The bread outside your home has either too much salt or too little
time to bake our own :-)
When I published this post of mine I really wanted to do a post on bread series. Little did I know, that for the month of February, the challenge hosted by Mary (Breadchick) and Sara (I Love to cook) is on making Julia Child's French bread. As I am not a good baker I have always been scared in making bread. But the wonderful moment I spent chatting with an old woman living in Alps who makes her own bread everyday (for simple reason there is no boulangerie in their area) changed the way I look at this kitchen experience. It is true that sometimes no matter how hard we stick to the recipes the end result is never successful. But one thing she imparted me in improving my baking skills is that when it comes to bread, humidity, amount of water and temperature counts a lot in making the dough rise. Without forgetting the right geste in preparing the bread. This old woman I am talking about is keeping a sort of a diary where she writes regulary the exact details of the bread she made: how much water, how long, at what temperature, at what exact time and during which season. Which means she could bake a baguette with the same goodness under different conditions noted on her diary. And her tips worked for me.
Of all the DB challenges I have done I would say this is the one that I enjoyed the most. For I made this challenge not once, not twice but three times. I had so much pleasure baking the french bread that I frolicked in making some long ones, round ones and some adorned with pavot grains. My next agenda is to make some perfect brioche that will wake us up with its goodness on our morning table.
Here is a short cut version of the recipe but I suggest you go and check out the step by step procedure and long version of the recipe here.
(Warning: the recipe is quite complicated but worth it :-)
1 cake (
1/3 cup (75ml) warm water, not over 100 degrees F/38C in a glass measure
3 1/2 cup (about
dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
2 1/4 tsp (12 gr) salt
1 1/4 cups (280 - 300ml) tepid water @ 70 – 74 degrees/21 -
Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water. Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.
Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a pastry scraper or stiff wide spatula to help you if necessary, and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly. In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how expert you become.
Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.
Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Set on a wooden surface, marble or stone are too cold. Or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70 degrees
After the first rise, with a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.
Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them. Let it rise the second time until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.
After the second rising divide the dough into:
3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes or batards) or small round loaves (boules only)
While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen towelling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking
Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to
Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge. Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.
Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands.
Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand.
Fold in half again lengthwise.
This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.
Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand.
Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens.
The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.
It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.
As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.
If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.
I suggest you check the complete long version and step by step guide of this recipe here.