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Hamelman's French Bread

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Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hamelman's French Bread

We were planning to cook dinner out on the grill this evening, but it was wet and dreary here today, so we changed plans and pulled some French onion soup out of the freezer instead. I opened Hamelman's book this morning to make the Baguettes with Poolish, only to be reminded that the poolish needs overnight fermentation, so I switched gears and mixed the straight French Bread dough instead. The loaves turned out feather-light and much tastier than anything I could have bought at the store. Given enough time, I would have chosen a bread with a pre-ferment, but under the circumstances these fit the bill perfectly. Since the formula is easy to access in Bread, a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes (page 233), I'll give my favorite recipe for French Onion Soup instead. This freezes very well. Enjoy!

Famous Barr's French Onion Soup

3 pounds onions (5-pound bag, peeled)
4 ounces butter
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 quarts beef bouillon
1 cup dry white wine (optional)

Slice onions thinly. Melt butter in large soup pot, and saute onions slowly for 1 1/2 hours. Add all the dry ingredients, and saute over low heat 10 minutes more. Add the bouillon and wine, and simmer for 2 hours. Adjust color to a rich brown, if desired, with caramel coloring or Kitchen Bouquet. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate overnight.

To serve: Heat soup. Fill fireproof casserole or individual fireproof bowls. Top with French bread and swiss cheese. Place under broiler until browned.

 

Comments

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Oh Debra!  Such yummy looking baguettes and soup!


Thanks!


Mini

xaipete's picture
xaipete

It sounds like you made a dreary day into a bright one. Your soup & bread look terrific. We're having record highs here today (95º) and we're even being asked not to BBQ (what can I say except it is CA), but it is suppose to rain here this weekend so I'll keep it in mind for some cooler weather.


Thanks for a great dinner idea and the scoring on your bread look perfect!


--Pamela

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Mouthwatering photos and thank you for nice F.O.soup recipe!


Sylvia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Your scoring looks just plain perfect. The cuts obviously opened up slowly over a large portion of the bake, as they are supposed to.


I'm curious how you baked the baguettes (stone? temp? time?), especially how you generated steam. I think this makes an enormous difference in the crust, but I still don't feel I can control it to the point I get results like yours consistantly.


BTW, I love onion soup! Home-made is so much better than what passes for "French onion soup" in most restaurants which tends to be too salty and artificially colored (I suspect). I have used the recipe from Julia Child for years. I used to make it with homemade beef broth but lately use chicken broth.


David


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Thanks everyone! Hope you'll try the F.O. soup. It's not "classic," but people seem to really like it. Does anyone remember when Famous-Barr (the department store) had restaurants? This was their signature dish. They also sold frozen soup, and recipe cards for a buck-fifty... or three... At any rate, they didn't cost much. I still have the original, but it's looking pretty yellowed and ratty after all these years. I have put the soup into gift baskets with a baguette and a block of cheese. The royal version would include soup crocks and a bottle of wine as well :-)


David, thanks for the props on scoring. It was a little dicey when it turned out the skin had dried just a tad too much, and I couldn't get the knife blade to glide through without creating "alligator teeth." But luckily the edges smoothed out a bit in the oven. I use a stone 15 x 14.5 x .75 inches, that weighs 11 pounds (I think it's a standard size). For steam I use a 10-inch cast iron skillet filled with lava rock:



This pan preheats with the oven and stone, off-set from the stone, so that I don't have to pull the steam pan out to pour in the water. I heat a cup of water almost to boiling, and pour it carefully over the lava rock as soon as the loaves are loaded into the oven. It gives a big burst of steam that actually fogs up the oven. Now for the dirty little secret---I use the convection fan to circulate the steam all around the loaves. In fact, I use the convection feature to preheat the oven and stone evenly as well. The experts will tell you, convection not good for hearth bread. But if you combine it with steam and stone... well, you be the judge. The air temperature even recovers quicker after opening the oven door. I have tried it both ways, and I get the best results combining convection with conduction and radiant heat. Oh, and I baked these at 460ºF, about 20 minutes. I probably should have reduced the temp a little, because they were supposed to go 25-30 min, per the book.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hmmm ... Lava rocks. Lots of surface area compared to the skillet alone. It must give a big burst of steam. Where does one find lava rocks? A BBQ vendor?


I'm trying to picture your oven set up. I see the stone and the pan on different shelves, with one pushed to one side, and the other pushed to the other side. You pour the water into the pan through the upper rack, past the edge of the stone. Right?


Do you remove your steam pan at some point, or leave it in for the whole bake?


Unless you have a bigger oven than most, your baguettes must be smaller than the usual boulangerie's, so the bake time may be just fine at 460F. But you could always see how they turn out baked at 440F for 25 minutes and choose accordingly.


It is my understanding that commercial convection ovens are vented when set to convection bake, while home ovens do not vent when using convection. I think the "experts" are talking about commercial ovens. If you understand differently, please correct me. ... 'Cause I have the same "secret." 


