is a freelance baking instructor and recipe developer specializing in sourdough and freshly milled whole grain baking. Armed with a tabletop stone mill and a pantry overflowing with grains, she is on a mission to introduce people to the fantastic flavors and characteristics that come along with fresh, whole flour. To see what grain-based tomfoolery she is getting herself into each day, follow her on instagram at @nmuvu.
We kept it simple here with 80% King Arthur Flour bread flour and 20% freshly milled whole wheat flour. We baked a couple batches using hard red spring wheat flour and a couple others using hard white spring wheat flour for the whole wheat portion, with equally good results. Red wheat will give you the classic wheat flavor beloved by serious bread heads everywhere, and white wheat has a milder flavor, making it a perfect choice for sneaking whole grains into your unsuspecting friends and family’s bellies. If freshly milled flour is not available in your area, use a good-quality whole wheat flour off the shelf, like King Arthur Flour or Bob’s Red Mill. Once you are comfortable with this base formula, feel free to play around with flavor and make it your own by swapping out a portion of the whole wheat flour with another whole grain flour, such as corn or rice flour.
If you have a couche and baguette board that you’ve been patiently waiting for an opportunity to use, you can definitely use them where applicable here; however, you don’t need any special equipment to make these demis.
We sized this batch to make 4 demi-baguettes, which can be done in two rounds of baking in one Challenger Bread Pan, but you can easily scale the formula up or down to meet your needs.