French bread

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Let’s face it we all miss that bread when we get home from a visit to France right? there is something about the taste, the smell, the golden, splintery crust and then there’s the way you get a pretty piece of fancy thin paper wrapped around the middle to carry it home with. So after spending a couple of weeks over there, on our return I decided to make some.

In the picture above there are two items which are definitely needed, at least in my mind to get close to the original: Salt and a good linen kitchen cloth. The salt is dissolved in water to make a brine and brushed on the loaf before it goes in the oven, the cloth is dusted with flour and used to proove the loaf before baking, you make a kind of support for the bread. (A photo of that next time I make it) so here is the recipe.

For 1 loaf, you need:

  • 285g strong white flour
  • 55g plain white flour
  • 7g salt
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 1/2 tspn salt dissolved in 70ml water

Mix the flours with the salt and weigh 215g of that mix in to a seperate bowl, add the yeast and 215ml cold water, make a very soft dough more like a batter, just mix until it’s reasonably smooth a minute or two with a wooden spoon is enough. Cover with plastic and leave for about 4 hours, it will first rise and then collapse and that’s ok.

Then add the rest of the flour and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Back in the bowl, cover with plastic and leave to double in size.

Turn out on to a floured work surface and push the air out and form into a long baton according to the size of your oven, if you have a seam, make sure it’s underneath, take your linen cloth and dust with flour, place your loaf in side and gather up the cloth on both sides to keep the loaf in shape.

When it’s risen, roll it gently out of the cloth and on to a baking sheet, line it with paper if you like. With a sharp knife or razor blade score the top and then brush the loaf with the salt water mix and bake* at 230 C for 20 minutes and then reduce heat to 200 c and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. It’s pretty close to the real thing! (Adding your own pretty paper is optional!)

*A tray of water in the oven helps create steam which helps to get a better crust.

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