1. Use a small plastic container that seals and will have room for approximately 2 or more cups of liquid (I like to use a heavy duty Tupperware) This is so there is room for the gas in the starter to escape without exploding your lid off, or, if you choose to use glass, break the glass.
2. Add ½ cup each of flour and water. Leave the container covered with a cloth at room temperature.
3. Wait approximately 12 hours.
4. “Discard” ½ of the starter, and add ¼ cup each of flour and water. This is called “feeding” your starter. When I “discard” I put all discards into a single bowl, and when I have enough to bake a different recipe that calls for flour and water but does not specify to not mix too well (crepes, muffins, etc), I use the discards. It will taste better if you use some amount of fresh flour in the new recipe.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you start to see bubbles and the starter smells fruity and sweet in the middle of the cycle between feedings. This may take anywhere from 5 to 17 days. The bubbles may appear before you smell anything – continue to feed until you smell.
1. Please put your starter in a plastic container that seals, or if you choose to use glass, do not seal tight! The starter will explode!
2. Add one Tablespoon each of flour and water. Cover and leave container at room temperature.
3. Wait 1½ hours.
4. Add ¼ cup each of flour and water. This is called “feeding.” Recover container.
5. Wait 1½ hours.
6. A) If you would immediately like to make a small batch of dough (around 2 medium baguettes), you can use the starter at this point. Follow the recipe below
B) If you would like a larger batch of dough (around 4 medium baguettes), add ¼ cup each of flour and water. Go on to Step 6.
7. Wait 1½ hours.
8. A) If you would immediately like to make a large batch of dough (around 2 medium baguettes), you can use the starter at this point. Follow the recipe below.
B) If you would like to wait to use your starter, you can cover it and put it in the fridge at this point. It will be useable for 2 weeks without restarting. If you need to restart, start at Step 4 of Starting from Scratch, above.
1. Pour the starter into a larger non-reactive bowl (No metal. Glass, ceramic, or plastic are all fine). Have a cover ready for this bowl. I like to use a pot lid that fits snugly, but is not airtight. You can also use a large plate.
2. Add 3 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and 1 heaping Tablespoon of course salt. If you are using fine salt, use approximately ¾ T of salt.
a. If you are using a scale, the ratio is 1 part starter, 2 parts water, and 3 parts flour. I usually add a little less water to start, because the flour may be moister (fresher / better packaged) than usual, and it’s easier to add than subtract.
3. Mix just until a rough dough forms, making certain all ingredients are moist.
4. Cover and let rise for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the dough has flattened on top. Please also follow steps for Refreshing Your Starter, below, at this time.
5. Gently fold dough over itself 4 times, with a quarter turn each time. You should end up with a roughly ball shaped lump of dough.
6. Put in the fridge for at least 8 hours before forming your first bread. This dough will last approximately one week, with the best flavor and texture for shaping on days 3 and 4, while declining noticeably in shaping texture by day 7. If you have moister dough, it may not last 7 days, and if you have firmer dough, you may be able to get it to last a little longer.
a. 1. Alternatively, if you want to bake bread sooner, you can skip step 5, and fold only once.
2. Wait 1 hour.
3. Make a quarter turn and fold once.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for a total of 3 times.
5. On the 4th hour, you are ready to proceed to step 7. The bread will not be as complex, but still quite tasty.
7. When you are ready to make bread, follow the steps below for Making the Bread.
1. Add ¼ cup each of flour and water.
2. Wait approximately 1½ hours, the same amount of time you are waiting for you dough to rise.
3. Add ¼ cup each of flour and water.
4. Put in fridge. If you need to make more dough sooner than the next day, Leave the starter out for 1½ hours before using.
1. Pour at least ½ cup of water in an oven proof container, placing it in the oven.
2. Heat oven to 500°F. If you are new at shaping bread, you may want to wait until after you are done to turn on the oven.
3. Choose a mat on which to shape the bread. You can use a cloth, such as canvas, that doesn’t have too many bits sticking out (eg, do not use terrycloth), but has some texture. If you use a cloth, the first time you use it, rub enough starch (potato, corn, tapioca - your choice) in to the threads to form a light barrier between cloth and dough. If your dough sticks to the cloth, you may want to add more starch. Alternatively you can use a silicone mat / parchment paper.
4. Sprinkle flour on the mat in the rough form of the bread shape you would like. eg, for a baguette, I spread flour in a line the length of my cloth, and approximately 3 inches wide. You can also sprinkle nuts, seeds, and/or herbs as well as the flour.
5. Take bread out and cut off a lump of dough, approximately the size of a grapefruit, for a medium sized baguette. The next steps will explain baguette shaping. If you would like to try other shapes, the internet has a wealth of information on this, as well as videos demonstrating these techniques.
6. As you bring the dough out, gently stretch the lump into a long baguette like form. Try not to push any of the air out that has formed in the dough. Place on the floured portion of the mat, being careful not to put any dough on the unfloured portion where it will stick. If you need to continue elongating the dough, you can do this on the mat. Please be aware that If, at any point, your dough starts springing back while you are trying to shape, you should let the dough rest for a few minutes before attempting any more shaping.
7. Once the dough is approximately as long as you want your baguette to be, pull the sides to make the dough wider. You will likely lose some of your length, don’t worry.
8. Fold the top half of the dough lengthwise over itself as if you are folding a letter.
9. Fold the bottom half of the dough to meet the first half in the middle.
10. Lightly pinch these folded ends together.
11. Gently pull the loaf back into the intended length.
12. Sprinkle to top with flour, brushing gently so all sticky parts of the dough are now covered in flour and no longer sticky.
13. If possible, fold mat over the dough. This is to protect it from drying out, as well as from random things landing on it. If it’s not possible, it should be fine uncovered.
14. Cover and return the rest of the dough to the fridge.
15. Wait approximately 20 minutes. This should approximately be the length of time your oven takes to reach 500°F. If you need to wait for longer, the dough should be fine for up to an hour before losing the tension your earlier folding created, that will help the bread rise up, rather than out. (It will still probably be tasty.)
16. If you used cloth to shape your bread, gently flip the baguette upside down onto a piece of parchment paper, or a silicone mat. The seam should now be face down. Be aware that many silicone mats are not meant to be heated to 500°F, and you may see degradation of your mat over time. (I prefer FSC parchment paper, which is reuseable a couple times – it’s cheaper, biodegradable, and sustainable, and I don’t have to worry about silicone bits from my burned up mat sticking to my bread.) If you shaped on a mat or on parchment paper, you can simply flip it upside down, though I do suggest brushing off the excess flour, as it can spill while shifting the baguette to your oven and back out again.
17. If you are using a silicone mat, it has enough structure that you do not need to use a baking sheet. If you are using parchment paper, gently place your baguette onto a light colored baking sheet. You can use the underside if it’s easier. Transfer the bread to the oven.
18. Bake for 8 minutes. Take out container of water.
19. Bake for 5 more minutes. Turn off oven.
20. Bake for 9 more minutes.
21. Take bread out of oven and cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes.