I wonder if my 9th grade French teacher would be proud of me? I looked up how to say “it’s time for a french bread batard” in French on Google Translate all by myself!
This is not my first rodeo with this bread, but it is the best loaf to date. While the Covid travesty has been horrible, my baking skills have improved enormously. Most of the METHOD steps are from KAB, but I added my own comments in places.
(Oh, I also baked a dozen chocolate chip cookies from dough I have in the freezer. The oven was on! What choice did I have?)
French Bread – Recipe and method from KAF which should be KAB now.
• 1 cup (227g) cool to lukewarm water (90°F to 100°F)
• 1/2 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
• 1 1/4 cups (149g) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
• 1/4 cup (28g) King Arthur Premium 100% Whole Wheat Flour
• all of the starter (above)
• 1 cup (227g) lukewarm water (100°F to 115°F)
• 3/4 teaspoon active dry or 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
• 1 tablespoon (14g) sugar
• 3 3/4 to 4 cups (450g to 480g) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
• 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, to taste
- To make the starter: Stir all of the starter ingredients together to make a thick, pudding-like mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 2 hours. For best flavor, let the starter rest longer; overnight (up to 16 hours) is best.
- To make the dough: Stir down the starter with a spoon and add the water, yeast, sugar, 3 1/4 cups (390g) of the flour, and the salt. The dough will be a loose, messy mass. Let it rest for 12 to 15 minutes, then stir it again; it should become more cohesive and a bit smoother. Dough handles better once it’s had time for the flour to absorb the water while resting and relaxing. By using this method, you’ll tend to add less flour, and have much bigger holes in your finished bread.
- Knead the dough, adding up to an additional 3/4 cup (90g) flour (as necessary to make a soft dough), 10 to 12 minutes. I use the dough hook on my stand mixer. For me, the dough should clean the sides of the mixer bowl. That’s how I know when adequate flour has bee added.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or plastic container, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until almost doubled (depending on the weather, this could be 1 to 2 hours). If you’re going out, or if you prefer, let the dough rise slowly in the fridge. If your dough has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature before shaping; it’ll warm up and rise at the same time. I used my proofing oven with only the light on for warmth. The same for the final proof below.
- Deflate the dough gently, but don’t knock out all the air; this will create those “holes” so important to French bread. For one large loaf, form the dough into a round ball; for two loaves, divide the dough in half and shape into two balls. For loaves, form into a battard about 2” diameter and 4” shorter than bread tray. Place on semolina floured French bread tray to rise..
- Place a semolina- or cornmeal-dusted piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet. (Note to self: Don’t go crazy with semolina. It WILL fall off the paper and onto the floor when transferring the loaves from the peel onto the baking stone in the oven,) Gently place the ball(s) of dough on the baking sheet, seam-side down. It is easiest to roll the loaves onto the baking peel.
- Cover the bread gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s puffy and about 40% to 50% larger, anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes if using the proofing drawer..
- Preheat your oven to 475°F.
- Dust each loaf with a little flour. Slash or cross-hatch it with a sharp knife or lame. Spritz water into the oven with a clean plant mister, and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425°F and spritz with water every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking.
- If you are using parchment paper, remove it after the first 15 minutes of baking.
- Bake the bread for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown, and its interior temperature registers at least 190°F on a digital thermometer. The smaller loaves will bake more quickly, so keep your eye on them.
- Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store bread, loosely wrapped in paper, for a couple of days at room temperature; wrap it in plastic and freeze for longer storage.