Recipe–French Bread

From: Adapted basic French dough recipe from a book titled Dough by Richard Bertinet. Love this book…

Time Commitment: Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, have to be in and out of the house for at least 3 1/2 hours in order to make these loaves. If you choose to retard the dough after the first rise, then it makes this recipe very flexible.

Tools you need:
  • Cookie sheets or bread peel
  • Large mixing bowl
  • an oven :)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Other tools I use, but that aren’t imperative: spray bottle, parchment paper, dough scrapers, baking stone,

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour (I use Trader Joe’s unbleached flour in the blue bag)
  • 3/4 cup bread flour (could use all TJ’s flour, but I like to add a bit of high protein bread flour to the mix)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (can use cake yeast, just need to double it)
  • 13-14 ounces of cool or lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I like sea salt)
  • rice flour or corn meal for dusting
What to do:

Step One: Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix with wooden spoon, then add water. Stir some more, then get your hands into the dough and mix with your hands.

Step Two: Turn it out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. So, here’s my first tip. Don’t be afraid of a moist dough. For many years I kept adding flour to my dough to unstickify things… This was a big mistake. The bread ended up being heavy and dry. Go with the stick. As you knead, the moisture will incorporate and begin to activate the gluten. I use two types of kneading. When the dough is wet, I bang the dough onto the counter and fold it over, allowing a lot of oxygen into the mixture. After the dough starts to smooth itself out I go to a more traditional knead, using the heel of my hand. The video shows both methods… Knead for about 8-10 minutes. Pray while you knead… Sing while you knead…

Step Three: In a large, clean mixing bowl, either dust the bottom of your bowl with flour, or oil it. Place your dough in the bowl and cover it with a moist, clean cloth. Allow to rise until double in bulk; this will depend on the warmth of your kitchen. It typically takes 2 hours in our kitchen. If I want it to rise more quickly, then I heat my oven to 100 degrees (this is a very low setting and many ovens don’t go this low, but you could just heat your oven for 4-5 minutes, then turn it off…) and proof my bread inside the warm oven.

Step Four: Time to prepare my pans for baking, then mold the dough. First, I take out a sheet of parchment paper and place it on a cookie sheet. I reuse my sheets of parchment paper 2-3 times. I sprinkle the paper with rice flour (you can also use corn meal) in order to easily remove the bread when it’s baked.

I typically make two “jacos” like the ones in the video. I separate the dough in two, and press and roll them into thick, long loaves. Sometimes I’ll roll out 12 rolls, or make two round boules. When you’re molding, you’re not re-kneading the dough. Handle the dough firmly, pressing it into the shape you choose, but don’t overwork it. Once your loaves are molded, cover them again with a damp cloth.

(Step Four and a Half: This is an optional step, and is the point when you can easily put your molded loaves into the fridge for a period of retarding. I’ve retarded loaves for between two and twelve hours… Just make sure your molded dough is covered with a moist cloth; you don’t want it to dry out. If you’re putting the loaves into the fridge for just an hour or two, then it’s best to let them rise a bit before putting them next to your chilly leftovers. If you’re retarding your bread all night, then you probably don’t need to let them rise at all before you head to bed…

When you remove the dough from the fridge, if the loaves have fully doubled their bulk, then set them on the counter just a few minutes before you bake. If the dough hasn’t fully risen when you pull them from the fridge, then allow them to finish rising, then straight into the oven they go.)

Step Five: Allow the dough to again double in size. This rise takes less time than the first, usually about an hour. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Step Six: Your loaves are ready to bake and the oven is HOT. Score the loaves with a sharp knife or razor blade. I use a small, serrated pairing knife. The scoring allows the bread to release gases where you want it to, instead of splitting along the sides. Place your cookie sheet onto the baking stone in the center of the oven. Take a spray bottle and spray in your oven, (I like to spray below the bread, but be careful of the heating elements…) to create steam. I typically do this twice during the first 10 minutes of baking.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Step Seven: Reduce the heat of the oven to 425 degrees. Sometimes, like in the video, I will remove the cookie sheet at this point and allow the bread to bake directly on the baking stone for the rest of the time. Bake another 20-24 minutes, depending on the shape of your loaves (rolls require a shorter bake) and the true heat of your oven.

Step Eight: Remove the bread, and cool on a rack. Don’t be too tempted to break open the bread right away. It continues to bake while it cools; let it sit, unbothered, for at least 30 minutes. Then, the best part. Give one loaf to a neighbor and eat the other:)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, though I wouldn’t mind attending one of Richard Bertinet’s baking courses. The song, “Tangonino” is found on the CD for children Enfance et Musique. Pretty fun song to bake to… I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Recipe–French Bread

  1. Thank you for posting this! My son’s Godmother gave him your book, The Woman and the Wheat, for a pascha present. I’ve made prosphora but don’t bake bread often. You’re blog is so encouraging. I do love to bake and I think that your giving away a loaf every day is a great idea! What a good example for your kiddo’s, maybe we’ll do that here. Or at least give away the other loaf when we do bake. Thank you!

  2. Hi Jane,
    We have been looking for a French baguette recipe since we have come back from our time in France! We miss the bread! I am so totally going to try this….thanks so much!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s