Has anyone else been bingeing The Great British Baking Show on Netflix? I’m only slightly obsessed. And not at all jealous of the master cooking skills of those contestants. How does a 17 year old know how to make all of those fancy pastries?! I only hope I can one day be just like them.
Well, I’ve run out of seasons to watch on Netflix so I’ve made my way over to the Master Class series. I was watching Paul Hollywood explain how to make french bread the other day and I’ve had a hankering to make some ever since!
French bread is actually really easy to make. It only has 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. A lot of breads use sugar because it helps feed the yeast, but that tends to give a really tight “crumb” or small holes in the bread. Classic french bread has big, irregular air holes that you get from proofing and the simple ingredients.
The problem with it, is that to develop a really good flavor, you have to let it proof for an extremely long time which is why I don’t make it as often as i would like. BUT, for those that have never made it before, I encourage you to give it a try! It’s really fun and the results are excellent. The recipe I used for this tutorial is slightly adapted from Paul’s french bread recipe.
How To Make French Bread:
Start my combining the flour, salt and yeast in a stand mixer and slowly add in all the water until a rough ball has formed. Just about a minute or so. I like to autolyse my bread, which means that as soon as the ingredients are combined, I cover the bowl and let rest for about 10 minutes. This lets the water absorb without me stirring which helps make sure i don’t over knead the dough. You don’t have to do this part, but I find it helps!
Next, turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and slightly shiny. The dough it going to be really wet and sticky. Don’t freak out and try to add a bunch more flour or your bread wont turn out right. If you put a little flour on your hands and the top of the dough you should have no problem. If you find its getting totally stuck to you then you probably need a bit more flour.
Once you are done kneading, place the dough in a large bowl that’s been coated in olive oil (so it doesn’t stick). I like to use this tub I got on Amazon because the lines help me see how much my dough has risen! Cover with a towel to the dough doesn’t form a tough crust and let rise for 1-1/12 hours.
Once the dough has doubled in size, carefully turn it back out on a floured surface. try as hard as you can to not punch the dough down! We want to keep as many of those air bubbles as possible!!
Now is the fun part. We can make these into any shape we want! You can use a proofing basket if you want to make a round loaf and that will give you some pretty lines on the top or you can roll them out to make baguettes! I learned how to shape my loaves by watching King Arthur Bread tutorials on YouTube. They’re super easy and really helpful!
I’m going to show you how to do both at this point since they are so easy:
Once you roll out your baguettes you’ll want to put them on a floured couche which is a linen cloth that you place little folds in that helps the bread rise how you want it to. If you don’t have one, you can use a floured towel instead.
Cover, and let rise another hour. Preheat your oven to 450 while this is happening and place a roasting pan in the bottom of the oven.
Aren’t they pretty?? Final step is to carefully transfer the loaves to a lined baking sheet and score the top. This lets the air escape without your bread exploding. And while that sounds very entertaining, I want you to be able to eat your delicious bread! I have this cute little bread knife that i use, but you can totally use a regular knife. You just want to cut them fairly deep at a 45 degree angle.
Place your loaves in the oven and just before you close the door, pour a cup of warm water into that roasting pan. The key to a nice crispy loaf is steam! Since we don’t have fancy steam ovens, we improvise! Make sure to close that door quickly so the steam doesn’t escape!
Let cook for 10 minutes and check to see how they are doing. If they look like they are browning unevenly, then rotate the pans and cook for another 15-20 minutes.
Voila! What do you think?? There’s nothing than some really good homemade french bread to me.
Boules are another word for a round loaf. Instead of rolling them out, carefully place your dough on a floured surface, being careful to not let too much air escape. Flatten the dough slightly and fold over once before slowly pulling the dough in on itself to create a ball and place seam side down in a floured proofing basket. Cover, and let rise for 45min-1hr.
Now, For this technique, I am going to cook the bread in my Le Creuset dutch oven. Literally cannot sing enough praise for this guy. I use it everyday, and while it is a little pricey, they last a lifetime if you take care of them!!
Ok. Rant over. SO. Preheat your oven to 460 degrees with your pot inside the oven. When you are ready to bake, take the pot out of the oven and CAREFULLY turn your bread over so the pretty flour design is facing up and place in the pot.
Cover, and cook for about 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15 until the bread is blistering golden brown.
So… I may or may not have jumped up and down when I saw this. It looks so pretty!!! I was floating on cloud nine for the rest of the evening.
This way was SO easy that I really don’t know that I’ll ever make bread a different way again. By using the lid, you are creating a little home of steam and the bread bakes which gives it the perfect crunchy exterior with a soft chewy crumb.
- - 250g bread flour
- - 250g all purpose flour
- - 10g salt
- - 10g instant yeast
- - 370ml cool water
- Combine the dry ingredients in a stand mixer
- Slowly add in all the water and combine until a rough ball is formed
- Autolyse the dough for 10 minutes
- Turn the dough (it will be sticky and wet) on a floured work surface and knead until you achieve a smooth surface
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap
- Let rest for about 1-1 1/2 hours until doubled in size
- Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll into sausages, tapering at the ends
- Place on a floured tea towel and let proof for another hour
- Heat the oven to 475 and place a roasting pan on the floor of the oven (important!)
- Carefully place the baguettes on a floured baking sheet and score the tops
- Place the loaves in the oven and just before closing the door pour warm water into the roasting pan to create steam
- Bake for 10 minutes and check the color. Rotate if needed.
- Bake for another 15-20 minutes until the crust is a blistering golden brown
- Let cool on a wire rack for about an hour before eating.
- Autolyse is the process of letting the dough rest while i soaks up the moisture before kneading in order to help make sure your dough is not over worked.