The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

french bread

Sadassa_Ulna's picture

A simple technique for French bread?

January 9, 2013 - 3:37pm -- Sadassa_Ulna

I have been making batards and baguettes for about six months now. I started out using Dan Leader's stiff levain baguettes and then found txfarmer's 36+ hour baguettes. So I currently keep a 70% starter and a 100% starter in my fridge, both to make baguettes that are around 76% hydration dough. I would like to streamline things for 2013. 

baybakin's picture

Living in San Diego for school, I gained a love for the little rolls brought from the local panaderia down the street.  Like little mini batards, pulled from the oven and placed in bins alongside racks of pan dulces.  Alas, here in the oakland hills the closest panaderia is a 15-20 minute drive away, and the bolillos just aren't quite like the ones I used to get in San Diego.

Most of the recipies I've seen are straight-dough, and being that I can't leave well enough alone, I have developed the following recipe, based off of the Poolish Baguettes in Hamelman's Bread.  The percentages of fat and sugar are from a bakery near mexico city (I don't remember quite where).

166g Flour
166g Water
Pinch of yeast (less than 1/8 tsp)

Let poolish sit overnight or at least 8 hours, untill poolish begins to pucker in the middle.

Final Dough:
All of the Poolish
334g Flour
164g Water
15g Fat (Lard or shortning)
10g Salt
10g Sugar (unrefined cane or honey)
2g instant yeast

Mix everything but the salt together into a shaggy mass.  Let autolysis for at least 20 mins.  Add salt and kneed dough untill it passes a windowpane test.  Let rise until doubled.  Divide into 6-8 pieces, preshape into rounds and let bench rest for 10 mins.  Shape into ovals and place into a floured couche like you would for baguettes.  Preheat oven to 500F at least 45 minutes before baking.  Slash bolillos once lengthwise and place into oven. Bake for 5 mins with steam at 500F then turn down oven to 450F for 10 mins (or untill a dark hazlenut color is achieved).  Remove breads and let cool (if you can).  Enjoy with some avocado, pickled jalapenos, ham, and farmers cheese, or just with some butter.


Bread behind is some oakland sourdough, made with Central Milling's type 70 high extraction flour.


PiPs's picture

I bought a new book. Yes! another bread book. I wasn't planning to ...  and thinking back I'm not completely sure where the inspiration came from, but sometimes inspiration just happens. (or in Nat's version of events ... self indulgence just happens...)

A week ago a second hand copy of ‘The Taste of Bread’  by Raymond Calvel, Ronald L. Wirtz and James J. MacGuire was delivered to my doorstep and I have been trying to absorb as much from it as I possibly can. I find it such an interesting read─on so many levels─from heavy discussions on the effect mixing has on dough maturity to small soulful snippets on French bread.

The chapter that captured my attention most and had me obsessively re-reading it was the chapter on flour. The classification and choice of flour available in France intrigues me. Finding such depth within a seemingly simple ingredient as white flour was something I wanted to explore and as luck would have it I had recently been given the name of a bakery─‘Uncle Bob’s Bakery’ that was stocking imported French flour.

Not only that, but the owner of ‘Uncle Bob’s Bakery’, Brett Noy was recently given the honour of being a jury member for the 2012 Coupe du Monde del la Boulangerie─the Bakery World Cup!!! … mmm … another French connection to this story it seems.

In France the purity level of flour is determined by mineral content measured by the ash level. So at different extraction rates you may have different ash content depending on the type of wheat, procedures used, mill equipment and the skill of the miller. As the ash level rises you will have flour that is richer with bran particles and darker in colour.

Choosing flour was the easy part but trying to make a final decision on what to bake was a bit trickier and in the end the flour dictated the final choice.


This flour is normally associated with viennoiseries such as croissant, brioche and specialty breads containing high fat, sugar and eggs. As winter is slowly creeping upon us, it was time to revive one of my favourite traditions over the cooler months─brioche for weekend breakfasts with café au lait. 

The formula I worked with was Raymond Calvel’s ‘Brioche Leavened with Sponge and Dough’. It has a butter content of 45% (I used a cultured butter) and a small sponge of flour, yeast and milk which is mixed into the remaining dough after 45 mins of fermenting. As is usual when mixing this type of bread by hand I was kneading at the bench for at least 30 min by the time the butter was fully incorporated smoothly into the dough. Day-by-day a mixer looks increasingly tempting! (only if Nat gets to pick the colour!)

The dough was rested in the fridge overnight and shaped in the morning for the final proof. Oh, it has been such a long time since we have had brioche around our house. The  soft golden crumb teared so easily and when dipped in coffee─made my soul smile.



T130 Rye

For my experiments with this medium rye flour I took inspiration from photos of the amazing crusts of the tourte de seigle found in the boulangerie windows of Paris. It’s the contrast I love─the dark well baked crust scattered with flour coated islands.

