The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

French bread problems

redcard's picture

French bread problems

In my last post (my first) I had the problem of on my second attempt at French Bread of it collapsng. The problem was overproofing.  However i cannot seem to make anything resembling anything other than a slightly raised flat bread. I formed my engram of what French bread should be in 1958 at the Brussels World Fair.  In the early morning sales people on bycycles with saddlebags full, would bring still warm loaves of this bread with tubs of butter which we would purchase for breakfast. It was still warm. The crust was chewey and the inside soft and alost fluffy with a sweet taste. The dough was slightly moist but I remember most the chewey crust and the soft insides.


What I am turnng out is not at all what I would call French Bread. The crust is hard and crackly the inside heavy and what i would call doughy but of good flavor it is not the delicate inside that I remember. My son loves it but hes never tasted GOOD French Bread.


Now have i created a disaster for which there s no remedy and I should be prevented by force if necessary from attempting this again ?

I have used both all purpose flour and bread flour-- no difference. I have hand kneaded and perhaps thats the problem. I am thinking of buying a mixer. 200 dollar range is all I could afford can I get a good mixer for that and would that make a difference in the inside of the loaf and finialy how can I get a chewy not a hard crust? Oops one more thing can anyone suggest a brand and model of a mixer in my price range or suggestions on the wattage of the motor?  Thanks

Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

Can you describe for us the whole process of how you make your bread?

A good crackly crust is something a lot of people aim for, but it sounds to be like you seeking some sort of enriched dough, just not sure what kind.  You describe a sweetness, so one would assume sugar or honey was included in the recipe.


Wandering Bread's picture
Wandering Bread

We could probably be a lot more helpful if you let us know what formula and method you are using. There are a lot of things that could be the culprit. I would definitely not run out and buy a mixer, you can get great loaves like you describe by hand. In fact, I almost never "knead" anyway, just stretch and fold. I think your crumb problem is probably caused by some kind of fermentation issue - too long or too short bulk rise, to much yeast or not enough etc. but it could also be a shaping issue. A wet dough not properly shaped will collapse and give you a dense crumb.

As far as crust goes, are you using any kind of steam? If you do a search here you will find lots of good methods of steaming and it's pretty much essential to a good crackly crust. If fact that would probably help you crumb issue too. If you are already using steam, more or less time, or higher or lower oven temp might be the answer. Let us know how you went about making it and I'm sure we can help you figure it out.

Best, Ryan

LindyD's picture

If you would provide a list of each ingredient you are using and the amounts, it will make it easier for members to help you.

As to your mixer question, in most cases the wattage listed on the mixer only reflects the amount of electricity consumed.   It does not reflect the power of the mixer unless the number is specficially stated to be the output wattage.  Here's a quote from Cook's Illustrated relating to the issue:

We did wonder whether statistics listing power meant anything. Only a few mixers list output wattage (horsepower); most list input power (wattage). Output wattage is the amount of power the motor actually produces—which flows out of the motor, moves through the mixer arm, and, ultimately, smacks the ingredients around. Input wattage is simply the power that flows from the electrical outlet into the mixer's motor. What does input wattage tell you about the power of a mixer? Absolutely nothing—it's purely a marketing gimmick.