Pain à l’ancienne Baguettes

Pain à l'ancienne French Baguettes

The dark blistered crust pockmarked with fissures gives pain à l’ancienne a look some might call rustic, a polite way of describing misshapen food. Crudely shaped through stretching, these baguettes have thicker ends and seem unrefined at first glance.

What pain à l’ancienne lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in taste. If you consider only “lean” doughs, those made with the bare essentials of flour, water, salt and yeast, then this is as good as homemade bread gets.

The dough is developed using a long autolyse (pronounced auto-lees, as in, “You ought to lease an apartment instead because the economy sucks.”). Flour and water are mixed a day in advance without salt and yeast. This technique does a few things to the dough:

  • The flour thoroughly absorbs the water, strengthening the gluten and improving gas retention. More water will be added with the salt and yeast on baking day. If all of the water is added at once, the dough will be weaker and more difficult to handle.
  • During the long resting time, the water breaks the flour down into simple sugars, giving the bread a sweeter taste. My go-to Neapolitan-style pizza dough recipe uses a very similar method.

The result is a sweet and nutty bread with a deeply caramelized reddish-brown crust courtesy of the natural sugars unlocked from the flour. This recipe makes the most complex-tasting baguettes I’ve ever baked.

recipe adapted from The Fresh Loaf
Yeastspotting at Wild Yeast Blog

Pain à l’ancienne Baguettes

makes four 12- to 16-inch baguettes

Ingredients              Volume          Ounces          Grams
unbleached all-purpose flour  4 cups         17.6          500
water, ice cold       1 cup + 6 tbsp         11.5          325

water                3 tbsp + 1 tsp           1.8           50
salt                      1 1/2 tsp            .3            9
instant yeast             1 1/2 tsp            .2            5

Notes:

Directions:

Mix             Mix together the flour and the ice-cold water until
                a shaggy ball of dough is formed.

Knead           4 to 6 minutes, until the flour is thoroughly hydrated
                and a smooth ball of dough is formed.

Autolyse        Cover with plastic wrap or store in an airtight
                container. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to
                2 days. The bread will be sweeter the longer the dough
                rests.

Knead           Add the additional water, salt, and instant yeast to
                the cold dough. Knead until the water is completely
                absorbed, about 6 to 10 minutes. The dough will be
                very sticky.

                The dough will initially have the consistency of
                chewing gum and will not readily absorb the additional
                water.

Ferment #1      90 minutes at room temperature

Stretch and Fold

Ferment #2      90 minutes at room temperature

Stretch and Fold

Ferment #3      2 to 3 hours at room temperature, or until almost doubled
                in size

Preheat Oven    460ºF / 240ºC

Divide          4 equal pieces using a lightly moistened bench scraper

Preshape        On a lightly floured surface, gently shape each piece
                into loose ovals by tucking the sides underneath the
                pieces of dough. Handle as gently as possible to avoid
                degassing.

Pain à l'ancienne French Baguettes Shaping

Rest            10 minutes

Shape           Stretch gently into strips, about 12 to 16 inches long.

Steam           1 cup of boiling water poured in a heavy steam pan
                (preferably cast iron)

Bake            Bake for 8 to 9 minutes at 460ºF / 240ºC. Rotate the
                loaves and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the
                crust is deeply browned. The thickest part of the
                baguette will register 205ºF / 91ºC when done.

Cool            At least 30 minutes

Pain à l'ancienne French Baguettes Crust
Pain à l’ancienne baguette crust.

Pain à l'ancienne French Baguettes Crumb
Pain à l’ancienne baguette crumb.

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86 Responses to “Pain à l’ancienne Baguettes”

  1. noble pig says:

    My gawd it sounds wonderful. I am always amazed at the power of yeast and the complex flavors they can promote…just as in wine.

  2. Girl Japan says:

    Nice beautiful and Rustic! This looks amazing!!! I really need to buy some multi-grain flour = )

  3. Dee says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how amazing you are in the kitchen! I’m in love with your first photo.

