Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pain Ordinaire French Bread

This bread has 4 ingredients; flour, water, yeast and salt.

You will need:
6 Cups of flour (I use bread flour)
2 1/2 Cups warm water (120 to 130 degrees to activate yeast)
2 packets yeast (or equivalent if you use bulk yeast)
2 teaspoons salt dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water

Bake at 450 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes
Put 4 or 5 cups of flour in a mixing bowl. Stir 2 packets of yeast into 2 1/2 cups warm water (120 to 130 degrees)- mix with flour. Pour 2 teaspoons boiling water onto 2 teaspoons salt (to semi dissolve salt), add to mixing bowl. Add another cup of flour. Continue adding a small amount of flour until the dough can be handled without being too sticky. This recipe uses approximately 6 cups of flour.
Get all up in that dough and knead it...
I mix and knead in this one bowl because...I'm kind of lazy-there is less to clean up. Don't let that stop you from kneading on a counter/bread board or marble slab. I had a Kitchen Aid mixer that I inherited and it didn't fit on the counter, and there was the clean up. Don't get me wrong the mixer was fantastic, I just do it all by hand the way my Dad used to do it.
After 2 hours of sitting in a warm draft free spot
Punch the dough down after the initial rise adding a little flour.

After 1 1/2 hours sitting in warm draft free spot
Time to divide and shape the dough.
I just "air dangle" the dough and roll it between my hands into a rope (because, once again, I'm lazy)-thus explains the lack of uniformity and beauty of my baguette. I do the same for the loaf, counting on the expansion in the bread tin to hide my oafish heavy handed treatment of the dough.

Place a pan in the bottom of the oven. This is to create some steam that will give the loaves a crunchier crust. Place racks so the loaves are centered in the oven while baking.
After 45 minutes or so start your oven.
An hour later after loaves have been in a warm draft free spot
Slash the loaves and pour a cup of water into the broiler pan in the oven to create steam 5 minutes before putting bread in.

I rotate the sheet half way through baking because our oven heat is uneven. Tap loaves for "hollow" sound, and they're done. Place on a rack and let set for 15 or 20 minutes before slicing.

We leave the baguette standing up (vertically) on the cut end for a couple of days for a chewier crust, or put everything in plastic after it cools for a softer crust. We buy a 25 lb. sack of bread flour for $7.79 and a 2 lb. bag of Red Star active Dry yeast for $3.49 at Costco and we're ready to bake for 6 to 8 months at our house- the yeast last us about a year.