The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New... from France

Janedo's picture
Janedo

New... from France

Hi, I'm Jane and I'm a North American living in France (15 yrs). I'm an at home mom of 5 kids and we live in the Pyrénées in the South of France. I have been making bread every day for the last year and a half. I really enjoy sourdough and everything that can be done with it. I have a blog which specialises in it. (I'll give the address if anyone's interested!)

In France we do things a little differently I suppose because of the culture and our ingredients. I'm very interested in the American way (or British or elsewhere) as well because I have seen some really interesting ideas on blogs and in sites like this one. I'll need some time to understand your lingo and techniques!

And I'd be very happy to give any info about our French way of baking bread.

Jane 

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Please share the address.

Thanks!

Trish

Janedo's picture
Janedo

My bread blog is

www.aulevain.canalblog.com

I started it recently because I have another food blog and I kept getting tons of questions about sourdough. I'm not an expert but I make bread every single day and am really interested in peircing the mystery of it all. I also want to help simplify the process because here in France it's made to be a difficult, almost mystical type thing, when really it's just flour and water makes sourdough by following some simple rules.

My other blog is

www.saveursdefamille.canalblog.com.

That one is a year and a half old. It's full of family cooking, baking, etc. It's my personal cookbook.

Thanks for your interest!

Jane 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Jane,

I'd be interested to hear more about how sourdough is done in France and your take on baking sourdough after living there for 15 years. The photos on your blog look great, but I don't know French. Do you happen to have a translation? I suppose there is a translation method on Google, but if you happen to have a translation, all the better.

Lately, I've been milling and sifting my own flour. I'm curious to know if there are stone-milled and sifted flours available, and if so what recipes you have using those flours. That's a very general question, but maybe it will lead somewhere interesting.

Bill

Janedo's picture
Janedo

There are mills where people can buy flour, have it milled, etc. I buy all my flour from the organic coop. It's sold loose and I fill up a bag. It's graded differently than in the US. I explain it in the blog (sorry, I haven't translated, you'll have to google it) but french flour has a number according to the how refined it is from T45 for pastry to T150 whole wheat. In the States people often talk about varieties of wheat while here you don't ever hear about that. I'm not an expert, I can tell you what I have presonally seen. When I make bread I usually use a good percentage of T65 which is pretty white, but not as white as T55 which is all purpose. I like the airiness it give while keeping some health benefits. Really whole wheat bread is a whole other deal. Is your flour really whole wheat? What do you mean when you say "sifted" exactly?  In France, to make a rustic bread we often mix T65 with rye or spelt.

Not sure if I answered your question! :-) 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Jane,

Thanks, yes you did answer my question. You're right that we do have an interest in wheat varieties here in the US. The wheat varieties differ in various ways, particularly in protein content. The different characteristic of the various varieties can be used to affect the results in bread recipes.

There is not much availability of different "grades" of flour in the US. We seem to have mainly white flour and whole wheat flour, but grades in between white and whole wheat are generally specialty flours and often only available in larger quantities made to order for various "artisan bakeries".

I've been making my own "grades" of flour using a stone mill and sifter. Some more details are in my blog here on TFL (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/blog/bwraith). The flours I've been making are between white and whole wheat with ash content anywhere from as low as about .75% up to whole wheat at above 1.5% ash content. With the equipment I have, I can't get below about .75% ash content, but mostly I've been making sourdough breads with flour that is creamy colored and around 1% ash content. Even though the flour is already "rustic" at 1% as content, I still often add just a small amount of rye or spelt flour that I also mill at home.

Your comments are interesting to me partly because some of my motivation in making my own flour and these breads is to duplicate what I imagine might be the results from using less refined flours my European friends have described as available from local millers who may use stone milling and sifting techniques.

Bill

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Ok, I understand what you mean. One of my favorite flours is T80 which is ,80%. It gives a light loaf but is more "rustic" than a white flour. I often use it as a base and then mix it with spelt or rye. With that you'd be getting close to the French country bread. I had a conversation with a friend this morning on our walk and we talked about that bread. People have such nostaligic type views on the traditional French sourdough. I saw a program about the fabrication of it and the reality is that a baker is limited in his ability to make a large variety of bread. He makes it in huge quantities with a wood oven that is very hot. The crust is thick, the crumb is chewy and holey. But I'll tell you, most everybody prefers the sourdough that can be made at home. It's hard to explain, but when you're working at home you can change the flour type, add ingredients like seeds, etc. I often add olive oil, a bit of sugar sometimes. Bakers can't do all these experiments. And I personally (and my friend said the same) don't like that thick, dark crust and chewy crumb that lets the jam seep through the holes.

But then every region and every baker has their own special recipe. So, as far as I'm concerned, there are no laws about types of bread and pretty much anything goes as long as the people who have to eat it, like it! 

I could go on forever! In the meantime I'll go check out your breads.

 Jane 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Jane,

I think probably the recent breads I've made with flour around 0.9% ash content are similar to what you describe with the T80 flour mixed with spelt and rye. It's a favorite formula for me, too. If I make the dough wetter and softer, the result is more likely to be big holes that don't hold ingredients, just as you describe. By lowering the hydration and punching down more and proofing a little longer, I've made a crumb that has smaller, more regular holes that hold jam well.

I do like a dark, thick crust, though. In fact, after many years of thinking about it, I finally got a brick oven in my back yard. The bread baking is fun with it, and there was an unexpected benefit of discovering many different ways of using the oven for cooking, both braised and roasted dishes that could be fit in before, during, and after bread baking. I also know what you mean about adding a little sugar or oil. I frequently add 1% malt syrup and like the results, especially with rustic breads with more whole grain and/or higher ash content.

