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French Bread

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I have tried unsuccessfuly a few times to make French Bread.

Everything seems to be going well. Dough rises, punch down, rises again. Put on baking stone, cut slits, go to bake and................

here is where my problem is

bread is small, and weighs a ton

post #2 of 11
I am moving this post to the Pastry and Baking General Forum, where it's better suited. Good luck! I hope you find the answers you seek.

Moderator Emerita, Welcome Forum
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Moderator Emerita, Welcome Forum
***It is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.***
post #3 of 11
well, even if it was bigger, it'd still weigh the same ton <g>
I presume you mean it's "dense"

please post your recipe - that is the starting point....
post #4 of 11
Dill's right. It would be helpful if posted your recipe.

But assuming it's basic French bread: flour, water, yeast and salt in (more or less) the usual proportions, the recipe itself probably isn't the problem. More likely it's your technique.

Also, as you're getting two good rises the yeast itself probably isn't the problem.

What is the problem is that your loaves don't have enough air in them.

A lot of bakers who are used to making American type breads which include sugar, milk and other yeast junk food in the recipe; and also use loaf pans for formation have trouble making the switch to the gentler handling French and Italian breads and free form loaves in general require.

It's generally best not to "punch" the risen dough down; rather remove it from the rising bowl, "pull it down" gently, fold it three by three, and put it back in the rising bowl (or the banneton). The idea is to keep the cells which formed during the rise as intact as possible; and retain as much as air as possible in the sponge while (paradoxically and) simultaneously collapsing it.

When the air inside the cells heats and expands, the cells themselves expand. In turn, that creates the open, airy crumb structure of good French and Italian bread.

The last rise (whether it's the second or preferably the third) should not be a full doubling. Rather it should go two-thirds or three-quarters of the way to allow the bread some oven spring. Too much rise on the last rise before baking is often a factor in a loaf collapsing in the oven.

In addition to what's going on inside the bread, it's likely you have a problem with the outside. Your bread is almost certainly collapsing once it gets into the oven because there's not enough "surface tension" on the outer skin to hold the shape. Once gravity pulls the loaf down, neither the yeast nor the cell structure created during the rise is enough to make the loaf rise again. The tension is created when the dough is pulled down and the technique used to form the loaves (unless you're using a banneton or pan form).

Pulling down is basic. You hold the ball of dough in one hand and use the other to grab some dough from the top and pull it down towards the bottom of the ball. Then turn the ball a quarter of a turn and repeat. And repeat. And repeat a few more times. Just keep on doing it until the skin is stretched tight. The trick is to do it gently enough so as not to destroy the leavened structure created by the yeast. Don't worry -- you get better as you go along.

Of course, a lot of what I've written to you is based on my hunches as to the actual nature of your problems. At least they're informed hunches. If anyone knows bread baking mistakes, it's me. Heaven knows I've made them all.

Write back and let us know more exactly what happened -- not only the recipe but how you handled the techniques. We can break it down more competently, and go from there.

Hope this helps,
post #5 of 11
French Bread

Crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside. Just the way it should be;).


12 1/2 oz water
1 1/2 Tbsp butter or margarine
4 1/4 cups Bread flour
2 Tsp Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp Salt
2 1/4 Tsp Dry Yeast


In a clean bowl add all ingredients
with a spatula, mix dough then . . . . . .
Place dough onto a lightly floured (all purpose) surface
knead dough for approx 8 to 10 mins (smooth and tight). If dough is sticky, add a little flour at a time
Divide into two (ball shape)
place dough into an oiled bowl (I use spam)
Spray top on the dough with spam or pour a little olive oil on top
cover with plastice and let rise in a warm place until dough almost double/doubled
Punch dough down
divide in two
form each dough rectangle shape
leave to rest for about 30 mins (keeping both dough under plastic wraps
after resting, take a scissors or knife and make three slashes (diagonal)
Place into baking pan
bake for 20 -30 mins - 375 degrees

:peace: (I am so loving this smiley)
post #6 of 11
As others have said it's hard to help with out a recipe or knowing what technique was used. What type of flour are you using? Are you spritzing the bread?
You may find a baguette pan beneficial.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #7 of 11
Yeah, like it's not nearly enough to state "bread flour". Is it KA Bread Flour, Weisenberger Mills Bread Flour, Gold Medal Bread Flour??? I mean, all work differently due in part to protein content. Whereas some bread flours might have a protein content reaching 13.5%, others will clock in at 12.5%, a full percent lower and that means a noteable difference in workup.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.



Brot und Wein
(1 photos)

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.



Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
post #8 of 11

preheating stone

this looks odd catnip you said "Put on baking stone, cut slits, go to bake and................"

Do you mean you put the dough on a cold stone then put the stone with the bread on it in the oven? if so that is likely your problem. The stone is stealing a lot of the heat from the loaf during the initial period preventing any oven spring and likely causing thick lower crust and dense loaves.

You should put the stone in the cold oven, turn oven to 400-450F and let it pre-heat 45-60 minutes to be sure to bring the thermal mass of the stone up to temp. Then when your loaf is ready to go into the oven, place it on a peel or an upside down cookie sheet sprinkled with flour/cornmeal or parchment slit the top and slide it onto the already hot stone. Spritzing the loaf or adding a cup or so of hot water to a pan preheated on the floor of the oven helps as well to keep some steam in the oven for the first 10 minutes of baking. Try to keep the oven door open a minumum time to keep the oven temp as close as possible to the desired temp. I usually pre-heat the oven to 450 but I bake at 400. My oven drops down to about 400 during the insertion of the loaf so preheating above the desired temp allows for the loss of heat but still bake at the desired 400 without having the oven have to rebound up to 400.
post #9 of 11
To answer your questions:-
*I used Gold Medal (brand) Better for bread flour (unbleached, Unbromated, enriched)
No, i didn't spritz the bread. I only do that if I want a really really crunchy crust
i used foil bread loaf pan.
I made note of your baguette pan suggestion
post #10 of 11
Interesting that this thread got revived after 6 months -- what are we talking about? And to whom are we talking?

One thing though, I'm not sure Epi's recipe can properly be termed "French bread." The butter, sugar, hard flour, and loaf pan all seem to argue against it.

post #11 of 11
I try to follow forum rules and by doing so, I didn't want to open a new thread on French bread when so many already existed. I made a french bread and thougt about posting the recipe.

Do me a favour - rather than jotting down the ingredients, could you please state your case why you think this bread cannot be termed French bread.

Let me ask you an honest question. When you are home, do you always use the exact utencils/name brand ingredients that a recipe asked for? For me, I learn how to substitute ingredients and get the same result. It looked like a french bread and it tasted like a french bread. I am making this sunday and I will be more than happy to share a picture with you. Below is a link showing a similarity of the pan I used.

P.S I apologise for "digging up" a six months thread

Kind regards
1 lb. Foil Bread Loaf Pan 500/CS
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