Classic French Bread

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Who doesn’t like french bread?  It’s versatile, it’s delicious, it’s french, it’s just good.  What sets this bread apart from others (in my opinion) are the irregular holes within the bread, and the crust.  This is achieved by careful handling and hearth baking.  I’ll be honest.  It’s a commitment, and takes some finesse, but if I can do it, so can a five year-old.

Peter Reinhart: the Julia Child of bread baking.

He’s written quite a few books on bread baking.  He’s my idol.  My spirit animal.

I can’t quite say what it is about baking bread that I love.  To me, there’s nothing better than a warm slice of buttered bread.  Not just any bread, though.  You gotta get it right.  There’s a science to it, and Mr. Reinhart is my go-to man (aside from my father).

This recipe is a little different in that it uses a cold fermentation method, and takes a commitment of two days.  You let it rise in your refrigerator over night.  Weird, right?  It totally works though.

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 I’m going to admit that my batch didn’t turn out quite like it should have.  I think I treated the dough with too much caution and didn’t form the loaves very well.  I also don’t have a baking stone and had to use a plain baking sheet and parchment paper.  If I were a better food blogger, I would have done a few batches, perfected my technique, and then snapped some photos.  One, I’m a busy person with a life, technique takes practice, and practice takes time.  Two, I’m an amateur.  Amateurs fail, and failures confess.  This is a confession of an amateur bread maker.

Classic French Bread

Recipe from Peter Reinhart

5 1/3 cups (680 g) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups (454 g) lukewarm water
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix until it forms a shaggy ball.  On a lightly floured surface, begin to knead the dough for about 2 minutes until dough becomes smooth and no lumps remain.  Add dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in your refrigerator over night, or up to 4 days.
About two hours before baking remove dough from bowl and turn out onto a light floured surface.  Divide dough into 10 or 20 g pieces and gently form into boules, or loaves.  On a lightly floured surface or couche, lightly spray your formed loaves with oil, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 1 1/2 hours or until they’ve become 1 1/2 times they’re size.
About 45 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 550, or as high as it will go, and prepare it for hearth baking.
Just prior to baking, with a serrated knife or razor, score each loaf 1/2 inch deep.  Transfer dough to the oven, add 1 cup of water to steam pan, and lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees.
Bake for 12 minutes before rotating loaves, and then bake for another 15-20 minutes until the crust is golden brown, and loaves sound hollow when thumped.  Transfer bread to a wire cooling rack for 45 minutes before slicing and serving.
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I might have gotten things a little off, but failure never tasted so good.  Enjoy, friends!
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