David


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink


Lots of surface area compared to the skillet alone. It must give a big burst of steam. Where does one find lava rocks?



It's almost explosive, but I think the lava rock helps control the spattering. I still put on an oven mit just to be safe.


I got mine at the hardware store---anyplace that sells replacement parts for BBQ grills should have them. A pool and spa place is another possibility---I think this is the same stuff they use to make steam in saunas. If you have trouble finding a source, I'd be happy to send you some. I have more than I need, and our current grill doesn't use them.


 



 



I see the stone and the pan on different shelves, with one pushed to one side, and the other pushed to the other side. You pour the water into the pan through the upper rack, past the edge of the stone.



That's exactly it. I would have taken a picture, but my stone and oven needed a cleaning ;-)  There was some burnt-on cheese from my last pizza. It's on self-clean now. I've never left my stone in before, so can't wait to see how it comes out.



Do you remove your steam pan at some point, or leave it in for the whole bake?



I leave it in. I don't think there's any water left in the pan after the first 10-15 minutes anyway, and the pan adds to the thermal mass in the oven.



Unless you have a bigger oven than most, your baguettes must be smaller than the usual boulangerie's



With my stone, I'm limited to 15 inches. If I'm only baking one loaf, I could place it diagonally, but I always have at least two. I only made half a batch of this dough, and formed it into two 14-15" baguettes, four slashes per loaf. I meant to take a picture before I put them in the oven, and I forgot.



It is my understanding that commercial convection ovens are vented when set to convection bake, while home ovens do not vent when using convection.



My oven is most definitely vented. It's a built-in-the-wall type that vents right out the front, so I can see the steam coming out of the vents in the top of the door after I close it. If it didn't, then I would probably be creating too much steam. It really does fog up the oven to the point I can't really see the loaves until it starts to clear.



'Cause I have the same "secret."



I'm glad to know others use their convection too :-)  It is especially good for panned, enriched sandwich loaves.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Debra,

I know this is a really old thread and I don't know how I happened upon it but I did and ran across your comments on using convection to distribute steam throughout your oven more evenly.

I bake in a Cadco counter-top oven that uses convection only and it creates a strong 'wind'....I load as you do but then have to turn the oven off once the steam is added or else it all gets blown out of the oven.  Works great BUT I am having an Electrolux wall oven installed in my kitchen this month and I will have the ability to use both convection and regular bake mode with it. 

Hence my question for you:

You mentioned using both methods when you bake/steam.   As I read above I see you use convection for preheat and while the steaming  during the first part of the bake.  At what point do you switch off and use regular bake mode?

Thanks,

Janet

 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Janet,

What I do now that I use foil, is pre-heat in convection mode, switch to conventional, load the bread, pour hot water in the steam pan, and close the door. I don't open the door again until the loaf has expanded fully and is just starting to color---at 10-15 minutes. Then I open the door all the way, to pull the parchment out from under the loaves, and let the steam escape, close the door and turn the convection mode back on. (With the fan on the air temperature recovers quickly.) Through the rest of the bake, I open the door at regular intervals to turn and rotate the loaves for even baking (and let out any remaining steam).

Best,
dw

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/16036/good-bad-and-enlightenment#comment-112898

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Debra,

Thanks for this.  Makes sense how you switch the bake modes around during the bake.  I have to settle for tuning the Cadco completely off or else no steam stays in the oven chamber and the loaves don't expand as much.  

I will try your method out as a good starting point :-)  

Thanks for the link to your steaming method.  I did see that years ago and did try it but my tin foil would never stay put and my water pouring technique involved having to pull the shelf out which, with a stone on it, got to be too much to do on a daily basis.  I ended up using the ice method.  Open door; toss  5 ice cubes onto the floor of the oven; close door; listen to oven floor popping due to sudden thermal changes; buy Cadco; make mental note not to use ice in new oven

:^ )

Always an adventure so now I will have a head start.

Thanks again for filling me in on your use of convection/conventional.

Take Care,

Janet

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

The clean cycle worked wonders. The first one cleaned up so well, that I decided to repeat with the second one (I have two). This wasn't nearly as bad as the other, but they both look brand new again.


Before and After---the after shot also shows my baking setup :-)


LindyD's picture
LindyD

The bread is beautiful and the soup brought memories of a magnificant onion soup I enjoyed many moons ago in New Mexico.  


Gads, it seems every time I visit TFL I develop cravings.  


David, you can find lava rocks at garden centers.  At least  you can in my part of the country.  They're pretty common for landscaping.


Or you could go to the Big Island where there are plenty...but you'd risk the curse of Pelé.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Last time I was in Hawai'i, taking lava with you was illegal, otherwise .....


I guess I'll try a nursery. I hope I don't have to buy them by the cubic yard!


David

mredwood's picture
mredwood

Lava stones can be purchased at a landscaping yard. They usually have different sizes & can be purchased by the yard or the lb. I have a yard full of med and some are quite large. Large looks like what is in the pot.


