Learn to slow down through the art of making french bread at home – with a crispy exterior and soft, spongy interior, it’s excellent as a sandwich or toast!
- 1 packet of active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup warm water (95-100°F)
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cups cool water (70-75°F)
- Stir the yeast into 1/3 cup warm water and set aside. Measure flour and salt into a mixing bowl; once the yeast is liquified in the water, pour it and the additional cool water into the flour. Using a firm rubber spatula, stir and cut the liquids into the flour, pressing firmly as needed to form the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured kneading surface, making sure all the dough is scraped from the bowl, and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. Either wash and dry the bowl you were using or get a new mixing bowl for the rise.
- Use one hand to knead the dough, and the other to hold the pastry scraper (or a firm rubber spatula) to lift the edges of the dough. Lift the near edge of the dough using the pastry scraper, push it down, and press with the heel of your hand. Continue flipping with the scraper, and pushing with your hand for 4-5 minutes until the dough continues to come together. You may need to add a few dustings of flour if it is too sticky. The dough will stick less the faster you knead. Let the dough rest for 3-4 minutes, then knead again for 1 minute. The surface will look smooth, and the dough will be less sticky but still soft.
- The first rise. Determine what approximately 10 1/2 cups looks like in the bowl you’re using (and use one with more upright sides). Measure either by using measurements in the bowl or by placing 10 1/2 cups of water in the bowl and marking how high it goes (then dump out the water and dry the bowl). This is how high your bread will rise before it’s ready to move onto the next step. Place the dough into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap (or a plastic alternative!), and place a folded towel on top. Let the dough rise in a warm room, around 70-75°F. When it has fully risen, it will be slightly domed shaped, tripled in size, and light and spongy.
- The second rise: use a rubber spatula to dislodge the dough from the bowl, turning it out onto a lightly floured surface. Make sure you scrape the bowl clean. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle lightly with flour; also flour your hands. Lift the corner of the dough closest to you and flip it down to the other side. Do the same with the left, then right side, and flip the near side again. The dough will look like a rounded cushion. Gently pick it up and return it to the bowl. Cover and let it rise again, not quite tripled, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Once the dough has risen for the second time, release it from the bowl again, onto a lightly floured surface. Let rest for 5 minutes. Prepare a banneton or canvas with flour for the final rise. Next, you will create the final shape for the rounded loaf and create the surface tension in the dough. Start by lifting the left side of the dough and flipping it over to the right. Then, scoop up the right side and flip it over to the left. Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise and repeat this flip movement 8-10 times, rotating a quarter turn each time. Turn the dough smooth side up and begin turning the ball between your hands, tucking a bit of dough down under the ball as you rotate it. After about 12 turns, place the dough in the banneton smooth side down, and gently pinch the extra dough together. Lightly flour and cover. Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- Approximately 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475°F with a pizza stone inside. Flip the dough onto the heated baking sheet (flipping it allows the top to stay moist and therefore rise more while baking). Using a baking lame or sharp knife, slash a half moon on one side of the dough. Brush with ice water and place in oven. The bread will cook for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped. After the first three minutes, quickly brush ice water on the loaf, this will help the crust become golden brown and create steam. Do this again three minutes later, and a final time three minutes after.
- Once the bread is fully baked, let cool on a cooling rack for 2-3 hours. It is best eaten the day of, since it has no fats or preservatives. Store it wrapped airtight in the fridge if you plan on eating it a day or two later, but it does best if frozen. To thaw and reheat, turn the oven to 425°F. Quickly run the dough under a slow stream of water, and place the frozen bread inside. The water will help the crust to crisp up.
You can delay the rises by placing the dough in the fridge, however, I find it’s best if this is only done to delay the first rise (overnight, for example).
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: French
Keywords: homemade, baking, bread, dairy free