Wednesday, May 7, 2008

French Bread

I did some research over the week and realised that French stick or bread or loaf is actually an English name for French Baguettes. Baguettes are basically those bread with much more smaller diameter compared with length. But French are strict and have more exact standard and name for those loaves which are thicker or thinner in their diameters. But the standard is around 5-6 cm to not more than 10 cm.

To make life simpler, I will just called it French bread or loaf. I did one french loaf some weekend ago and then also for Greg's party. The loaf was made a day before the party for the Bruschetta. Fortunately, the french loaves all turned out well. They were brown and crusty on the outside and a little chewy in the inside, just the way french bread (baguettes) should be.

Standard French loaf consist of basic water, flour, yeast, common salt. But I also did a little experiment with shortening. For one of the loaves, i added one small tablespoon of shortening but kept the others original. The results:

Just from that one tablespoon of shortening, the loaf inside became softer & silkier. But the taste is equally as good as the original. And there was no effect whatsever on both the crustiness & chewiness of the bread.

It took a while, & a little bit of experimentation. But now I'm confident that the recipe can now be shared with you. I leave the decision to add shortening or any other form of fat up to your own discretion.

400gm of bread flour or high protein flour
8 gm of active instant yeast
8 gm of salt
1 tbsp of shortening (optional)
1 tbsp of castor sugar
220-240gm of slightly chilled water

1) Sift flour and mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

2) With a dough beater, beat at No 1-2. Very slowly add 90% of the chilled water. Continue mixing till all ingredients bind together. Add rest of water if too dry.

3) Beat at medium for 15 -18 min or high for 10 -12 min. In between the beating, try the membrane test. A thin membrane indicates that the glutten has formed and dough is ready. But you must stop if the side of bowl feel slightly warm. A warm dough indicates that yeast may be taking action already.

4) Take it out of bowl and hand knead it to release all air bubbles. Shape into a round dough.

5) Rest the dough, covered with clean cloth for about 15 min before further shaping. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts and shape into round two round balls. Rest further for another 10 min

6) Roll each into a long rectangle (lengthwise) and roll towards yourself. Roll slightly more towards the middle of the dough to form the loaf shape. Seal ends and bottom well. Place on a greased tray. Make three slanted slits along the loaf.

7) Proof cover with cloth for 50 min to 1 hour 15 min depending on weather. Do the finger poke test.

8) Preheat over at 170 degree celcius forced fan. Spray your hot oven generously with water. Bake for 15-20 min till golden brown.

Cool, cut and serve as bruschetta/garlic bread or with a nice thick broth.

Same recipes apply for shorter baguettes (not very sure whether it is called batard. Anyone?) used as sandwich loaves. After step 4, rest for 10 min. Divide dough into 4 equal portions and knead into smaller bowls. Rest for another 10-15 min. Enough resting makes rolling easier. Follow with step 6 onwards but cut one, straight long slits on each one.


Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

what? made ur own baguettes?? u must open shop, quick! u r amazing, nee!

NEE said... "guo chian" (talk to highly of me la). i m sure you can also with a recipe. Just tat making own is much nicer.

Anonymous said...


I really want to try out the French Bread's recipe. But.. the problem is that I don't have the dough beater. Can I just use my hand to knead the dough? Is it the same method?

How many teaspoon for the salt n instant yeast, as mine is not a digital scale :(

Please advice.

Thanks & Regards.

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