I agree there are no rules for home bakers. Everyone finds special preferences for variations discovered at home. It's one of the things that makes home baking fun.

I saw the Google translation links above (thanks). I'll go visit again.

Bill

joatsp's picture
joatsp

Hi Jane,  I have been living in Provence (from California) for one year, and have started baking bread, but I ran into problems as I didn't know which type of flour to buy for bread making. I did read in another blog that in Fr. one uses Type 55 or higher, but I found, not all flour has the type listed???   I found a French website and ordered flour and yeast in bulk. I love the bread in France, but there is nothing like making your own bread.  My husband thinks I am mad!

I am delighted to know I can read your Blog and get more (French) information on this subject.  

Happy baking. joatsp

 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Where did you order your flour from?

I only use organic flour and I get most of it at the biocoop. They sell it "en vrac". I found pet food plastic containers at a Primo and they hold 3kg of flour.

I really like the brand of organic flour you can buy at Intermarché Natège (organic, stone ground) and so far their prices are the lowest. I use their T65 and T110, the rest is from biocoop. I never use under T65, but you can get T55 at the biocoop.

The brand Francine has "bread flour" but it's got yeast and additives in it. Regular T55 is pretty low in gluten compared to american flour from what I understand.

You can make way better bread at home even though we live in a great bread country. Over where you are an artisanal sourdough bread costs over 3 euros for a 300g loaf. No way! And often it looks better than it tastes.

Kayser is all the rage these days. You'll see his recipes all over the French blogs. He has some itneresting ideas but he always adds yeast to his bread which take away all those wonderful qualities of a real sourdough. This said, when I don't have tons of time, everyone is happy when I make a baguette Monge! I don't have his books. Way too expensive for what it is.

If you have any questions, be free to ask, either here or at my e-mail that you can get on my blog "contacter l'auteur"

Nice to find another North American in France!  We need to get a group together and convince Mike to come teach us to make bread!!!!

Jane 

chez-jude's picture
chez-jude

Thanks for the links, Jane. I look forward to reading about your sourdough experiences. And with your daily baking, I'm sure you have a lot of experience to share!

Translated page (via Google translator):
http://tinyurl.com/2jmdxn

chez-jude's picture
chez-jude

And a translation of your other blog:
http://tinyurl.com/2nh4hg

Beautiful photography. Now to read...

chez-jude's picture
chez-jude

OK... you're going to have to use your imagination a little on those translations. I'm reading about Jane's chocolate cake baked in the teddy bear molds and google translates it as cake mussels!

It is handy to be able to hover over the translated text and a popup displays with the original text -- which, even if you are unfamiliar with French, makes a lot more sense!

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I looked at your links to my blogs. That's pretty funny! But you get the gist.

Thanks for the interest! We are way ahead in time (going to bed here) and so not quite in sinc, but I'm looking forward to seeing what's up on this site. It's very interesting for me. 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Jane.  

I'm delighted to see you on TFL and am eager to hear more about the differences you perceive in Sourdough bread baking in France compared to the U.S.A. 

Your bread blog is terrific - beautiful breads! I read enough French to prefer it to the automatic translations, although the translations are a lot funnier! However, I'm finding my French bread ingredient vocabulary is challenged. Fortunately, my Collins-Robert dictionary is within arm's reach.

David

holds99's picture
holds99

Welcome.  Your blogs look great.  Looking forward to hearing about the French methods and flours, especially sourdough. 

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

edh's picture
edh

Welcome Jane,

Your blog is beautiful, though my French is beyond rusty so I went back via the translated link. Fun syntax!

I was particularly interested to see your recipe for sourdough with Kamut. I'll be trying that one tomorrow. I've been experimenting with both spelt and kamut and had far greater luck with spelt in bread. Kamut has been relegated to quick breads and cookies, so I'm looking forward to trying this. I've been buying it at exhorbitant cost as flour, but just ground my first batch myself yesterday, so this will be a fun way to try it out fresh.

Thanks,

edh

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I've never made a pure Kamut bread. I like using it to add flavour. When I make this bread I use a technique that is very popular, sourdough + a bit of yeast. The rise is faster and the sourdough doesn't get so sour, but it adds texture. I like the taste of Kamut and don't want the sourdough to ruin it. I make my baguettes this way too. It works really well!

edh's picture
edh

I really like the nutty sweet taste that kamut adds, so I'm looking forward to this.

Unfortunately, it will be the day after tomorrow, as I forgot that I'd only just refreshed my starter, dumping the discards into todays pita bread and building the storage starter up to only 60 g. Tomorrow I'll build it up to 180 g and get started the next day. oops.

I've been spiking all my sourdoughs with at least a little yeast this winter as a very cold kitchen has made all my fermenting times ridiculously long. I'm actually quite liking the results. Makes me feel a little like a cheater, but only a little...

edh

winemaker01's picture
winemaker01

Hi from Red Hill, Victoria, Australia. I make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but when I was first married cooked fresh bread. I put on far too much weight and stopped. Now I am middle aged I am a little bit more portly but love France. Wendy and I have friends in the Ariege region that we visited in 2005 and hope to visit again in 2011. I have been very frustrated in my search for the secret to crusty french breads. Then I discovered your excellent works. Many thanks. If you ever visit Australia I would be happy to offer advice. I am guessing that many people use a pizza stone/stainless steel cover device/ and or steam generator to get the humidity for the first 10 or so minutes of baking??????? I am experimenting here where no such equipment exists. Mmmmm, maybe a steam/convection oven to replace our aging electric fan forced oven is warranted.