  4. Arundathi says:

    Gorgeous!! Love the color! I simply have to make this! I might have bookmarked every single bread of yours. I even have a little subdivided bookmark folder just for you! :-)

  5. Rosa says:

    What perfect crusts and insides! these loaves look fantastic!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  6. Ben says:

    Wow! This bread looks and sounds amazing. I will try it this week and let you know how it turns out.

  7. Caitlin says:

    Absolutely beautiful. I love using that technique on bread – I just get a much better flavor when I use the autolyse technique. And it gives me flashbacks to biology classes, which may or may not be a good thing. Details.

  8. Pigpigscorner says:

    I love the air holes….I really have to try making bread one day.

  9. lisaiscooking says:

    Great looking baguettes, and the insides looks fantastic! Waiting for them to cool must have been challenging.

  10. rainbowbrown says:

    I love this recipe too. I still can’t believe simple lean dough bread can taste like butter.

  11. maris says:

    There is nothing better than a good baguette! These must have smelled amazing when they were cooking.

  12. Rachel says:

    Gorgeous!
    I’ve used Peter Reinhart’s recipe with good results, now I’ll have to give this one a try. You provide inspiration and a challenge, as always!

  13. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Jude that is stunning! Gorgeous crust. Lean doughs are a joy expecially with a long autolyse.

  14. PaniniKathy says:

    What great-looking crumb!

  15. The Duo Dishes says:

    Butter! Where’s the butter anyone? Looks delish.

  16. The Wind Attack says:

    What glorious looking crust and crumb! I hope I get motivated one day to make Baguette at home.

  17. RecipeGirl says:

    I haven’t experimented much w/ bread baking yet (but I intend to). These look completely perfect! Even the insides! Great job with it all :)

  18. Vicki says:

    Wow, what a great-looking crust and crumb! I have to get back into baking my own bread…

  19. Claire says:

    Beautiful! Okay, I’m going to have to stop avoiding baguettes and make these. For some reason I find these classic loaves very intimidating.

  20. Maggie says:

    I love the dark crust and the open crumb! I struggle with shaping proper baguettes and I love the shape of these.

  21. sweetbird says:

    This is some sexy bread, mister…

  22. redmenace says:

    I am really going to do this! I’m starting tonight. How do you always predict my bready needs (kneads)?!

  23. Maggie says:

    Wow, these are beautiful. I’m getting really into making my own breads :)

  24. Maya says:

    I adore rustic looking breads..They look nice and crusty.

  25. natalia says:

    Your loaves are wonderful !!!

  26. Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella says:

    At the risk of sounding like a teen, you have mad bread skillz! :P No really, this look gorgeous rustic :)

  27. Peter says:

    I think I’m in love with your bread (sigh).

  28. snookydoodle says:

    Maybe its rustic but it s sure good looking :) This bread looks fantastic. You re my favourite bakes. Such amazing loaves !

  29. Y says:

    Just my kind of bread!

  30. megan (brooklyn farmhouse) says:

    Wow, beautiful! You’ve inspired me to tackle baguette-making. Your crust and crumb both look incredible.

  31. Manggy says:

    Fantastic. I’m not usually a fan of no-fat and no-sugar breads (heh), but that looks perfect, well done :)

  32. linda says:

    You’re such a wonderful bread baker! This bread looks wonderfullly rustic and delicious!

  33. Sandie says:

    There is no bread more beautiful than that which is homemade and fresh from the oven. Simply gorgeous.

  34. YeastSpotting February 20, 2009 | Wild Yeast says:

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  35. Susan/Wild Yeast says:

    Incredible baguettes! I love your definition of “rustic” even though I don’t necessarily agree with it.

