Start about 24 hours before you want to enjoy your freshly baked baguettes. Make the poolish by combining 1 cup of flour with ½ cup of water and ⅛ teaspoon of active dry yeast. Stir the ingredients together in a bowl and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Let the polish sit at room temperature or in a slightly warm area for 12 to 18 hours.
After 12 to 18 hours, the poolish will have grown in volume slightly, have lots of bubbles on the top and be very wet. Add 1¼ cups of water to the poolish and mix together. Then, stir in the flour, yeast and salt. Combine well until a dough comes together and turn the dough over on itself several times. There is no need to knead the dough. Let the dough sit for 10 minutes.
Stretch the dough and fold it over on itself several times. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm-ish place for 45 minutes.
Stretch and fold the dough over on itself several times again, return it to the bowl, cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave it a warm-ish place for another 45 minutes.
Divide the dough into three or four portions (4 for shorter baguettes and 3 for longer baguettes). Flatten each portion into a rectangle and fold the dough like a letter, folding the top third of the dough down to the center and folding the bottom third of the dough up over the top third. Each portion of dough should now look like a little log.
Flatten and fold each dough log again, sealing the edges down firmly and roll each log into a baguette shape gently. Now you need to let the baguettes rest one last time in their baguette shape. You can let them rest on a lightly floured baguette pan or on a linen couche. Cover with a clean kitchen towel while the baguettes rise.
When you are ready to bake, the baguettes should just slightly hold a fingerprint in the dough when pressed. Slash the baguette with a baker’s lame or very sharp knife and transfer the bread to the oven. If you are using a baguette pan, simply transfer the pan to the oven. If you are using a couche, use a peel to transfer the baguettes to a baking stone or baking steel. As soon as the bread loaves are in the oven, pour the boiling water into the empty cast iron pan in the oven and immediately close the door.
For a summary, see below:
• Poolish: 12 – 18 hours
• Add water to poolish, then flour, yeast and salt.
• Mix together, turning the dough over on itself several times.
• Rest 10 minutes.
• Stretch and fold the dough and put in an oiled bowl, covered with a lid or plastic wrap.
• Rest 45 minutes
• Stretch and fold the dough. Return to the oiled bowl, covered with a lid or plastic wrap.
• Rest 45 minutes.
• Divide the dough into 3 or 4 portions.
• Flatten each portion, fold and shape each into a log.
• Rest 30 minutes.
• Fold and shape each log into a baguette. Rest either on a baguette pan or parchment paper.
• Pre-heat the oven to 475ºF with an empty cast iron pan inside for at least 45 minutes while baguettes are resting.
• Bring water to a boil on stovetop.
• Slash the baguettes. Send to the oven. Pour boiling water into cast iron pan.
• Bake at 475ºF, 20 – 25 minutes.