Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fast and Fabulous French Bread


Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes 
and home-made bread - there may be. 
- David Grayson 

Even as I have warm, oven-fresh bread practically at my fingertips whenever I like, baked daily at the boulangerie a mere two-minute walk from my home, I still yearn to pull a homemade loaf from my own oven. I love the measuring of ingredients, the cups, the poofs of flour, the yeast fizzling and foaming in a few inches of warm water, the rhythmic movements of kneading, the graceful shaping into rounds, lengths or braids, carefully brushing each loaf with egg wash and dusting the tops with sesame seeds or coarse salt. I press my nose to the warm oven door and watch with bated breath as the loaves rise and color, waiting for the moment when the kitchen, my home is filled with the scent of fresh bread.

One doesn't have to live in France to have warm, oven-fresh loaves at the snap (or almost) of the fingers. I came across this recipe on my friend Jennifer's blog Milk and Honey under the title Fast and Fabulous French Bread. I could see that it was fabulous, but fast? To get loaves that gorgeous, plump and golden? I perused the recipe and it seemed quite direct and, yes, fast and easy but seeing is believing. With half a baguette still sitting on the kitchen counter from lunch, I made the decision to go ahead with the experiment. I was in the mood to bake…. And I knew that my men would most likely be happier seeing beautiful brioche-type loaves than more cake.

I have always highly esteemed the brave and humble workers who labor all night to produce those soft but crusty loaves that look more like cake than bread. 
- Alexandre Dumas 

I made, I baked, I conquered. Well, I was conquered. It was fast. It was easy. And it was fabulous! There was no fiddling or guessing, no waiting (or so little it isn't even worth counting) and the loaves rose so beautifully in the oven as I watched, nose pressed against the window. Yes, one must hover around the oven, not stray too far as the temperature is changed twice and the minutes counted. I allowed the bread to cool to warm and then I sliced. The bread was perfectly risen and baked through. The texture, crumb and flavor were very brioche like, wonderful and soft, perfect to accompany a meal, great for breakfast or snack with either savory or sweet spreads.

I served one loaf for dinner, froze a second loaf and the third was offered to Marty's surgeon!

This is a recipe I will be making over and over again.

I will be sharing this Fast and Fabulous French Bread with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting!

If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, 
the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony. 
Fernand Point 

Makes 3 loaves

Visit Jennifer's blog Milk and Honey for instructions to prepare the loaves using a stand mixer; I have prepared mine by hand.

1/3 cup (80 ml) warm water
1 Tbs (10 g) dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs (15 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
1 cup (250 ml) cold water
5 - 6 cups "00" flour (I used regular French flour)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 175°F (80°C). (*Yes, that's 175°F/80°C not 350°F/180°C. The low starting temperature gives the bread a little rising before you hit it with the heat). Spray a large baking tray with cooking oil spray (or line with parchment) and set aside.

Place the dry yeast in a small bowl and pour the 1/3 cup of warm water slowly over it. Mix gently with a fork and set aside for 5 minutes.

Place the sugar, salt and butter into a large mixing bowl. Pour over the boiling water and stir until the butter has melted. Add the cold water and stir. Add the yeast mixture and stir again to blend.

Add half the flour to the bowl and stir, using a wooden spoon, until the dry is incorporated into the wet. Then add enough of the remaining flour until a soft dough forms – I added and stirred in 5 cups of the flour using the 6th cup to flour the work surface and dough was I kneaded by hand, thus incorporating the last cup little by little until the dough was soft, supple, elastic and no longer stuck to either the work surface or the cutting board. Knead this way, adding in the last cup of flour gradually, for about 6 minutes. Leave the dough to rest for 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto the prepared baking tray and divide it into three equal portions. Let the dough rest for another 5 minutes.

Using your fingertips, spread each portion of dough out into a rectangle. Roll them up like a Swiss roll length ways and then tucks the two ends underneath. Place each rolled loaf on the baking sheet seam side down and gently even out the "log" or loaf.

Spray a sharp knife with cooking oil spray (or rub with vegetable or olive oil) and make three deepish, diagonal slashes into the tops of each loaf (mine were not really deep enough – look at Jennifer's).

