French Bread
I think I have adrenaline for something as unexpected as Baking Breads! It starts with "Can I do THIS"? "Why not give a try"! "OMG! Look at the number of instructions on this one! Who were they kidding!" - "Am I courageous or am I blatant fool at even thinking of attempting this" and then letting it slip by. Then constant nudge from 'you-know-who' becomes a vigorous body shake and after hearing words like 'chickening out!" "Should be ashamed" etc later, I take that recipe sheet again, nervous glances hundred times, excitement at every smallest movement made by the yeast, more jumping around the whole house the whole day - more toothy smile when it finally rests from the oven - and then BAM! I fall down in a heap, tiredness seeping in through my whole body! But hey! What a day!
French Bread
French Bread manages to do this to me every time! Love it for all its complexity, love it for the nervousness that it gives me, love it for the adrenaline that it inculcates and love it all the more when it comes out looking all grand! Makes me want to cry with happiness! ( Doesnt all this sound like a mushy romantic movie! Guess Latika's theme from Slumdog Millionaire playing in the background is doing it :)) The recipe is Julia Child's and was part of Feb 2008 DarinG Bakers Challenge which I couldnt take part due to unforseen circumstances. But I did make it later, many times with 100% success! Who said French Bread is complicated ;-)
  • Cook time:
  • Prep time:
  • Yields: 3 - baguettes (24” x 2”) or batards (16” x 3”) or 6 – short loaves, ficelles, 12 – 16” x 2” or 3 – round loaves, boules, 7 – 8” in diameter or 12 – round or oval rolls, petits pains or 1 – large round or oval loaf, pain de menage or miche; pain boulot
    The Dough Mixture – le fraisage (or frasage)
  • 1 cake (0.6 ounce) (20grams) fresh yeast or 1 package dry active yeast
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) warm water, not over 100 degrees F/38C in a glass measure
  • 3 1/2 cup (about 1 lb) (490 gr) all purpose flour, measured by scooping 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 - 23C
(Note: if you are using instant yeast, you may reduce the amount to 1 3/4 tsp or 7 gr but you will still want to “proof” it because that is important for taste development in this bread)

Both Methods: 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.Hand Method: 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

