French Bread

For Bread 45, I decided to make French Bread to go with my Christmas lasagna. I first made this recipe in 2010, and I’m not sure how often I’ve made it since. I haven’t made it for Christmas dinner (since I always make Italian Bread), but I know I’ve made it to go with other meals from time to time.

As with many other recipes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, you make half of your batch of dough the evening before and let it ferment in the fridge overnight. Then, you combine the prefermented half of the dough with the remaining dough ingredients on the day you want to make bread. This process yields a delicious, crusty bread that is worth your time.

frenchbread.2014.3


French Bread
 
adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice
Ingredients
  • 5 ounces bread flour (~1⅛ cups)
  • 5 ounces all-purpose flour (~1⅛ cups)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ teaspoon yeast
  • 6-7 ounces water (3/4 cup to ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons water)
  • *****plus*****
  • 5 ounces bread flour (~1⅛ cups)
  • 5 ounces all-purpose flour (~1⅛ cups)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ teaspoon yeast
  • 6-7 ounces water (3/4 cup to ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons water)
Instructions
  1. Stir together 5 ounces bread flour, 5 ounces all-purpose flour, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon yeast, and 6 ounces water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Adjust the dough by adding more flour or water as you knead, using the dough hook on medium speed for 4 minutes, until you have a soft and tacky (but not sticky) dough. Dough should cling to your finger, but you shouldn't have dough on your finger when you remove it.
  2. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 hour, until it is about 1½ times its original size. Lightly degas the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. The next day, remove the pre-made dough from the fridge one hour before assembling the final dough. (Optionally, cut dough into 10 pieces to help remove the chill, but I skip this step without issues.)
  4. Combine the dough, flours, salt, yeast, and 6 ounces water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Use your dough hook on medium to knead the dough for 6 minutes. Add flour or water as necessary to create a soft and tacky, but not sticky, dough. The dough will pass the windowpane test when it is well-kneaded. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size. If your dough doubles before 2 hours, lightly deflate it and let it rise again until doubled from original size.
  5. Gently turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces, taking care to deflate the dough as little as possible. To form baguettes, pat dough into a rough rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough up to the center and press the edge of the dough into the center to seal. Fold the rest of the dough over the top of the dough; get the seam and the dough between your hand and the workspace and press to seal. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Take your first piece of dough and crease it down the center. Fold the bottom dough up and press the edge into the center, then fold the top of the dough over and press the seam into the dough to seal. Gently stretch out the dough until it is the length of your baking sheet. Place baguette on a cornmeal-lined baking sheet. Repeat with other pieces of dough.
  6. Let baguettes rise for 45-75 minutes, until they are 1½ times their original size.
  7. Place an metal pan on the bottom rack of your oven and move your other rack to the middle. Preheat to 500F. Score the baguettes with a sharp knife. If you do not have a spray bottle to create mist, sprinkle water on the loaves.
  8. Place the baking sheet with the baguettes on the middle rack of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot water in the steam pan. If you have a spray bottle, mist the oven walls (careful to avoid the oven door) at 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and 90 seconds. Reduce oven temperature to 450F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate loaves for even baking, and bake another 10-20 minutes (mine took 10), until loaves are a rich golden brown and have an internal temperature of 205F.
  9. Remove bread from oven and cool 40 minutes before serving.

 

frenchbread.2014.2

This still isn’t the best recipe to turn into garlic bread, since the loaves are so narrow. I must have had too much water in the dough, based on how much they spread outward instead of upward as they rose. (It’s also possible that my shaping technique still needs work.) The loaves had a medium, even crumb. The crust was pleasantly crisp and the interior was chewy. It is certainly bread that has some heft. It’s perfect to go with a brothy soup. This bread takes some time to make, but is so much better than anything you might get at the grocery store. If you have time, you should definitely give it a try.

Leave a Reply