I’ve loved all things French since I was in high school
a few months several years ago. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to France twice during my high school years. I was blessed with a French teacher, Helen Bickell, who wanted her students to see more than just the insides of a classroom and a book. Mrs. Bickell wanted her students to experience the French culture, language and people for themselves- and she arranged trips for those of us that wanted that experience. Those two trips taught me so much, not only about all things French, but about myself as well. I’m forever grateful to Mrs. Bickell for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime…twice!
I’ve always been a picky eater, and as a teenager I wasn’t open to experimenting with food the way I am now…So I ate quite a bit of french bread and cheese during those trips. At this point in my life, I could live on fresh baked french bread, brie and wine and die happy! Until a few weeks ago, I never thought about trying to make french bread at home. I saw this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, and decided I’d give it a try. It seemed simple enough, and didn’t require a truckload of ingredients..just a bit of time.
I’ve made this recipe twice so far. I’d say both attempts turned out ok, but I think I could improve my technique a bit and get better results. The bread from the first two attempts tasted pretty good but I had a bit of trouble forming baguettes the first time around, so the second time I made a Boule I’ve read up on bread baking over at The Fresh Loaf, and have some new tricks I’d like to try. I’m going to make this again, and use a The Fresh Loaf’s Preferment tip this time around and see how it goes.
French Bread from Brown Eyed Baker
Makes 2 baguettes or Boules
3 cups bread or unbleached flour
1 package dry yeast
1 1/4 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon warm water
Add 1 1/2-2 cups flour, hot water and yeast to a large bowl. Mix vigorously by hand or with an electric mixer. You should be able to mix with a mixer at this point without placing too much strain on the mixer. As the gluten begins to develop, the batter will become smooth and pull away from the sides of your bowl. The dough may start to climb your beaters- scrape it back down into the bowl with a spatula. Mix for 10 minutes. Dissolve the salt in the water, and add to dough. Mix for an additional 30 seconds.
If your mixer has a dough hook: place it on mixer and add the rest of the flour, 1/4 cup at a time until the dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.( Approximately 10 minutes) If it is still sticky and clings to the bowl, add flour a few sprinkles at a time until it is no longer sticky.
If you’re kneading by hand (like me): add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time stirring with a wooden spoon until it’s too difficult to stir. At this point, begin working by hand. When the dough is a solid (slightly shaggy) mass, turn it onto your lightly floured work surface and knead by hand. Knead for approximately 10 minutes. An aggressive push-turn-fold method works best (and serves as stress relief!) If the dough remains sticky, add a few sprinkles of flour at a time. Occasionally throw your dough down onto the counter
just because its fun and sounds cool to encourage the dough to develop.
Place the dough in a large, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature for two hours.The second time I followed this recipe, I found that placing my dough in the warmer garage yielded a better rise. The dough will triple in volume and most likely be pushing against the plastic wrap when the time is up.
Turn the dough back out onto the lightly floured work surface, and knead again for approximately 3 minutes. Place back into the greased bowl, cover with wax or parchment paper, and return to previous rising location. Let rise for 90 minutes.
At this point, your dough should be light and airy. Turn back onto your work surface, and punch the dough down (ignoring your child as he tells you that it isn’t nice to hit.) Divide your dough in half, and let rest for 5 minutes before shaping into desired shape. For boules, shape dough into round balls. For baguettes, roll and lengthen until 16-20″ long and 3-4″ in diameter. Place dough on greased baking sheets, cover with a towel and let rise for approximately 1 hour. The dough will double in size and have formed a light crust.
Place a metal (not glass) pan on the bottom rack of your oven, and preheat to 450 degrees. Let oven sit at 450 for 20 minutes before placing dough inside. 5 minutes before baking, VERY carefully pour 1 cup water into the pan in the oven. Using a sharp knife, make diagonal slits on the top of baguettes, or tic-tac-toe designs on boules. Place baking sheet in the oven, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and test loaf by turning over and tapping on the bottom. If the crust is hard, and has a hollow sound, the bread is done.
Cool loaves on a cooling rack, and enjoy!
Let me know what you think!