2. Using the dough hook attachment on the speed the mixer manufacturer recommends for dough hook use or the lowest setting if there is no recommendation, slowly work all the ingredients together until a dough ball is formed, stopping the mixer and scrapping the bits of flour and chunks of dough off the bottom of the bowl and pressing them into the dough ball. Continue to mix the dough on a low speed until all the bits of flour and loose chunks of dough have formed a solid dough ball. (Note for both methods: Depending the humidity and temperature of your kitchen and the type of AP flour your use, you may need to add additional flour or water to the dough. To decide if this is necessary, we recommend stopping during the mixing process and push at your dough ball. If the dough is super sticky, add additional flour one handful at a time until the dough is slightly sticky and tacky but not dry. If the dough is dry and feels hard, add 1 Tbsp of water a time until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.) Both Methods: Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl (and the dough hook if using a stand mixer). Step 2: Kneading – petrissage The flour will have absorbed the liquid during this short rest, and the dough will have a little more cohesion for the kneading that is about to begin. Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scrapper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth. Your object in kneading is to render the dough perfectly smooth and to work it sufficiently so that all the gluten molecules are moistened and joined together into an interlocking web. You cannot see this happen, of course, but you can feel it because the dough will become elastic and will retract into shape when you push it out. Hand Method: 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. Shortly after this point, the dough should have developed enough elasticity so it draws back into shape when pushed, indicating the gluten molecules have united and are under tension like a thin web of rubber; the dough should also begin to clean itself off the kneading surface, although it will stick to your fingers if you hold a pinch of dough for more than a second or two. Stand Mixer: (Note: Julia did not give detailed instructions about kneading the dough other than “knead”) Place dough back into the bowl and using the dough hook attachment at the recommended speed (low), knead the dough for about 5 – 7 minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, stop the mixer and push at the dough with your fingertips. If it springs back quickly, you have kneaded the dough enough. If it doesn’t spring back continue to knead, stopping the mixer and retesting every 2 minutes. If the dough sticks to your fingers, toss a sprinkling of flour onto the dough and continue to knead. The dough should be light and springy when it is ready. Finish off with about 1 – 2 minutes of hand kneading just to get a good feel for how the gluten is formed. Both Methods: 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. (Note: From here out in the recipe, there is no difference for the hand vs. stand method)
3. Step 3: First Rising – pointage premier temps (3-5 hours at around 70 degrees) You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it (Mary and Sara Note: Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl). 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. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain around 70 degrees. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. If temperature is lower than 70 degrees, it will simply take longer.
4. (Note: If your oven has an oven light, turn on the oven light when you start making the dough. By the time you are ready for the first rise, the temperature in your oven will be around 70 degrees. You can check with your oven thermometer. If you don’t have an oven light, you can turn the oven on to its lowest setting about 5 minutes before you begin your rise. Leave on for 1 – 5 minutes until the temperature is around 75- 80 degrees. Turn off oven, when you open the door to put the dough in to rise, your oven will be around 70 degrees. Another trick is to put your dough on top of your hot water heater. Place a folded towel on top of the hot water heater and let rise. Also a heating pad works well. Mary also has used those give away shower caps from hotels to cover her bowls and the bowl covers for the metal mixing bowls work well too. Always lightly grease the plastic wrap or bowl cover so if the risen dough touches it, the dough won’t stick.) When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.
5. Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising – rupture; pointage deuxieme temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70 degrees) The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process. 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. Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion. Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched. (Note: You may need to lightly re-grease your bowl and plastic wrap for the second rise to prevent sticking) Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour. Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into: 3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes or batards) or small round loaves (boules only) 5 – 6 equal pieces for long thin loaves (ficelles) 10 – 12 equal pieces for small oval rolls (petits pains, tire-bouchons) or small round rolls (petits pains, champignons) 2 equal pieces for medium round loaves (pain de menage or miche only) If you making one large round loaf (pain de menage, miche, or pain boulot), you will not cut the dough at all and just need to follow the directions below. After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again. While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen toweling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking. Step 6: Forming the loaves – la tourne; la mise en forme des patons Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape. For Long Loaves - The Batard: (Baguettes are typically much too long for home ovens but the shaping method is the same) After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered. 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 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them. Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge. Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, sea l the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching. 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. Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet. During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all purpose flour, do not worry. Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed canvas, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide.
6. The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost. Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3 inches high in the canvas to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves. After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the canvas with long rolling pins, baking sheets or books, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out. Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed dish towel or canvas, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step. (Note: Empty paper towel tubes and/or bottles of spices work well as braces as well) For Long Thin Loaves – Fincelles: Follow the steps above but making thinner sausage shapes about 1/2 inch in diameter. When they have risen, slash as with the Batard. For Oval Rolls – Petits Pains, Tire-Bouchons: Form like batards, but you will probably not have to lengthen them at all after the two foldings and sealings. Place rolls on a floured canvas about 2 – 4” apart and cover with plastic to rise. When they have risen, make either 2 parallel slashes or a single slash going from one end to the other. For Small, Medium, or Large Round Loaves – Pain de Menage, Miches, Boules: The object here is to force the cloak of coagulated gluten to hold the ball of dough in shape: the first movement will make cushion; the second will seal and round the ball, establishing surface tension. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Lift the left side of the dough with the side of your left hand and bring it down almost to the right side. Scoop up the right side and push it back almost to the left side. Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise and repeat the movement 8 – 10 times. The movement gradually smoothes the bottom of the dough and establishes the necessary surface tension; think of the surface of the dough as if it were a fine sheet of rubber you were stretching in every direction. Turn the dough smooth side up and begin rotating it between the palms of your hands, tucking a bit of the dough under the ball as you rotate it. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped ball with a little pucker of dough, le cle, underneath where all the edges have joined together. Place the dough pucker side up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the pucker by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with either a long central slash, two long central slashes that cross at right angles, or a semi-circular slash around half the circumference. For Small Round Rolls – Petits Pains, Champignons: The principles are the same here as for the preceding round loaves, but make the cushion shape with your fingers rather than the palms of your hands. For the second stage, during which the ball of dough is rotated smooth side up, roll it under the palm of one hand, using your thumb and little finger to push the edges of the dough underneath and to form the pucker, where the edges join together Place the formed ball of dough pucker side up on the flour rubbed canvas and cover loosely while forming the rest. Space the balls 2 inches apart. When risen to almost triple its size, lift gently with lightly floured fingers and place pucker side down on baking sheet. Rolls are usually too small for a cross so make either one central slash or the semi-circular cut. For Large Oval Loaf – Pain Boulot: Follow the directions for the round loaves except instead of rotating between the balms of your hands and tucking to form a round loaf, continue to turn the dough from the right to the left, tucking a bit of each end under the oblong loaf. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped oval with tow little puckers of dough, le cles, underneath where all the edges of have joined together. Place the dough pucker sides up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the puckers by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with parallel slashes going diagonally across the top starting from the upper left and going to the lower right. Step 7: Final Rise – l’appret - 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70 degrees 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.
7. Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time. Step 8: Unmolding risen dough onto baking sheet – le demoulage. (Note: only the unmolding of The Batard is described here but the unmolding process is the same no matter the shape of your loaf or loaves. The key to unmolding without deflating your bread is slow and gentle!) The 3 pieces of risen dough are now to be unmolded from the canvas and arranged upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume. For the unmolding you will need a non-sticking intermediate surface such as a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood sprinkled with cornmeal or pulverized pasta. Remove rolling pins or braces. Place the long side of the board at one side of the dough; pull the edge of the canvas to flatten it; then raise and flip the dough softly upside down onto the board. Dough is now lying along one edge of the unmolding board: rest this edge on the right side of a lightly buttered baking sheet. Gently dislodge dough onto baking sheet, keeping same side of the dough uppermost: this is the soft smooth side, which was underneath while dough rose on canvas. If necessary run sides of hands lightly down the length of the dough to straighten it. Unmold the next piece of dough the same way, placing it to the left of the first, leaving a 3 inch space. Unmold the final piece near the left side of the sheet. Step 9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe. (Note: only the slashing for the Batard is described here. All other slashes for the other shapes are described in Step 6: Forming the Loaves) The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice. Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store.

