French Bread

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Dough Yield: About

    39

    baguettes at .875 lb each

Appears in

Bread

By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

French Bread Made in the Straight-Dough Style can be remarkably good. Although I freely confess to being a poolish kind of guy—I love the fragrant nuttiness of a ripe poolish, the aroma and flavor of a well-made poolish baguette—I find that when good flour is used to make straight-dough French bread, and when the flour is treated well and handled with care and patience, the resulting bread, with the flour’s intrinsic characteristics coaxed to prominence, can stand confidently alongside French bread made with a pre-ferment. The mixing with this style of French bread is gentle, and gluten development is light. Dough strength is developed through 2 or 3 folds and a long bulk fermentation.

U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
Bread Flour 20 lb 10 kg 2 lb ( cups) 100%
Water 14 lb 7 kg 1 lb, 6.4 oz ( cups) 70%
Salt .36 lb .18 kg .6 oz (1 T) 1.8 %
Yeast .25 lb, fresh .125 kg, fresh .13 oz, instant dry ( tsp) 1.25 %
Total Yield 34.61 lb 17.305 kg 3 lb, 7.1 oz 173.05 %

Method

  1. MIXING: Place all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for about 3 minutes in order to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly. Check for hydration and make corrections as necessary. With hydration of 70 percent, the dough should be fairly loose textured. After the incorporation phase of mixing is complete, keep the mixer on first speed for another 3 minutes, then finish by mixing on second speed for about 1 minute. Gluten development should be evident, but by no means should the dough feel strong. Desired dough temperature: 76°F.
  2. BULK FERMENTATION: 2½ to 3 hours.
  3. FOLDING: Two folds are generally sufficient (if the dough has been mixed very lightly, a third fold, evenly spaced between the other two, can be added). If the dough ferments for 2½ hours, fold at 50-minute intervals. If bulk fermentation is for 3 hours, fold at 1-hour intervals. Don’t underestimate the ability of folding to increase dough strength. Remember that the dough has not been highly developed in the bowl and, depending on the relative development of the dough during mixing, use the folds appropriately—with more or less vigor in your folding motions—to increase dough strength to the desired extent.
  4. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into 12- to 14-ounce pieces for baguettes. Preshape into rounds and place, seams up, on a lightly floured work surface. Cover the dough with plastic to prevent a skin from forming. Once the dough is sufficiently relaxed (15 to 20 minutes), shape into baguettes. Place them between folds of baker’s linen, leaving ample space for the bread to rise without touching its neighbor. Cover with baker’s linen and plastic so that air currents don’t crust the surface.
  5. FINAL FERMENTATION: 1½ to 2 hours at about 76°F.
  6. BAKING: With normal steam, 460°F for 24 to 26 minutes for baguettes, depending on dough weight.