  36. Natashya says:

    Such great crumb and crust! I want to just smell them and chew on them just as they are. Mmmmm… bread…

  37. Nils says:

    A perfect rustic look I’d say. If I wanted to look my white bread look rustic, I’d envision an image similar to the one you’ve posted. I can’t get that recipe to work with German 550 flour though. Maybe it’s too soft. But my interest in it is rekindled. Thanks.

  38. aysem says:

    I tried this repice, and happy the end. Thank you for sharing…

  39. katie says:

    That looks gorgeous! I never heard of mixing the flour and water ahead like that…

  40. Joie de vivre says:

    This is my first time on your blog. I’m so glad I visited! The crumb on that bread is spectacular.

  41. raquel says:

    wow! jude, you inspire me to try all these wonderful bread! then I thought, heck, i’ll just visit your site often and drool over your creations. :) simply awesome!!

  42. Dragon says:

    I love your photos. Simply stunning.

  43. Jescel says:

    my kind of bread.. when eating baguettes, i especially like the end (heel) part.. yum! looks like you can beat someone with that loaf too! kidding aside, you really encourage me to bake.. the yeast scares me sometimes (i’m scared that it might not rise as it should), but i’m willing to try :o )

  44. Irene says:

    Amazing! I cannot wait to try these. I’m going to mix the flour early and make them this weekend when I have time to hang out and let the dough rest. Thank you!

  45. Madam Chow says:

    Awesome job. The crumb looks perfect – heck, the whole thing looks perfect. I just got my new oven and this post is just making me itch to do some bread baking!

  46. Dino says:

    Is there any reason to put the flour and water dough in the refrigerator? The hydrolytic (autolysis) reactions, which break the four do into simpe sugars, should be about 3-times faster at room temperature than they are in the refrigerator.

  47. March says:

    I admire your breadmaking skills! I’ve been so interested in rustic artisan breads, but I’ve only been making bread with my sourdough starter so far. I can’t wait to try some of your easier recipes for now. I also appreciate the pronunciation tutorial. Wish I can say those French words correctly! Thanks for all your tips :)

  48. Dino, I haven’t tried this method with a room temperature autolyse but you’re right, this can definitely work without refrigeration. So it’s about three times faster at room temperature? I wasn’t sure how long to let the dough rest.

    I refrigerate for the autolyse mainly for timing issues and to keep the yeast-free dough from fermenting like a starter. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of wayward yeast floating around my kitchen. :)

    Aysem, so happy to hear that it worked out well for you.

    As always, thanks for visiting everyone!

  49. Miri says:

    Jude, I am completely in love with all the breads that you make! You give each and every one the perfect look!

  50. Eileen @ Passions to Pastry says:

    These baguettes look fabulous! I’ve only made baguettes ala “no knead” bread dough, but I am going to try these. Beautiful crust and crumb.

  51. clueless says:

    What does it mean “rotate loaves while baking?” Does that mean turning them over so the top and bottom side get exposed? And do you bake these on a baking sheet if you’re a home cook with a regular oven?

  52. Erin says:

    I baked these today for the first time and the turned out amazing. I haven’t baked a bread with yeast in over ten years (I was 15 or 16 at the time).

    The flour and water dough remained in my fridge for about 24 hours before I added the remaining ingredients to begin fermentation.

    I baked only two of the baguette on a special aerated baguette mold made for two batones.

    On the lowest rack I placed a cast iron skillet for the preheating process and then right after placed the baguettes, I poured a cup of boiling water into the skillet.

    After the first 8 minutes, I removed the cast iron pan and turned the baguette mold 180 degrees. I let the bread cook an additional 10 minutes.

    N.B. I used a rather old, one might say vintage, electric oven that heats very hot (above temperature on the dial). I make adjustments, but I always think it’s still too hot. It doesn’t ave to be perfect, just keep an eye on everything. This is a very easy recipe.

  53. Clueless, it means to rotate the loaves 180 degrees from front to back, NOT flip it over from bottom to top. It’s for even baking since the front of home ovens tend to be cooler than the back end.

