Thursday, April 26, 2012

Country French Bread

I have always wanted to try to make crusty french bread and after a short baking hiatus while in Fla, I was in the mood to try something new.
I used the Country French Bread recipe from the sono baking company cookbook.  My first attempt failed, because I didn't let the yeast and water "proof" long enough, so the bread didn't rise.  After figuring out what proofing meant, I made attempt number two and once again the bread did not rise. I attributed this failure to the fact that I did not knead the bread long enough. I actually had to watch a video on how to knead as well as how to determine if the dough was sufficiently kneaded. On my third and final attempt, the bread turned out amazing! The outside of the bread is crusty and crunchy and the inside is soft and chewy.
The recipe is not difficult.  I was just an inexperienced bread maker and I didn't have the required techniques down. Give it a try!

Country French Bread

2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tbs olive oil
3 1/3 cups bread flour
1 tbs coarse salt
Cornmeal for the baking sheet

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the yeast and 1 cup of the warm water and let proof for 5 minutes
  2. When the yeast has proofed, add the olive oil and remaining 1/4 cup water. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the wet ingredients and beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until the ingredients are well combined.  The dough should be tacky but not sticky when you touch it, and damp enough that the dough attaches to the side of the bowl with strings. Add water by the tablespoon if necessary
  3. Turn the dough out onto an ufloured work surface. Knead bread for 5 - 7 minutes (see video link above), or until dough is smooth and springy.  Stretching it gently, fold in the left and right sides of the dough to the center, then the top and bottom, to make a rough ball. Place the dough smooth side down in a lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough over so that the smooth side faces up and both sides are coated with oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (at least 70 degrees), until increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times
  4. To deflate the dough, use a plastic pastry scraper to fold the top down, bottom up, and the sides in. Turn the dough in the bowl so that the smooth side faces up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times.
  5. Sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal.
  6. To shape the boule, turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface so that he top is facing down.  Fold in the top, bottom and sides, as you did before.  Turn the dough right side up. Quickly shape it between the palms of your hands into a round. Place your hands, palms up on either side of the dough round. Then move your hands together so that they tough underneath the dough and give the dough a quarter turn.  This will tighten the dough into a nice, firm ball. Do this two more times.  Place it on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and let rise again in a warm place until dough has increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times and remains indented when you press gently with a finger 30 to 45 minutes.
  7. Set an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees
  8. When dough has risen, use a knife to cut a slash in the top of the boule. Sift flour lightly over the top and place the baking sheet in the oven. Once inside, reduce heat to 450 degrees. Bake rotating the baking sheet about 2/3 of the way through the baking time, until the bread feels light and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

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