French Bread

This here recipe also comes straight out of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

  • 3 cups (16 ounces) Pâte Fermentée
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon (.19 ounces) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (.o55 ounces) instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup water plus 2 tablespoons (6-7 ounces), at room temperture
  • cornmeal flour for dusting

1. Remove the pâte fermentée from the refrigerator 1 hour before making dough. Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serated knife. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.

2. Stir together the flours, salt, yeast and the p̢te ferment̩e in a 4-quart bowl. Add the water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a corase ball. Adjust the flour or water as needed, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff Рthough it is better to err on the sticky side, as it is easier to add flour during the kneading of the dough.

3. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin to knead. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky, and all the pre-ferment is evenly distributed. The dough should register between 77° to 81°F. If the dough seems properly developed, but is still cooler than 77°F, you can knead a few minutes longer to raise the temperature. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

4. Ferment at room temperature for 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size. If the dough doubles in size before 2 hours have elapsed, knead it slightly to degas and let it raise again, covered, until it doubles from the original size.

5. Gently remove teh dough from the bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured counter. Cut into three pieces, beign careful to degas the dough as little as possible. Shape pieces into baguette loaves.

6. Let the loaves sit at room temperature for 45 – 75 minutes, or until the loaves have grown to about 1½ times their original size.

7. Prep the oven for bread baking. Place an oven rack at the highest location, placing on it an empty steam pan (I used an 8 x 11 cake pan- Kate). A second oven rack should be set in the middle or lower part of the oven. If you have a baking stone, place it on the second oven rack. Preheat oven to 500°F. Score the loaves as you desire.

8. Generously dust a peel or back of a sheet pan with cornmeal and very gently transfer the loaves to the peel or pan. Transfer the loaves to the baking stone (or bake directly on the back of the sheet pan). Pour one cup of hot water into the steam pan and close the oven door. After 30 seconds, spray the oven walls with water and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals. After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450°F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180-degrees, if necessary, for even baking and continue baking until the loaves are a rich golden brown and register 205°F at their center. This can take from 10 – 20 additional minutes, depending on the oven, and how thin the loaves are.

9. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 40 minutes before slicing or serving.


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