Brush with the beaten egg and bake at 175°F (80°C) for 15 minutes (*See note above). After 15 minutes, increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C) and bake for a further 15 - 20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 350°F (180°C) and bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes or until the tops are golden, the bottom of the loaves are colored and the bread sound hollow when knocked.

Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool (a little) before slicing.


endogrutarif said...

Hello my name is Endogru. Your recipe looks delicious. I'll try your recipe when I found the opportunity. Thank you, I'm in pursuit ;)

Jenni said...

What a cool technique! Love that it makes 3 loaves, too. One to eat. One to keep. One to give. So nice!

Kate McDermott/Art of the Pie, Seattle said...

Ah, Jamie! This is nearly identical to the bread I made for my family weekly--6 loaves at a time, too, in the big Wolf oven I used to have. There was always one...or two, to give away. That's the best part of baking, I think!

Kate McDermott/Art of the Pie, Seattle said...

Ah, Jamie! This is nearly identical to the bread I made for my family weekly--6 loaves at a time, too, in the big Wolf oven I used to have. There was always one...or two, to give away. That's the best part of baking, I think!

Simones Kitchen said...

Ooo how good does that look! For a minute I was looking at that first picture and thinking 'why does it say pain?' Only to realize that - ofcourse - it is French.. Lol.. Now this bread seems pretty perfect to me. I love it when it doesn't take hours to rise. I attempted a heavy dark bread this week which had to rise for 7 hours and then ended up being inedible... Boohoo.... I think I'll think to breads like this!

Lizzy (Good Things) said...

Beautiful, I can almost smell it from here! There is something magically therapeutic about baking bread.

Unknown said...

These look wonderful. Can't wait to try the recipe. The fasted French bread I have found so far is Dsn Leader"s 4 hr. baguette on food 52

Milk and Honey said...

Your bread looks totally delicious Jamie. I'm so glad you liked it. It's such a handy recipe. Sometimes I'd rather make my own bread than put so to the trouble of putting my shoes on to go out and buy it. This bread can be made in about the time it would take me to dot that. Life-saver.

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

I'm making these tomorrow. I'd make it tonight but it's getting late. Wow. Those loaves look perfect.

Kirsten/ComfortablyDomestic said...

I'm convinced that there is no smell more intoxicating than the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. Any bread recipe that makes enough to share is a winner because the sharing is half of fun of baking.

Brooks said...

Lovely loaves of bread, Jamie! The process intrigues me, as it did you, so I'll be visiting Jennifer's place for the stand mixer directives. Gazing at the top photo, with the loaf perched on its French bread board, a wave of European charm washed over me. Thanks for the mini getaway.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Terrific looking bread! We bake all of our bread these days, even though quite good bread is readily available. It's that fresh-from-the-oven thing, you know. ;-) This looks like a wonderful recipe -- thanks.

Liz Berg said...

You've made me want to measure out and poof some flour...there's nothing better than the smell of a yeast bread baking in the oven. But since summer has finally arrived in Indiana, I'm going to wait till it cools down just a bit. Your loaves look terrific!!!

Jill Colonna said...

Jamie, I need to make this asap. I'm like the others and inspired to make it too, as can just about smell it wafting over from Nantes to Paris. Been a while since I made a loaf or two.
Yes, it does almost look a bit brioche-like - it is fabulous!

Helene Dsouza said...

poof flour... =D
So, I need to make bread again! This is a sign especially after staring at your bread for over a minute. I just need to find time now. =)
Thanks for sharing Jamie!

Karen Kerr said...

Those look... fabulous!!! Sometimes you just need bread now!!!

Cathy W. said...

Your loaves look so good. Now I need to go bake some bread.

Elizabeth said...

How beautiful!! I love the golden colour of the crusts.

Elizabeth said...

Excuse me for commenting twice in a row... (I really should learn to plan ahead).

I just read the baking instructions. Well!! This low oven temperature at the beginning is very interesting! Clearly, I'm going to have to try this.

I've been having a devil of a time with getting zero oven spring. Maybe this technique will put a stop to my whining.

Louise said...

Definitely a keeper! I halved the recipe, then made two loaves. Mine a linger and narrower than the picture, and clearly I need serious help with scoring--but they look very good and taste yummy

Renee Goerger said...

I can not wait to try this recipe. It looks and sounds so fast and easy! And those loaves...aaah, those loaves!


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