Tourte de Seigle adapted from Denis Fatet’s formula at





Total dough weight



Total flour



Total water



Total salt



Prefermented flour






Sourdough build: 1h 30 @ 35°C



Levain at 60% hydration



T130 rye flour



Water at 70°C









Final Dough: 1h 45 @ 40°C



Rye flour T130 sifted or T85 rye



Water at 70°C











  1. Prepare sourdough: Stir hot water into rye flour then add levain and mix until smooth. Sprinkle with rye flour and allow to rise for 1hr 30 at 35°C. Cracks will appear on the surface of the sourdough. 
  2. Prepare final dough: Stir hot water into rye flour and salt then mix in sourdough until smooth. With wet hands round the dough and flatten into a round disc. Set to proof seam side down on floured parchment paper. Dust with flour and smooth with hand to ensure an even coating.  Proof uncovered and away from draughts.
  3. Proof for 1h 45 at 40°C. Cracks will appear on surface during proofing.
  4. Load into oven with steam at 270°C for 10 mins then reduce temperature to 250°C and bake a further 60 mins.

I have to be honest, I was a little nervous about the idea of mixing the levain into the hot water and flour mix. But my worries were unfounded. The hot mix cooled as I stirred it and cooled even further when I added the levain creating a warm sourdough sponge that really went off fast.

I have heard that keeping a correct proofing temperature greatly assists with even cracking over the surface so the tourte de seigle proofed in our tiny bathroom under the heat lamp. I pushed the proofing to two hours but think next time I will reduce it to the specified time as the crumb shows some signs of slight over-proofing.

This is a crust lovers bread. The crumb is smooth and mild with only a hint of sourness. After many bakes of whole-grain ryes this bread is a pleasant change─A perfect balance of flavour and texture. But most importantly I love the way it looks. Dramatic bread! Breakfast during the week has been slices of this slathered with cultured butter.




The classic French bread for a classic French flour. Looking again to ‘The taste of Bread’ I used Raymond Calvel’s Pain au Levain formula substituting the T55 flour with the T65 I had on hand. At 64% the hydration was quite a bit lower than what I have been mixing recently but after an autolyse and solid 15 min mix by hand it produced a smooth and silky dough. It certainly felt different to the Australian flours I have been using but I am not sure how to put it best into words. Softer to the touch perhaps?

While the book uses a spiral mix followed by a 50 min bulk fermentation I was mixing by hand so opted for a gentler mix followed by a longer three hour bulk ferment to build strength and maturity in the dough. The final proof stretched out through the afternoon as the temperatures dropped but all the time increased the flavour of this delicious bread.

Nat is torn. She loves the flavour and texture of this bread, more so than the some of the Australian organic flours I have been using …  but it has come all the way from France … sigh. We are mindful of our footprint ...

I love the flavour as well so I am keen to keep experimenting with it … for the time being anyway.


Gymnopodie's picture

Making French Bread With T-55 Flour Using Julia Child's Method

October 19, 2011 - 7:57am -- Gymnopodie


This is my first post so I'll keep it short since I don't know if this will work or not. I'm trying to make French bread using Julia Child's lengthy recipe. At first I used King Arthur AP flour and the results were good, but I wanted something better so I bought some French T-55 organic flour. For some reason I cannot get much of any oven spring. The bread is mostly dense and chewy.

Shutzie27's picture

Bolstered by my success in baking White Mountain Bread, I finally had the time and the flour to attempt the second recipe in Beth Hensperger’s Bread Bible, French bread, or Pain Ordinaire.

Things began auspiciously enough with a beautifully smelling, light, spongy and almost fluffy slurry.


Since I proofed the yeast in a glass prep bowl, I actually ended up adding the slurry to the two cups of bread flower and salt (as opposed to adding the flour to the slurry; I guess Mom was right about me never following instructions). This didn’t seem to ruin anything, however, and I proceeded to mix the batter into a dough using my trusty and deceptively strong wooden baking spoon.

Just when I thought my arm would tire, (I always mix by hand, partially because using my hands is my favorite part of baking bread, and partially because I use the kneading and mixing process as a way to justify putting melting pads of butter on the warm, oven-fresh bread I’ve baked. All that mixing has to burn off some calories, right?), the “shaggy dough” Hensperger described seemed to form.

I found, however, that I only needed to use 2 ½ cups of all-purposed flour (which I should add here is bleached, though this doesn’t seem to make too much of a difference in taste or texture).

With that, I rolled the dough into a ball and tucked it into an olive-oil shmeared bowl to rise.

I was happy to see that it did, though I worried about the lumpiness of the post-risen dough.


With that, I deflated the dough by gently turning it out on to the table. It let out a satisfying little pphht sound and gently exhaled upon hitting the surface. Knowing I have a tendency to over-work dough (which has resulted in an almost too-tight and compact sponge in the past), I resisted the temptation to sink my fingers into the dough and start kneading.

Instead, I grabbed my dough slicer (super handy with inch measurements on the side) and did my best to create three equal portions. Since I don’t have a food scale, this always gets a little tricky, but I thought I did pretty well.


Covering the hopeful little dough boules with some plastic wrap, I put them back in the laundry closet on top of the dryer to rise.

Forty minutes later, I saw that—clearly—I had not done as well of a job creating equal boules as I would’ve liked.

Still, they looked and smelled delicious, the oven and stone were preheated, and I had loving brushed on the nice egg glaze.

