May 2, 2010

French Bread

While cleaning out the freezer, I discovered some pate fermentee (pre-ferment). Determined to clean out my freezer, I used it all to make French Bread. As soon as I tasted this bread, I realized my stupidity in not reserving some of the dough for future bread.

This is a wonderfully crusty bread with rich flavor in the crumb.

French Bread

3 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. yeast
1 2/3 cups room temperature water
2 1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups pre-fermented dough (pate fermentee)

In electric mixer bowl, combine flours, sugar, yeast and water. Use the dough hook on low speed for 4 minutes, until a rough dough forms. Cover, and rest dough 20 minutes.

Cut pate fermentee into smaller pieces. Add salt and pate fermentee one piece at a time on low speed. Mix for 4 to 6 minutes, until dough is soft, pliable and tacky but not sticky. Mix in extra flour or water to achieve this consistency.

Place dough in large greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 minutes, until just beginning to swell. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, and knead by hand a few seconds.

Cut off 1 lb. of dough for future pate fermentee. (Do this regardless of how full your freezer is!) Put in plastic bag, and freeze.

Shape remaining dough into ball, and place back in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 90 minutes until doubled.

Divide dough into two loaves, and shape into baguettes. Place baguettes inside large greased plastic bags. Let rise 15 minutes, and then retard overnight in the refrigerator.

Remove dough from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature at least one hour to take off chill. If not fully risen, let rise until fully risen, another 1 to 2 hours. Preheat oven to 475ºF. Place cake pan on bottom rack.

Remove dough from plastic 15 minutes prior to baking to allow surface to dry slightly. Just before baking, score bread with horizontal slashes. Place 1 cup hot water into cake pan, and place bread loaves onto rack in middle of oven. Spritz oven and bread with water bottle.

After 2 minutes, spritz oven and bread again. Repeat in 1 minute. Then, lower oven to
450ºF. Wait 10 minutes, and check the bread. Rotate to bake evenly. When bread has rich, golden color (about 25 minutes), turn off oven. Leave bread in oven an additional 5 to 10 minutes until it seems on edge of overbrowning.

Remove bread to cooling rack. Cool bread completely, usually 60 to 90 minutes. Bread is best eaten within 2 hours.

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