    These can be baked on a baking sheet. I’d recommend stacking 2 baking sheets to keep the bottoms from burning.

    Erin, glad to here it turned out well for you :)

  54. Brittney says:

    I am currently baking it as I’m writing and WOW. This took quite a bit of time, and I’m new to baking bread entirely but it was worth the wait. I’m actually surprised that I was able to make it, it looked a bit beyond my experience but no everything turned out fine. (Which is miraculous because I have the worlds worst oven!) I’m definitely going to keep making this and giving away some to my friends and family. You really have to try this!

  55. Julian says:

    Baked it this afternoon, results here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiddly-pom/3726015252/

    Wonderful! This was a little stickier than my last recipe, which was very similar but all done in 3 hours. Hopefully the long autolyse does indeed make them sweeter…

  56. Brittney, this is one of the more difficult bread recipes to handle because of the wet dough. Glad to hear it turned out okay for you!

    Julian, looks great! I like how deeply reddish-brown the crust turned out on yours.

  57. Julian says:

    Hi Jude – the results were indeed fantastic. A couple of friends have also made them successfully. Might have started something!

    This is a fantastic site btw, we eat quite a lot of adobo in this house already and some of your recipes look mouth-watering.

  58. Beatice says:

    It’s one year that I’m trying to make a French Baguette à l’ancienne ou Tradition, but with some rye flour mixed in it:I discovered this Baguette in Montpellier last year. I born French and I know what is a good bread. I learned throught the Internet and books in english and French. But I never reached what I wanted.I got the crust ok but inside is always too much like a loaf and not like an airy baguette.The falvour is good and everybody like it with olive oil on it French cheese or butter. I have a sourdough in my fridge since last December, I refresh it every 4/5 days when I make a new attempt. This sourdough is based on 50% Rye 50% water. It’s pretty liquid but smell good and make bubbles, seem to be ok.
    After I read your recipe I prepared the “pate”of all purpose flour with the water and it’s in the fridge for already 24 hours. I would like to mix it with my sourdough and make a sourdough rye baguette.The question is how many grams of sourdough to mix to the “pate” should I still add 50gr of water and 5grs of instant yeast ?
    I read about a sourdough baguette on the Fresh Loaf forum and got completely confuse with the recipe using 2 starters…
    I now live downunder in Sydney and will be very grateful if you can help me to finally achieve my dream.

  59. Beatrice says:

    sorry! my name is Beatrice`and not as I mistakingly typed it!
    I hope that the author of the recipe (is it Jude?), or someone else who is making this kind of sourdough rye baguettes, will give me the answer to this question that I’m tracking already 12 months without success. To make a loaf or a “batard” is no problem, the baguette is.
    Last night I refreshed my levain sourdough with only flour without water and put a tsp of honey, one hour later my sourdough had rised to the top of the container and spilt over ! I never see something like that. Can somebody tell me why ? this is not mentionned in the recipes of Kaiser levain liquid or other recipes to make sourdough. The more I go on with my experiences the more I learn new facts and I found that the making of the bread is amazing and I’m almost obsessed with this subject.

  60. David C. says:

    Hey there,

    Thanks for the great recipe idea. The first round was hard enough to pave a village with, but I’m trying again as I write this, and I’m hopeful. Next time you bake this, would you mind adding some photos of what the dough should look like during the second kneading (ie, just after you add the yeasty water)?

    And just as a friendly aside, neither autolyse nor autolyze are pronounced auto-lees. Rather, it’s ˈȯ-tō-ˌlīz, as in auto-lies (as in, he lies about his bread successes all the time).

  61. Matt P. says:

    First, I should say that this particular baguette recipe yields fantastic bread. The crumb was excellent, the inside airy, moist, with just enough gummyness.

