Best French Bread Recipe

Discussion in 'Bread' started by lizzi6692, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. lizzi6692

    lizzi6692 Member

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    I've been baking bread for awhile now and searching for the perfect french bread recipe almost as long. I finally found it a couple months ago and I've probably made it 15 times since then. Here's the recipe:

    2 cups water
    1 tbsp oil(I use olive oil but any other oil could be substituted)
    2 tsp salt
    5 cups bread flour(bread flour is critical in this recipe, I've tried to use AP flour and it took way more flour to get the dough to come together)
    1 tbsp sugar
    1 tbsp yeast

    I make this in my stand mixture and it makes it so easy. If you don't have a stand mixer I would definitely recommend getting one if you make bread often. I know some bread purists say it's not the same, but I've never had hand mixed and kneaded bread come out anywhere near as good as bread made in my mixer. I just don't have the patience or the strength to knead it as much as I should.

    In my mixer I've found that the dough comes together better if I put the ingredients in the bowl in the same order I did with my bread machine(which I also loved, but rarely used to bake the bread, so overall I prefer the mixer because it does a better job with the dough). I mix the water, oil and salt and pour that in the bowl. Then I measure out the flour and sugar into a separate bowl and use a whisk to mix it together(I don't have a sifter and I've read that mixing with a whisk is a good substitute for that because it also incorporates air into the flour) and pour it all on top of the liquid in the mixing bowl. Then I sprinkle the yeast over the top.

    I use my dough hook attachment on my mixer and turn it on a fairly low setting(my mixer has 10 speed settings and I usually use 3 to mix the dough). I let it go for a few minutes until it starts to come together. Usually at this point I have to scrape down the sides a little, but other than that the mixer really does all the work. Depending on humidity levels you may have to add another tsp or so of water. Once the dough comes together in a ball that no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl I turn the mixer up to medium(setting 5 or 6 out of 10 for me) and then set the timer for 10 minutes and just let the mixer knead the dough. The kneading time is crucial if you want to get that perfectly smooth dough.

    After the 10 minutes are up I pour a little olive oil(maybe a tsp) into a bowl and roll the dough around so both it and the bowl are coated in oil. I wet a kitchen towel and put it over the bowl and then let it rise. Rise times can vary depending on how cold it is in your kitchen. When it's warm it takes 45 minutes to an hour to rise, when it's cold it usually takes about an hour and a half. I usually let the dough rise once, punch it down, then let it rise again before shaping it into loaves and letting them rise. I don't know if that improves the bread or not, it's just how my timing works out usually
    .
    On one of my previous recipes I tried I got a great tip on shaping the loaves of bread. Cut the dough into two equal pieces. Take one piece and start rolling it out into a rectangle. Once you get the dough into a fairly even shape move the dough so the long side is facing you and fold each of the long sides in until they meet in the middle. Flip the dough over and start rolling up and down the length of the dough. You don't really need to add width at this point so just focus on stretching the dough lengthwise. Once the dough is as long as you want it fold up the edges of the dough and pinch them together, forming the loaf. Tuck the ends in so they're rounded and then turn the loaf seam-side down. Most recipes say to wait until the bread rises to put slash marks on the dough, but I do it before it rises the last time because I don't want to chance making the bread fall right before I put it in the oven. Repeat the process on the other half of the dough. Lay the loaves on the baking sheet and put a damp kitchen towel oven them so they don't dry out.

    One of the signatures of a good loaf of french bread is the crunchy crust and after several rounds of trial and error I found the way to get that perfect crust. Take a baking sheet and put it in the oven while you preheat it to 500 degrees. Once the oven is preheated pull the baking sheet out and move the loaves onto it and then stick it back in the oven. Take a few ice cubes and throw them the bottom of the oven. This will create steam which will help make the crust crunchy. Bake the bread for 5 minutes at 500 degrees and then lower the temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes before checking the bread. In my oven it takes 25 minutes at 400 to finish the bread, but some ovens cook faster so it's better to check it early rather than risk it burning.

    When the bread is done let it cool for a few minutes before cutting it. I know that's easier said than done but it really does make cutting the bread easier.

    And to give credit where credit is due here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.food.com/recipe/crusty-french-bread-101476
     
    lizzi6692, Jan 10, 2014
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  2. lizzi6692

    Peggio Member

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    Wow, 10 minutes in the stand mixer. I agree with you, I do so love the stand mixer because it allows me to go on with working in the kitchen while it does the job of mixing and kneading bread dough. I have been using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe for so long that I have hardly explored other options that require kneading. I really love french bread though, so I may have to give this a try. Thanks for your very detailed instructions!
     
    Peggio, Jan 19, 2014
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  3. lizzi6692

    justme4910 Well-Known Member

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    "Take a few ice cubes and throw them the bottom of the oven"

    I would use a skillet or something,if it is an electric oven, to be safe
     
    justme4910, Oct 13, 2015
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