I used the whole egg with two tablespoons of water, even though in the introduction Hensperger does suggest just egg whites for French breads.

It was time for one of the most difficult parts of bread baking: The Transfer.

And naturally, this is where things went a little awry. Despite having sprinkled my peel with what I thought was a liberal amount of cornmeal, the boules stubbornly clung to the wood. I shaked, and shimmied, I scotched the peel, terrified of collapsing the three boules I had worked so hard to shape until finally, worried about the heat escaping from the oven, I nudged the boules in with my thumb.

While the boules didn’t collapse, one of them did seem to crack on the side (see below, on upper left-hand side) as a result.


But, all in all, they looked gorgeous and smelled even better. We gave one to our new neighbors, who seemed to enjoy it, froze one (using both plastic and foil, which I have to admit, does seem to keep it tasting a bit fresher after thawing), and made it through the third in two days. Which is why I don’t have any pictures of the crumb. It was even, uniform, light and fluffy.

willchernoff's picture

I think i'm finally getting the hang of making french bread. I won't say my recipe/technique is perfect, but I finally feel confident enough to share bread with freinds. Here's some pictures of what I've been up to.




I've been enjoying these results, but I can't seem to get an even oven spring. That is, where I slash the dough either pops too much or too little while baking. Any ideas how to get a more consistent pop?


Details on what I actually do:

em120392's picture

Hey guys! I'm taking a high school internship course called W.I.S.E. which allows a student to study about and to work in their desired trade. For my W.I.S.E. project, I chose Artisan Bread Baking as my topic.

I have been baking bread since I was thirteen, and I wanted to take this course to further my knowlege and gain work experience in a bakery. Next year for college, I plan to attend Johnson and Wales University, which specializes in the Culinary Arts. I thought that this project will prepare me for my future career, for I am going to be working in an Artisan Bread Bakery.  Also, I found that during this project, I can challenge myself to comlete the BBA Challenge. Starting in January, and ending in May, I hope to bake my way through The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

My brother, Evan, who's 24, and I decided that we would begin a blog to chronical both of our experiences through BBA. Evan lives in California, and I live in New Jersey, and we thought it would be interesting to note the different challenges and sucesses of the recipes.

Anyway, I hope that our blog will interest some fellow bakers, or fellow BBA challenge participants! We'd love to have your commentary, suggestions, or recommendations for new recipes to try!

Thank you for taking the time to read!

-Emily (18)


ps. Here is my post for French Bread.

(It might make more sense if you read my W.I.S.E. Project Proposal, as well as previous entries.)


This is my blog entry for Reinhart's French Bread:

I skipped ahead on the BBA challenge. I wanted to go through the book in order, but I didn't have time to bake bagels this weekend. They take two days to make, and I wasn't home enough to bake them. This is a difficulty in bread baking at home-although bread is easy to make, one must tend to the dough according to the starter, risings, and baking, which can be time consuming and inconvenient.

My mentor, Mr. Esteban, enjoys savory breads rather than enriched, sweet breads. I could have moved on to brioche, but I thought he would have appreciated a crusty, slightly sour French loaf more, and I have been itching to try French bread. Also, I felt like I was teasing him about my bread baking- telling him about it, but not making anything for him. I hope he enjoys the baguettes!

Reinhart begins with a pate fermente, an overnight starter which lends the final dough more flavor. It is simple- it combines flour, water, salt, and yeast into a rather stiff dough. I let the dough rise for about an hour, and then refrigerated overnight.

The next morning, I let the pate fermete warm up, and cut it into smaller pieces so I could incorporate it into the final dough. Like the pate fermente, the bread contained the same proportions of ingredients. After mixing with flour, salt, yeast, water and pate fermente into a ball, I kneaded it for about 6 minutes, or until I could easily use the windowpane test. Out of pure laziness, I kneaded the dough in the machine, rather than by hand. I feel more connected to the dough when I knead by hand, but, I was tired and didn't want to dirty the counters.

After the dough is kneaded, it rests for about two hours, to rise for the first time. Then I shaped the baguettes like I thought I should. I spread the dough out, and folded it into thirds like letters. I proceeded to elongate them into their proper shape. However, after making them I went on Youtube (great idea, huh?) and watched the proper way. After folding in thirds, you're supposed to create tension on the outside of the bread by rolling it up in two separate "folding/rollings." Afterwards, you gently seal the bread with the heel of your palm and then proceed elongating. Next time, I guess.

I let the dough rise for the last time for two hours. I do not have a lame yet, so I cut the slits with a pairing knife. On two of the loaves, I cut rather perpendicular, leaving the slashes not very attractive. However, on the third, the slashes were much more pronounced because I used a 45 degree angle.

After I took them out of the oven, I could hear the crusts crackling. I was so excited-they looked promising. After they had cooled, I sliced a piece. The crumb was rather dense, not holey and airy like I imagine a true baguette. I was rather disappointed, but the flavor made up for it-it had true bread flavor.

So, I don't know- maybe I'll make these again. I really like the use of the pate fermente and it was very cool to shape baguettes. However, the crumb was really disappointing, and for taking two days and substantial hands on time, I felt cheapened.



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