French Country Bread:
3 2/3 cups (475 grams) unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup (65 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon (2 grams) SAF Red instant yeast Available on Amazon
1 teaspoon (3 grams) dry malt (diastatic) powder Available on Amazon
2 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (360 grams) filtered water
French Country Bread: In a large bowl combine the flours, yeast, malt powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the water. (For the formula for calculating water temperature see Headnote). With a bowl scraper or wooden spoon, gradually work the flour into the liquid. Then using your bench scraper or knife, cut a piece of the dough from the edge and then place it on top of the dough. Turn your bowl and cut off another small chunk of dough and place it on top of the dough. Keep turning your bowl, and cutting off chunks of dough, stacking it on top, until all the flour has been moistened. (The object is just to moisten all the flour. You don't want to knead the dough.)
Then, using an unflavored oil (corn, vegetable, canola, safflower oil) lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough into the bowl and then flip it over so the top of the dough has a light coating of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit (ferment) at room temperature for three hours. Every 45 minutes you need to 'stretch and fold' the dough (see video for technique) to strength and equalize its temperature.
To stretch the dough, gently take one edge of the dough and stretch it and then fold it onto the top of the dough. Turn your bowl 180 degrees and stretch the dough in the same way. Then turn your bowl a quarter turn (90 degrees) and stretch the dough in the same way. Then turn your bowl 180 degrees and repeat the process. After that flip your dough so the bottom is now the top, and cover. Repeat the process in 45 minutes and again 45 minutes later. (So this following step needs to be done a total of three times over three hours.)
Once the dough has fermented for three hours, it's time to preshape our dough. Turn out your dough onto a lightly floured surface. You want the top of the dough to now be on the bottom. Lightly flour the top of your dough and with the palms of your hands flatten the dough slightly to break any large air bubbles.
Take the dough and, on a lightly floured surface, pat into a 6 x 4 inch (15 x 10 cm) rectangle. Fold over the top third of dough (like you're folding a letter) and gently seal (this also increases the surface tension of the dough.) Then take the top of the dough and fold it to the bottom edge of the dough and seal. Place the palms of your hand on the top of the dough and gently roll it back and forth to seal the dough and create tension. Place the log of dough (seam side down) onto a lightly floured baking sheet or wooden cutting board. Then cover with plastic wrap and let proof (ferment) (and to relax the dough) for about 30 minutes at room temperature.
After 30 minutes, place the dough (top side down) onto a lightly floured surface. Gently pat the dough into a round, breaking any large air bubbles. Gently fold the edges of the dough into the center and seal the dough. Turn the dough over so the seams are on the bottom. Cup your hands around the top of the dough furthest from you and gently pull the dough towards you to create tension. Turn and repeat this process around the whole ball of dough. Then, cup your hands around the ball of dough, and gently rotate the dough in a circular motion until it forms a nice tight round. Place the round of dough, top side down, in a floured 10 inch (25 cm) bread rising basket. Loosely cover the top of the basket with plastic wrap and let proof for about two hours at room temperature, or until risen and when you lightly press a finger into the dough, it will leave a slight indentation.
At least one to one and a quarter hours before baking your bread, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). (If possible, don't use the fan (convection) setting on your oven.) Have your oven racks in the top and bottom third of your oven. On each rack have a pizza stone. Also, place a cast iron frying pan on the floor of your oven (we will be placing ice cubes in the frying pan to create steam).
Have ready a pizza paddle that has been lightly sprinkled with fine cornmeal or semolina. Gently turn the bread out of the basket onto your pizza paddle. Then with a razor or sharp knife, score the top of the round with 3 - 4 inch (10 cm) long cuts that are about 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep. Transfer the bread onto the hot pizza stone. Quickly place about four ice cubes into the hot cast iron frying pan (this creates steam). Bake the bread for about 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. (If you tap the bottom of the bread it will sound hollow.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about one hour.
Makes one - 10 inch (25 cm) round bread.
This beautiful artisan round of French Country Bread has a crisp outer crust and a soft and chewy interior. Enjoy a slice spread with butter or use it to make sandwiches. It's also ideal for making toast in the mornings.
This bread is easy to make as you don't have to knead the dough. The ingredients are simply mixed together, which is known as a "Hand Mix". However, the dough has a three hour fermentation period, and you have to 'stretch and fold' the dough every 45 minutes (see video for technique). Once the dough is formed into a round, I like to proof the dough in a 10 inch (25 cm) bread rising basket. This not only ensures that the bread has a nice round shape, but since the basket has ridges, it also gives the bread an attractive design.
A few notes on ingredients. For the yeast, I like to use SAF Red instant yeast. This type of yeast gives the dough a good rise, especially when making breads with long fermentation periods. An added bonus is that since the grain particles are so small, it doesn't need proofed. We also add some dry malt (diastatic) powder which breaks down the starch and gives sugar for the yeast to feed on. This is especially good for doughs, like this, that have a long fermentation period. Malt powder also aids in browning. For the salt I like to use kosher salt. And lastly we need water. I like to use filtered water. The temperature of the water is very important when making this dough as it determines the temperature of the dough, which affects the rate of fermentation (proofing). The desired dough temperature (DDT) should be between 74-77 degrees F (23-25 degrees C). To determine the correct water temperature (WT) use this formula WT = (desired dough temperature (DDT) x 3) - (the temperature of your flour (FT) + the room temperature (RT) + friction temperature (FT)). Friction temperature being how much the dough will warm up during mixing. Because we're making this dough by hand and there's no kneading, I use a friction temperature of 2 degrees F (1 degree C). However, if you find your final dough temperature is a little warm you could adjust this number when making the dough in the future. An example in Fahrenheit is WT = (74 (DDT) x 3) - (77 (FT) + 77 (RT) + 2 (FT)). Therefore your water temperature needs to be 66 degrees F. In Celsuis WT = (23 (DDT) x 3) - (25 (FT) + 25 (RT) + 1 (FT)). Therefore your water needs to be 18 degrees C.