Vegetable Demi-Baguettes

Bake Baguettes for Free Speech

These are not your typical baguettes. This is not your typical time. The characteristics that make these baguettes standouts are:

• Made from straight dough, no overnight poolish or pre-ferment.

• Used freshly prepared vegetable stock, not water.

• Kneaded in the stand mixer. The interventions by hand involved dividing, pre-shaping and shaping.

• Took only four hours from start to finish, mostly waiting time.

• These are demi-baguettes, shorter than the traditional 24- to 26-inch long baguettes, suitable for home ovens.

The idea that I can get the baguettes baked within a few hours was appealing since we planed to have squash soup for dinner. I needed some simple and good-tasting bread. Vegetable baguettes would undoubtedly pair well with squash soup. This recipe, adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, starts with homemade vegetable stock. All pros prefer making their own stock, the essential building block for fine dining and, here, in bread-making! Well, the stock did double duty – as the stock base for the squash soup too.  What a convenient and efficient use of time and ingredients.


Vegetable demi-baguette and squash soup

My go-to baguette recipe uses a poolish. That fragrant nuttiness and aroma fresh from the oven is what I love about poolish baguettes. I was skeptical about straight-dough style bread. What’s the risk, only a test drive? I was not disappointed with the taste of the vegetable demi-baguettes, although the aroma I’ve long associated with baguettes was missing. The vegetable stock did the trick by imparting an intrinsic comforting flavor in the bread, like eating the soup.

Gluten development came from kneading the dough on low speed in the mixer for 20 minutes. Yes, 20 minutes. I had to double-check just to be sure I was reading the recipe right. This was quite a departure in the way I’ve been making artisan-style country loaves: multi-day process in refreshing the starter, light mixing, no mixer required, a lot of stretch-and-folds, long fermentation and overnight cold proofing. Way back then, baguettes were meant to cater to the refined taste of Parisians with their light, airy and crisp texture. Times have changed. One thing though, making baguettes is easy (and fast with this recipe), making perfect ones is, perhaps, a lifelong pursuit.

Other than the stand mixer, you’d also need a baking stone and a system of generating steam in the oven when the loaves are loaded. I put a cast-iron pan on the lowest rack in the oven as I preheated the oven to 460°F. Poured boiling water in the pan to inject the burst of steam in the first few seconds when the loaves hit the oven. This process is key in creating the desirable crust on the baguettes. These baguettes were gone in record time. The appeal of the perfect crust-to-crumb ratio and crisp texture of baguettes remains undisputed.

The length of my baking stone is about 16 inches long, far too short to accommodate a typical 26-inch baguette. The first time I baked baguettes at home, I made the mistake of shaping them to the conventional size, the way I learnt in a commercial kitchen. Without a long peel and a deck oven, I have the option of either shaping the baguette dough into båtards or demi-baguettes. In this case, demi-baguettes work best in my home oven as well as with the soup.

I followed this recipe to a tee! I did not make any changes, not this one.


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