    David C., even though my bread came out fantastic it may very well have ended up in disaster if I didn’t trust my instincts. That cold mass of dough and water that spent 12 hours at 40* F remains exceptionally cold after adding water, yeast, and kneading. This factor combined with the slightly lower temperature from it being so cold outside resulted in yeast that was very reluctant to yield fermentation and thus resulted in a very slow rise. The rise was so slow in fact that after folding and allowing to rest at room temp for several hours I decided to put it back in the refrigerator overnight. The dough continued to rise very slowly but enough so to pick up on ferment step 2 and 3 to finish the bread. The final product was acceptable. On my second attempt I allowed the cold dough to come close to room temp before adding the yeast and water. By doing this the rising process is much closer to that in the instructions. It should be noted that because this dough has so much moisture in it that after preshaping it tends to flatten out, it requires a lot of attention during the final rise before baking to yield an attractive baguette. I must say that this baguette has been the closest thing to what one would call a baguette in France.

    Oh by the way, when he says the dough will be “like gum” when adding the water and yeast he isn’t kidding. You seriously have to keep working it until all of the water is absorbed and a nice smooth dough is formed. Yes it will be sticky but its contents will be distributed in a homogeneous manner. By the way if you need photos i’ll take them this time when I make the bread.
    Hope this helped a little. Good Luck! Matt

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  63. C says:

    I made these and they looked beautiful! but they were really tough – any ideas on what went wrong? I followed your directions but is that too much kneading? I do it by hand not a machine. Thanks!

  64. Zom says:

    Unto this bread I perpetuated the following crimes: failure to measure water, flour, salt, or yeast accurately; shorting the autolyse to a mere 8 hours; pounding the gluten ball into submission while my toddler flung rye flour willy-nilly both in and at the bowl; leaving it to a final rise for 2 hours and then shoving it in the fridge for 4; shaping it higgledy-piggledy; and neglecting to add in a bake pan full of water. The result? A gorgeous, soft dough (albeit without your admirable crumb) transformed into tender loaves unrivaled even by the bakery up the street. This. Is. The. Best. Bread. I. Have. Ever. Made. Imagine if I actually followed your excellent instructions properly! THANK YOU.

  65. Sarah says:

    I have just made this bread (first time ever breadmaking attempt!) and SUCCESS! I have to say I did not have high hopes, thinking for some reason that my first attempt at breadmaking was going to be a sad, sad disappointment. But just took them out of the oven and sampled and oh my gosh, they are excellent!! Honestly, just as good as fancy bakery bread, if not better (if I do say so myself!) Can’t believe it turned out so well!! The inside is all chewy and just dense enough, with lots of air holes.. perfect texture! Husband is impressed and amazed, as I don’t think he had very high hopes either, haha. Will definitely be trying more of your bread recipes soon! THANK YOU!! :)

  66. cs0815 says:

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe… turns out awesome. After using the original recipe a few times, I have started using 100g of whole wheat flour; also, I’ve added some grains (actually, some spent malt from brewing). Turns out great.
    Thanks so much!

  67. Stiff Dough ball in the autolyse stage says:

    Hey there! Nice recipe btw :3 I fell in love with your breads :D

    I want to ask (just started few minutes ago), in the autolyse stage, is the flour+water=stiff?
    I did not expect it to be so stiff that I can’t even make it into a smooth ball, though I knead it enough to form into a decent (semi-rough looking) ball..

    I followed the recipe divided by two (2 cups of flour + 1/2 cup 3 tbsp water) and it seems the cold water is not enough for the flour (I even added few spoons of water to make it workable).. Is it normal? Or is it that my measuring cups fail me? Thanks!

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  73. joanne says:

    hi, i couldn’t find regular instant yeast so i bought red star’s “quick rise yeast” with the label “instant yeast” in small letters on the bottom. is it ok to use “quick rise yeast” for artisan breads such as this?

  74. Barbara says:

    Might you have some suggestions about using a sourdough starter??? (Think that’s what was used well before instant yeast)…Thanks

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  78. Dan says:

    Nice work! The crumb structure is amazing, and the dark crusts look superb. Great write-up too – thanks!

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