Buttered Crouton
Good Cooking since 1995

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French Bread an American bakery version...

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Recipe by: Chef John V.
Serving size: 4 loaves
Preparation time: about 5 hours 30 minutes
NOTE: This is a basic dough and not what is made in France, yet it is very good.

Amount/Measure/Ingredient:

1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dry active yeast (1 packet has 2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 cups cool water, 60-70F
6 1/2 - 7 cups flour (use bread flour Pillsbury, White Lily or King Arthur are good ones)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt

2 cups hot water (for oven steaming in a baking pan, see below.) In professional bakeries the ovens have special ports where steam is generated and injected into the ovens for several minutes. No home oven that I know of yet can do this, so we use the hot pan water method to get steam action for crispier crusts.

Preparation:

Make the dough early in the day; let's say around 8-9 AM to be ready for dinner.
Add the honey and yeast to cool water mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix with a mixer on low with a dough hook for 10-12 minutes, scraping down the sides a few times. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 2-3 hours). The dough is a slow riser because of the cool water. Place dough on a floured surface, I use a 24 inch square ceramic floor tile as my dough board. Cut the dough into 4 portions, kneed at least 20 times, forming into rounds. Let rest 45-60 minutes covered with a slightly damp cloth. Then gently shape, as not to deflate, into loaves by hand. Place on a French bread loaf pan or flat baking pan if making rolls. Let rise again for 60-70 minutes covered with a slightly damp cloth. Slash-cut-dock the loaves with a very sharp knife of razor blade diagonally 3 times, then spritz with water from a spray bottle just to moisten. Place the pan in your preheated oven at 450 F. Bake 10 minutes, turn the pan around and bake 10 minutes more.

 Remove let cool 2-3 minutes and then remove from the pan on to a wire rack to cool.

French bread pan from Amazon(There are varing techniques, some bakers use a couche and then a peel to slice the loaves onto a baking stone. I have found that using a special French bread baking pan to be sort of a fool proof way at home.)

 

Optional for a crispier loaf: (Place a heavy duty roasting pan on the bottom of the oven, it's to be filled later with water after the loaves go in.)

Slash diagonally 3 times or snip with scissors, be careful not to deflate the loaves. Spritz with water from a spray bottle just to moisten. Place the dough in the oven on the top rack, pour about 2 cups hot water into the preheated roasting pan set on the oven bottom, above the pan of water and bake. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Note: This dough is meant to be on the sticky side, so use some extra flour when handling it---don't use too much though. Handle, form and shape the dough gently so it doesn't deflate, but firmly enough to to seal the seam.

This recipe can also be used for pizza, calzone and rolls.


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