French Bread – Peter Reinhart

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I was craving some crusty French baguettes. This winter has really re-awakened my love of bread lately. I saw Jude’s take on Peter Reinhart’s French bread recipe and thought I’d give it a whirl. I didn’t wind up with as many airy holes, but the flavor was quite pleasant.

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Here’s the pre-ferment dough the morning after a nice and chilly night in the fridge. Jude says this dough is good for up to 3 days in the fridge. I would like to experiment more with it at 24-48 hours of cold fermenting, instead of the 8-10 I gave it.

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I keep my house at “brisk” temperatures, so it took about 2 hours for it to shake off the chilliness of the fridge.

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Then it was time to make the final dough. Same amounts as the night before. Water, bread flour, salt, yeast.

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And then cut up the pre-ferment dough to use!

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Mix it all up and knead until it becomes a smooth ball. Hm, on second glance, this doesn’t look so smooth. Story of my life.

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After another two or so hours the dough doubled in bulk, and I divided the dough into three equal parts, which is what that handy dandy digital scale in the background is for. I actually was very successful in having equally weighted doughs.

P1030684The shaping. The shaping! These doughs rest seam-side UP before baking.

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I don’t have a cloth to use as a couche, so I used parchment paper for the rise.

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I stuffed tea towels to the sides of the doughs to help give them a proper baguette shape. These rested for a little over an hour, while the oven was heated to 500F.

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The transfer process was a bit delicate – as you can see, my doughs didn’t end up uniformly sized. Oh well, I’ve never been so great at presentation. These went on the back of cookie sheets.

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Slice gashes in the dough to help when it expands in the oven.

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Three baguettes! The top baguette was my favorite in terms of looks. Flavor-wise, they all tasted the same, so no correlation with shape and flavor in this instance. I had my oven set to convection, which evenly cooks everything, but there is a water bath also involved to help steam and brown the exterior of the baguettes. The one on top was put on the bottom shelf initially, while the bottom two were put on the top shelf. I’m impressed to see such variance between these two different levels in my oven! So the next time, I will make sure to put all of my loaves on the rack 2nd from the bottom, just above the bain marie.

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So crackly, and the gashes filled out nicely.

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Less expansion in the gashes that were initially placed on the upper shelf.

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My crumb was a bit tighter than I’d have liked. I used Gold Medal brand bread flour. I’m curious to see how King Arthur flour would fare?

2 comments
  1. Gold Medal flour is much lower-gluten than King Arthur All Purpose, so you’ll probably have a stronger dough that can give you more rise if you use that next time. Also, try making 3-4 cuts lengthwise across the top at about a 20 degree angle.. that also will contribute to oven spring.

    • Ahah! That’s what I get from detracting from the King!

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