Onion soup sounds good and is so easy to make. I probably will try the baguettes tomorrow. The bread looks wonderful. Too tired for a preferment tonite after a day in the yard.


Mariah

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

If you are ever in the Las Vegas area...we used to climb all around the hills and I remember especially as a teen in Henderson area the desert was miles of nothing but these lava stones all covered everywhere on the ground...I'll have to pick some up next trip!  We used to just refer to it as volcanic rock...hills must have been formed all around there from volcanos...The volcanic rock is all around the lake mead areas...just everywhere!


Now what's your little secret, David ; )  I use my convection much the same way as DebraW.  It does have vents on top of the door where air comes out. This feature also comes on automatically when the oven is turned off to help in the cooling.


Sylvia

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

My oven info says that to steam, turn on the convection along with the lower heat and water in a lower pan.  The steam stays in the oven.  When I use a magic ss bowl, I have just the convection on and the oven gets hotter quicker.  (I drilled a hole in my bowl today to attached a handle, it went easy.) There is also a fan that cools just the built in back of my oven and has nothing to do with convection or inside of the oven.


Mini

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I will have to check to see if I can use both features at the same time..interesting..though I always steam undercover...I really don't like messing with pans of water or tossing water in the oven...Im happy with my results for now...I enjoy working on my feel of the dough and the results of the crumb..I guess Im still stuck on the inside of the loaf ; ) working my way out gradually!


Sylvia


 

Moriah's picture
Moriah

That bread is the definition of golden brown -- gorgeous!


I'm laughing a little at myself because when I saw the lava rocks I thought is was some well done bread pudding..;-)  Do you think lava rocks will work in a regular oven?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink


Do you think lava rocks will work in a regular oven?



Absolutely. But you'll have to play around with the amount of hot water you use to create the right amount steam.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Something I would add just to clarify, is that these baguettes aren't as flavorful as baguettes made with some sort of pre-ferment. But they are still better than anything you're likely to find at the supermarket. Because of limited time and what I was using them for, they were perfect for the situation. And the second loaf will make fine garlic bread the next time I make pasta. If you want a bread for eating on its own, another formula would probably be a better choice.


The other thing worth noting is that this formula may be a good one to try if you're having trouble with baguettes, because I think it makes it easier to be successful. It was easy to handle, easy to shape, and it springs well in the oven---at least it did for me :-)  This may be a good baguette "Loaf for Learning."

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Debra,


Your Baguettes look wonderful. It is nice to be able to make a same day bread that looks that nice. I am also a big fan of FO soup. I used to make the stock from scratch which is an all day affair but sooo good. These days the bullion will do fine.:>)


I have been using a 1/2 size (split) fire brick in a steel baking pan. The brick does absorb heat and provides a blast of steam for a time. I read somewhere, I think it was in Sousa's new book or in an artical he wrote that he likes using nuts and bolts in a cast iron pan. He says the steel heats faster and holds more energy than rocks or I suppose anything with air in it. The science seems to work in my head but I haven't gone looking for large nuts and bolts yet. They would have to be NON galvanized due to the zinc coating being a poison in high heat. Anyway I thought I would mention the steel. I'm planning on trying it soon


Eric

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Eric,


Glad you chimed in. I have never made my own beef stock---I rarely see soup bones for sale (although I've never asked the butcher for them either). The recipe actually specified canned bouillon, but I think that even Wyler's cubes taste better than most of the canned stuff available. Wyler's is the only brand that works though---the other instants taste too vegetal for this. We are starting to see some new brands of stock-in-a-box like Emeril's, that aren't bad. I know homemade stock is the best, but that requires another day...


Lava rock is very light weight, so it doesn't contribute much mass to the setup, but as David noted, it greatly increases the surface area to change water into steam. And it is known to be safe around food. Putting it in the cast iron skillet is important for heft, but that seems to provide enough steam for me :-)


dw

Moriah's picture
Moriah

Make sure you know where they're coming from -- I would stay away from anything made in China. They regulations are as lax as some sourdoughs are slack...;-)

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I found them in bags under the "Char Broil" brand name in the BBQ section of my favorite hardware store. They look just like the ones in Debra's photo.


Ooooooo ... I can't wait to try them!


David

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Can't wait to hear how it works for you! Wear an oven mit while pouring the hot water over the stones just to be on the safe side, and be prepared for the intense boiling action. Your natural instinct might be to jerk back when it starts sputtering, but you don't want to slosh the water. You get used to it when you know what to expect, but please be cautious until you get a feel for it :-)

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

A few months ago I think it was I did see a post on here where someone had the lava stones in their oven....I don't think it was a convection oven.  


I edited this in...I found it..they were river rocks..I wonder if they might explode if heated? 


Sylvia

Moriah's picture
Moriah

It takes my oven 4 hours and 20 minutes to go through its cleaning cycle. Will my baking stone  survive this?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Mine was in for 5 hours :-)

Moriah's picture
Moriah

My baking stone looks like new again and the house smelled like pizza ;-)