Whole wheat baguette

The baguette was a labor of love, the story of a tin of whole wheat flour and the power of yeast. It started in Blue Willow Bakery the other morning, a coffee in my fist and the smell of fresh baked bread rising out from the tiny kitchen. I counted my quarters onto the counter, and tucked a loaf under my arm alongside the paper.

At home, it was gone within hours. It had been a while since I'd made bread, I realized. The large, heavy loaves of winter seemed somehow too much, and so I'd abandoned the practice all together. But the delight on our faces as we broke bread over supper, dipped its crevasses into a broth of mussels and tomatoes, made me realize I'd been wrong. Bread wasn't out of season; I simply had to change my recipe.

I started searching online: whole wheat baguette, all whole wheat baguette, 100 percent whole wheat. No luck. It appeared whole wheat was not cut out for baguettes, with their crusty tendencies and tender insides.

But whole wheat was all I had, and so I forged ahead anyways. The worst that could happen, I imagined, is that the loaf would go flat and the toast dense. There had been more defeating disasters, I was sure.

And so I simply did what the recipes all said not to. I used 3 cups of solid whole wheat, kneaded a little longer to stretch the low gluten, and left the dough to rise a bit more neglected than usual. When I returned, it had doubled in size and rolled out like satin. Perhaps it was the hard, red wheat flour, but the dough had come together just fine.

I shaped it into an elongated rectangle and rolled it into a log, pinching the ends, slashing the top, and sprinkling the top with a bit of water and more flour. Into the oven at 400, it emerged 15 minutes later a delicate golden brown, complete with thick crust and the tender flesh of a hot baguette.

The only trouble is, it's already gone.


Makes 2 loaves

In a large bowl, combine 1 and 1/4 cup very warm water, 2 and 3/4 teaspoons yeast, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 teaspoon salt vigorously, until smooth. Add another 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour to form a dough; adding more if it feels too sticky. Knead for 10-15 minutes or until elastic on a lightly floured surface.

Preheat oven to 400, and leave dough in a warm place in a well-greased bowl until doubled in size. Punch down and separate into 2 balls. Roll each into a 5 by 12 inch rectangle, then roll along the long side to form a long, thin log. Pinch ends shut, slash diagonally several times with a sharp knife, and arrange loaves on a greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush loaves with water and sprinkle with a bit of flour. Let rise again and bake for 15-10 minutes, or until golden brown.


Anonymous said...

yummy. You are cooking and writing a lot huh? Great job on N.P.R. Very proud to know you!!!!


Elspeth said...

thank you so much, settie! lots of cooking...please come help us eat anytime...and bring that looch of yours, too :)

Gaius said...

I tried this recipe. It came out edible, but pretty dense. Not at all baguette-like. Have you made it several times? Do you have any extra tips? A particular type of yeast? What the dough should feel like after kneading?

I really appreciate this recipe -- I want to eat more whole wheat, but there aren't a lot of good recipes out there.

Elspeth said...

Hi Gaius:

I just tried this recipe today, as it had been a while and I wanted to remember for you. Check out today's post (2.6.09) where I will address it again!


Anonymous said...

This was my first attempt at making bread, so I was a little clumsy in making it. I made two batches, one just as you instructed and one with a sourdough starter. The first one turned out well, with a really nice exterior. The second batch wasn't as aesthetically pleasing (I didn't pinch the edges very well) but had a nice, mild sourdough flavor. Unfortunately neither one rose very well. I think that next time, I should let it rest for 5-10 minutes between kneedings to let the water absorb into the flour and let it rise for at least 4-5 hours.

Elspeth said...


the rising time really will help. whole wheat flour has a much harder time getting big than white flour does, so keep it in a nice warm place and give it plenty of time.

all the best,

Sarah said...

Hello! I came here by way of Googling "whole wheat baguette recipe" and made your very lovely baguette recipe. It turned out wonderful. A few specifics:

1. I used white whole wheat flour from Trader Joe's.

I let it rise about 45 min the first rising.

For second rising, I let it go about 20 minutes but the oven was warm from roasting potatoes earlier, so I just set it on top.

The bread was denser than a normal baguette, but still very very good. I'll be making this again.


Dawn said...

I am trying this today. I'll be using white whole wheat flour and agave to start the yeast. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

dawn said...

Amazing! You are my new hero. Thanks!

Elspeth said...

Dawn, I'm so glad you had success. At least, I am assuming you had success based on that very enthusiastic response. Yay!

All the best,

karen said...

I made this and it was fabulous! Thanks. I did add a 1/2 cup of white flour at the end, but I think the secret is lots of kneading and lots of time to rise. Mine was light on the inside and crisp on outside, just like a baguette should be.

Anonymous said...

mmmm turned out GREAT!! A little heavy but that's Ok with us! Sliced it open and filled it with Organic egg salad from Easter! Thanks~ will make again many times!!

Elspeth said...

Karen and Anonymous:

I'm so glad you both liked it. It is a little heavier, but I think that is sort of the nature of the beast. And Anon, homemade egg salad sounds heavenly!

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Finding this late but I believe it to be a worthy post. I, like you was Googling Whole Wheat Baquette. However, NOT because I REALLY wanted to. See - I've made bread for nearly 4 decades. I even ran a vegetarian restuarant in the early 80's. I know Bread. I know Whole Wheat results. Via some interesting circumstances - I began to perfect "The Baguette" in general sans half-arse previous results. This was for the purpose of sending one via an upcoming rare visit (from his wife an hour away),to a man-friend with Multiple Sclerosis (I too am disabled but, Thank God, can still cook). Not just ANY man. A Frenchman. Dontcha know I wanted perfection! So, I did, via trials, tears, and machinations create the PERFECT Baguette sans the traditional French Bread oven. Then today on Facebook wife says, "He wants it whole wheat." Acckk. So here I am. This BEST work ;)). I can tell you that your yeast ratio is very high as is your sugar. That probably muchly helped in your results. So -I'm off to experiment - have until next weekend - AGAIN. Will report back. Everyoner cross their fingers, toes, knees & eyes!!

Lauren said...

I am just now sinking my teeth into a warm piece of this fantastic bread! I came across your post via a Google search for whole wheat baguettes (as others did) and I am so glad that I did. The bread rose beautifully, and came out perfectly light in the middle with a crisp crust. I accidentally forgot to add the salt to the dough, but a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Kosher salt did the trick :). THANK YOU for a great-tasting & healthy recipe that I will be using for years to come! I'm already excited to make other variations with yummy ingredient additions.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic recipe! By far the best bread to come out of my kitchen. Thanks so much for sharing.

Hick Thug said...

Can I make this tonight and leave it to rise until tomorrow? Is that too long?

Elspeth said...

Hi Hick Thug!

If you're going to do that, I'd leave it in the fridge to rise overnight. That way it doesn't happen too quickly.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

How do you feel about adding vital wheat gluten to an all whole wheat recipe to get more "rise"?
And how do you get a really crisp, but not thick crust? I think I've tried everything without real success.
I live in the desert. Low humidity. Altitude above sea level about 2,500 ft. Yeast doughs seem to rise crazy fast! I generally put bread dough in the fridge to retard the process.
Any suggestions, ideas?

Twest said...

Finally this I have to try you make seem so simple

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