The Fresh Loaf

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Peter Reinhart's French Bread Recipe

jamie0168's picture

Peter Reinhart's French Bread Recipe

I just purchased Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. The first recipe I tried was his French bread recipe and it was a disaster. I used all of his tips for hearth baking, read every page of the introductory chapter, and followed the recipe to the letter. The loaves came out so hard and dense, I could have injured someone with them, if I'd chosen to use them as bats!


I simply cannot figure out what went wrong. With my gut feeling, I felt that when things began to look wrong was at the mixing of the pate fermente with the other ingredients to make the final dough. It was very dry and I had to add a good amount of extra water to get a soft, tacky dough that he asked for. And then, come rise time, it didn't quite rise as quickly or as much as I'd expected it to. I left it a tad longer than the recipe said to, but then shaped it. Once again, the loaves did not rise to what I expected to be their full potential. So sad that I had to throw away the loaves as they were inedible!  


Any insights?

jamie0168's picture

Alot of questions to answer: It's very cold here now, so I guess my semi-cold apartment might have had something to do with it. 


I steamed the oven, my water was warm, I weighed the ingredients, yeast was room temp and brand new, I baked at recommended time and temp, ...

No, the bread did not rise correctly. It seemed very tough as I was kneading it. I noticed a slight improvement later in the kneading. I think it passed the "window pane test" with a C-. I wasn't sure what else to do to make the dough less tough. It seemed too late to add extra water. 

jamie0168's picture

I want to try another one of his recipes tomorrow, but now I'm a bit scared of the outcome. I've been baking bread for a few years now, but this has been one of my worst baking experiences. 


I'll give it another shot. I just hope it goes better this time. 

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

What you experienced is not that uncommon when beginning a new technique or working your way though a new recipe. You have received some good advice already. My suggestion would be not to move on to a different recipe but to repeat the French Bread again, but this time you have experience and advice on your side.

Good luck, Frank

Talever's picture

Hello Jamie


Made this bread about 10 times now.  I weigh everything, mix as directed, Stretch and fold seems to make a big difference.  I do it four times in the first hour and I keep it in a Microwave in between in a large plastic container.  Then into the fridge over night or up to two days.  Remove bring to room temp shape then rise and into hot oven with steam pan below.  It make really great tasting bread.  Give it another try and see how it goes. 



I use KA bread flour.  I have tried others and the KA seems to work really well