The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My first try at the simple French Bread- What's Wrong?

hazimtug's picture

My first try at the simple French Bread- What's Wrong?

This past weekend I made French Bread I, using instant yeast and overnight retardation, following Reinhart's recipe in Crust and Crumb. I ended up with 3 loaves and baked them in our mud oven (traditional for Cyprus). I kneaded the dough as described in the book to disperse the ingredients, form the gluten and hydate/ferment. I should admit, when I performed the windowpane test, I had difficulty forming it. So, I continued kneading an extra 5 - 8 minutes... Then, without testing anymore, I scaled, benched and shaped, let the 3 loaves proof and retard in the refrigerator until the next day. I then took them out the next day, and had them continue proofing for about 2 hours, as they didn't look like they rose enough in just another. In any case, they all looked pretty proofed (doubled in size and soft, the spring was not great though...). As I put the first on the peel and scored it, the big puff just collapsed... I baked it. I didn't score the other ones, afraid that they would do the same. The resulting baked loaves tasted good (much better than bread available around here anyway!), had irregular holes with an airy structure, under a crackly blistery crust (not thick though)... Yet, the two I didn't score had this huge dome on top. What are your thoughts? Why the big dome? Is it because of underdeveloped or overdeveloped gluten, or overproofing before baking?

Looking forward to some tips... Thanks!



ehanner's picture

A couple things come to mind. I am guessing that you are mixing by hand? If so then after you get the ingredients to hold together as a mass, let it sit covered in a bowl for about 1 hour before you knead. Then knead to distribute everything evenly for 5-10 minutes and rest for 10-20 minutes. Next time try doing a stretch and fold. Pull the dough out to a large size on the counter using a very small amount of flour on the counter and do a letter fold in both directions, form a ball again and rest another hour. Now you should have a soft and a little puffy dough. If you think the dough feels soft enough to pass the window pane then start the preshaping process. If not, do another stretch and fold and rest(ferment) for another 30 minutes. From here out, handle gently and cut it into the number of loaves you want and start to shape in the desired shape you want and again, let it rest for 10-20 minutes. Finish shaping and stretch the skin of the dough to establish a tension on the surface. Place the shaped dough on the pan, peel or paper you will be baking on and proof for 30 minutes at most. I suspect you under developed the dough and over proofed.

These videos will help. Take a minute and watch these. You can learn more by watching a good video than trying to understand my words. The quality of French bread is largely in understanding how to handle the dough. Good luck.


The first one is from a member here that has created a terrific set of video tutorials. The dough handling methods apply to any type of bread.

Bushturkey's picture

Just to say hello to another Kypreo in the diaspora!

I've only been baking the last few months. I've had loaves dome up in the oven, I've had them come apart at their seams. It's all part of the journey.

The only advice I can give: Keep making them! Read the comments from other bakers, read and re-read the books, decide what you need to do differently and do it again.

You still get to eat good bread with your souvla, make great breadcrumbs and have a fantastic-smelling kitchen!

hazimtug's picture

I agree my friend... Baking the second batch this weekend... I'll just keep making them!! Thanks for the advice!