Ideal Accompaniments

Recipe Reference

from mastering the art of french cooking: volume two by julia child and simone beck

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By Jagruti on Mar 17, 2014

The bread looks really good.i wonder if u could make a video showing the step by step process.a lot of us would be really grateful thanks.

By Swati on Mar 21, 2012

I've read this recipe carefully a couple of times but am unable to figure out the final baking instructions ........ :oops: if you could please help me out on that front ..... I'll be obliged

Hey Swati - I am sorry for the confusion. This post was done ages ago when i was not following my usual format of the blog, hence the long instruction. Hopefully some day in near future I will write it down in a more user friendly manner. --DK

By Nate-n-Annie on Jan 15, 2009

A long, but very informative post on bread baking!

Thanks for adding us as a friend on Foodbuzz. We welcome you to come visit our site!

By Rathna on Jan 14, 2009

Wow...I'm sure it must be tasting good...It looks really yummy. Hats off to your patience on writing such a long post. Really appretiate it :-) The precedure looked complicated and I thought I can never make it, until, I read you 'musings' at end. That was needed ;-)
Happy Pongal to you DK.

By Alka on Jan 14, 2009

My head is wobbling and come to think of it i had simply gone thru it without actually reading the steps...hats off to u dear,u actually thought and decided to do it,made it and also wrote it in so perfect way .....will come back after my head stops spinning :-)

By Vanamala on Jan 14, 2009

Really looks beauty...looks nice bread

By Namratha on Jan 14, 2009

Well done D!! The loaf is gorgeous and perfect...totally worth it huh?

By DK on Jan 14, 2009

@Nags : correction - It luks complex. But believe me - if I can do it - so can rest of the world :)

@Rekha : Thanks rekha - shud thank the Dbers :)

@aquadaze : Thanks :) I am honoured

@sunshinemom: But wasnt the whole challenge really worth it :)

@Anu :Thanks dearie - happy pongal to u too

@Deeba : Sure- thanks for letting me know - No one has told me this yet - will look out for it. Dont want anyone to wait..

@Asha - hehehehe I sent a caboodle of words in ur comment section! And that dear Asha will sure be like a drum landed on ur head! ;)

@Daily Spud : Thanks! You shud try Julia Childs..she guides you through the whole thing like baby!Thanks to her and to Daring Bakers for this delicious goody!

@Thanks Curry..Wishing you a gala Pongal and to your family :)

@Pavani: long indeed! but totally worth it..Happy Pongal to you and ur family dear

By Pavani on Jan 14, 2009

wow.. thats a looong post on bread baking.. From what you said it looks simple, but I don't think I'm up to it yet.. Thanks for the recipe DK. Wish you and your family a very Happy Pongal.

By bindiya on Jan 14, 2009

have bookmarked this,it is the ONLY recipe i will ever try for french bread,the instructions are soooo good!

By Curry Leaf on Jan 14, 2009

Whew-such lengthy post,but PERFECT BREAD,The post though lenghthy is very informative.The recipe looks complex,but I take your word for it.
BTW,thanks for info on tiles as well.I was looking for them.THANKS

By Daily Spud on Jan 14, 2009

I can only add another wow to those above! Such fabulous detail - if I ever get as far as making some french bread, I will be coming back to this page for sure :)

By Asha on Jan 14, 2009

Just felt a chappal hitting my head, is that your's?! ;D

By Asha on Jan 14, 2009

I absoultely love to eat this freah out of the oven. After sometime, it becomes harder, than it will become Panzanella! :))

Eat more Pongal today, I will post a diet food for you this Friday at Aroma! :D

By Passionate About Baking on Jan 14, 2009

This is just like the DB challenge revisited. Good for you to have attempted Julia Child's French Loaf. Well done! I tried to download your page but it's taking forever. Was trying to reach AWED Thai. I had the same problem 2-3 days ago, & my problem was Linkwithin. If you get many people saying the page load is too slow, try & remove the widget & check. My blog was 'in hang' FOREVER till i finally removed Linkwithin yesterday!! Just my thoughts DK. Take care, Deeba

By Arundathi on Jan 14, 2009

nice looking loaf! and yes, a lengthy post! happy pongal babe!

By Sunshinemom on Jan 14, 2009

You bet! I had to take an off the next day from work because of staying up while making this:), and never found the stamina again!

That is one tasty loaf you have there!

By aquadaze on Jan 14, 2009

wow, such amazing step by step instructions! you inspire me to try giving this a shot!

By rekhas kitchen on Jan 13, 2009

wow wow wow that s like my baking class perfect and neat lession DK simply superb love the way you teach and like the recipe too Happy pongal to you and your family

By Nags on Jan 13, 2009

wow! that is complex! i think i will come back to it once i get comfortable with bread-baking :)