Thursday, August 20, 2009

french bread - bread baker's apprentice challenge #14

French bread was on the docket for this week's bread baker's apprentice challenge. I've often wondered about this bread and next week's Italian bread. These two types of bread seem so similar in Canada, and were probably the first two artisan breads you could commonly find at your local grocery store.

This French bread recipe utilizes a pate fermentee, which spends 1 to 3 nights in a fridge to develop flavor. The book mentions such a pre-ferment will give most breads a quantum leap in maturity and flavour. On the day you choose to bake, you simply pull the pre-ferment out of the fridge a few hours before.

I baked this recipe off twice; once with with pate fermentee spending one night, and again with two nights in the fridge. Even out of the fridge, I noticed a difference in the pate. The longer version had risen considerably more and I could see good sized pockets of air in the dough in my plastic container.

The recipe talks about baking 3 loaves, but my crappy dividing skills left me with 4 chunks. Instead of worrying, I decided to bake off two classic logs, one crown, and one boule (I attacked the boule and one log with scissors to add some flair). On my second batch, 2/3 of the dough turned into a ring/donut shape, with the rest going to a smaller torpedo style roll.

With my oven, baking stone and water prepped, I started firing bread into the oven followed closely with hot water for my steaming pan. I really need to figure out a better way to transfer hot water into the tray as I ended up burning my fingers. *silly me, I suppose I could just wear oven mitts.

The bread was a hit. It was devoured mostly as toast, but a few PB and banana sandwiches made there way into the mix. The more I work with pre-ferments, the more I appreciate the fine art of European breads. I guess it was no surprise then to find the 2nd batch, which spent an extra night in the fridge, had developed a bit more flavor. Delicious as it was, I'm ready for Italian bread.

If you have a few minutes, why not check out the BBA flickr feed. Don't blame me if your tummy starts to rumble!


Frieda said...

Great post! I did find a better taste and texture of leaving the pre-ferment in the fridge an extra day...I found a difference between my French bread and Italian was the texture of the holes. Sorry you burned your fingers...I just use a glass measuring cup of hot water to pour into the pan. Someone suggested using a turkey baster...

Chris said...

Thanks Frieda. I've baked off the Italian, and I think I'm enjoying it more than the French. I agree there is definitely a texture difference. Turkey baster, that sounds like a slower process, but probably really safe. I did invest in some longer oven mitts!

misterrios said...

We too have French and Italian Bread among the most common breads in Berlin. Still, many bakeries lack that artisanal look that sets home-made things apart. This is what I like about your loaves. You can clearly see the handwork in them.

Personally, I use a small metal cup to pour the steam water. I'm actually afraid that the glass one will crack. But yeah, I sometimes get slightly burnt by the steam!

Chris said...

My bread doesn't always look that pretty misterrios, but it sure tastes good!

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