The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My very first loaves of french bread & some lessons learned.

BKSinAZ's picture

My very first loaves of french bread & some lessons learned.

I finally decided to break free of my bread machine and hand make my bread for the first time. I really never liked the look of the loaves that came out a bread machine and felt more of a reward for doing it all by hand. I did use the same machine recipe (3 cups of Flour, salt, sugar, yeast, shortning, water)

Below are two images of my first loaves. I never made any bread by hand before and must admit, it was not easy to work with the dough. Actually, it was down right difficult. When I attemped to stretch and fold the dough, it was far too elastic and would not stretch; it would UNstretch. I also found that, even though the dough did not seem to be over hydrated, while attempting to form the loaves it would stick to my hands and butcher block (also pictured). I did add flour first to the board, but when I attempted to form the shape of the loaves, it still stuck to my hands and board. Forming the loaves proved to be a very difficult task. I guess I need ALOT MORE PRACTICE working with dough.

To my surprise, although I shaped the loaves too short, the loaves came out to my liking. I love a tough crust with a soft spongy inside and that is exactly how it came out. I feel that maybe my dough was over worked because the crumb appearence, but you be the judge.




sarafina's picture


Your loaves look delicious. A coupla thoughts; Let the dough rest for 5 or 10 minutes when it gets so tight you can't work it. It's like it needs a chance to relax- don't we all?

And for a happy medium, when you want french bread but havent the time or energy to mess with hand crafting, try making the dough in your machine and removing it and shaping the loaves for the final rise and then baking in a very hot oven ( I use 525°) Your results will be MUCH nicer than when baked in the bread machine. For a really nice crispy crust put a heavy metal pan on the floor of your oven and right after slipping the loaves in pour a cup or two of boiling water into the pan and shut the door to trap all that steam. Careful pouring, don't splash on the glass oven door. Or yourself!


Happy baking ; -)

cranbo's picture

your loaves look nice.

Based on your description, it sounds like you were working with a pretty well hydrated dough, so it's a little surprising that it was so elastic and anti-stretchy.

I agree with sarafina about resting during shaping. In addition, try letting the dough rest for at least 20 minutes (or between 20-60 minutes) after all the ingredients have been combined, but before kneading (or stretching and folding). This will help hydrate the dough and relax it a significantly.

If you keep adding flour while stretching and folding a wet dough, you'll affect the overall hydration, so consider dipping your hands in water or veg oil to help you handle the dough, and use a wet or oiled bench scraper to help you turn the dough if needed. You can also wet your work surface, if that's possible, to make it easier to handle, again with water or veg oil. Keep a little bowl handy for dipping your hands.  

wdlolies's picture

Hi :-)

Great result :-).  Don't go back to the machine to knead the dough, you're doing fine.  Don't keep adding flour to the dough, just work it - you'll see that the more you work it, the less sticky it gets.  I always "over"hydrate dough, because I like a light loaf.  However, I use the Bertinez Method (French Kneading).  You don't need nothing but your ingredients, no liquids, no flour, just your hands, a surface to work on and patience.

Enjloy and Greetings from Ireland