Oct 2, 2013

A Little Extra: French Bread

So here's an interesting fact about me. I enjoy baking. You actually probably knew that. It's not exactly top secret information I guess. Sometimes I like to bake bread or desserts just for the fun of it. Just to see if I can. It's a challenge and I enjoy seeing what I can do. And of course learning new techniques. Which is why this one was my newest attempt. I had never done anything like this. It was much more involved then I had expected, and definitely more challenging than anything I had done before.

Brought To You By: Lulu's Sweet Secrets

Here's What You Need:
3 1/2  cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon malt powder or brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 2/3 cups cool water (65-70 degrees)
Vegetable oil cooking spray

Here's What You Do:

Combine the flours, salt, malt (or brown sugar), and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the water, and stir with a large wooden or metal spoon til the flour is gathered and dough forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead vigourously for about 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and pillable, tacky but not sticky. Knead in extra flour or water (just a few drops at a time) if necessary to achieve this consistency. The dough is fully kneaded when it passes the windowpane test and is between 77 and 80 degrees.

Place the dough in a large, clean bowl that will hold it has doubled in bulk. Mist the dough lightly with cooking spray. Cover the bowl (not the dough) with plastic wrap or enclose it in a plastic bag, and let it rise for about 30 minutes. It should just begin swelling. Knead the dough for 30 seconds, form it into a ball, and recover the bowl with plastic. Allow it to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.

Scale, bench, and shape the dough into loaves or rolls. Place them on pans or in baskets. If using pans, line them with parchment paper and dust with cornmeal or semolina for texture. If using baskets, mist them with cooking spray and dust them with rice flour or bread flour to prevent sticking.

Lightly mist the top of the shaped dough with cooking spray to prevent sticking, and place the pans or basket inside a large plastic bag. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Place the shaped dough int he refrigerator overnight, making sure the bag is loose but closed to prevent drying.

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator but leave it in the bag. The dough should be 50 percent to 75 percent larger than when in. If so, let the dough sit out for 1 hour to take off the chill. If not fully risen, let it sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until it completely rises.

Prepare the oven for hearth baking, making sure to place the empty steam pan on a lower rack. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees (allow about 35 minutes for it to heat fully). Make sure your spritzer bottle is filled with water. Remove the pan of dough from the plastic 15 minutes before baking to allow the surface of the dough to dry slightly. Just before baking, score the bread. Put the loaves or rolls in the oven, either on sheet pans or directly on the stone. Then pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the empty steam pan, quickly spritz the oven walls and the bread with water, then close the door.

After 2 minutes, quickly spray the oven walls and the bread again. Repeat in 1 minute. Then, lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Wait 10 minutes and check the bread (check rolls after 5 minutes). Rotate the bread, front to back, if it seems to baking unevenly. If baking on more than one oven rack, rotate the bread top to bottom as well.

When the bread has developed a rich, golden brown color - this will take about 25 minutes for loaves and 15 minutes for rolls - turn off the oven (or lower it to 350 degrees if plan to bake again). Leave the bread in the oven an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until it seems on the verge of over browning. Remove the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool thoroughly before eating, 60 to 90 minutes for loaves, 20 minutes for rolls.







So it might not be the prettiest thing in the world and I definitely had my doubts about how it was going to turn out, but it actually turned out pretty good. If you actually took the time to read that recipe then you read that I had to spray the oven when I put it in with a spray bottle then I had to do it again. I have to be honest, I was a little nervous. I had never done anything like this. But it turned out okay and I didn't burn the house down, so all around successful. I hope to make this recipe again. I should note that I made all the dough then I froze some of it because I didn't need that much for just us, but I have no idea how good it will be after being frozen. I guess we will just see.

It was definitely one of the more challenging baking recipes I have taken on to date, and of course there were things I learned and things I am still completely clueless on (I'll be honest, I don't know what the windowpane test is). But it's fun to challenge yourself and try out new things. And you never know when something might just end up being delicious.


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