Joe's French bread: Dissolve 1 sachet (1 scant tablespoon) instant yeast in 1 1/2 cups warm water, with a pinch of sugar. Let sit until it bubbles a bit, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt (I used coarse kosher) and 1 cup unbleached bread flour (I used White Lily, but the new Gold Medal with a bit of barley in it was recommended). Beat with a wooden spoon for a minute or so. Add 2 to 3 cups more flour, to make a somewhat stiff dough; knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until no longer sticky. Let rise for a couple hours. (Apparently a second rising works better, but I just did one.)A few days later, I made rye bread using the cold oven technique—it worked really well, I think. I used maybe 1 cup of rye flour, the rest regluar bread flour, and added 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds. Oh, and I used about a cup of sourdough starter and just 1/2 tablespoon yeast. Let it sit all day in the fridge because we went out before I was able to bake it. I just finished eating the last of it and neglected to take a picture, but it looked like your basic rye bread.
Cut dough in half and roll into French loaf shapes or baguettes (Julia Child's instructions for folding, patting, rolling are worth looking at). Place in greased pans and let rise for 45 to 60 minutes. Cut deep slits in loaves and let rest for 5 minutes. Place in the middle of a cold oven and set the temperature to 400 degrees. Toss 4 or 5 ice cubes onto the floor of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes. Add a few more ice cubes halfway through the baking to make it crustier. (I misted the oven a bit instead.) Try to let the bread cool for 20 minutes or so before slicing into it.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Mr. Chalmers's boss was kind enough to share her beau's recipe for French bread with me, and also sent Mr. Chalmers home with a perforated French bread pan! As soon as he handed over the recipe, I started the dough. The process is simple, no-frills, and probably doesn't even require the use of the special pan (though it helps the dough keep its shape). Crust was great: crisp, shattering, and a beautiful golden color. The bread is salty, as it should be: you get lots of flavor for a plain white-flour bread. Definitely the best French bread I've made.