In recent years, many have discovered the pleasures of bread baking. The bread machine has made it now easier than ever to turn out a loaf of bread quickly and easily. By simply loading all the ingredients into the unit’s bread pan, anyone can make yeast bread. Another device that’s revolutionized bread baking is the dough hook equipped with many heavy-duty stand mixers. If you don’t like to get your hands into bread dough, the dough hook, as well as the bread machine, can make baking bread a breeze!
Yet, some bakers love to relish baking bread by hand. I tend to be one of those bakers. To me, it great fun making homemade bread, especially when it’s done by traditional methods, though I do own a bread machine and a mixer with a dough hook. Let’s look at something really wonderful that every bread baker should have in their files and that’s for “French Bread”or as the French call it, “Pain Ordinaire Careme” (A Daily Loaf). This is a very fine recipe and though it’s detailed, it’s certainly not hard to make.
One thing that’s interesting is that the recipe only has four ingredients: yeast, water, flour and salt. Nothing more! To begin, part of the flour is placed in a bowl. The yeast and hot water are added and if you have a heavy-duty mixer with a flat beater, you mix this for about ten minutes at medium speed. The mixer should run without any strain. Close to end of the time, dissolve the salt in the 2 teaspoons of water and add to the batter.
If your mixer has a dough hook, you continue to add flour in 1/4 cup measurements until a dough has formed under the hook and cleans the side of the bowl. If it’s sticky, add sprinkles of flour. Knead for ten minutes. If doing this by hand, work in the flour in 1/2 cup measurements, stirring at first, then working it by hand. This will be a shaggy mass, so you’d want to turn this onto a work surface and knead with an aggressive “push-turn-fold” motion. If dough becomes sticky, add sprinkles of flour. Now and then, throw the dough hard against the work surface, which encourages development of the dough.
Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours. I found my dough didn’t take this long, as my kitchen was rather warm that day I made it. The dough will more than triple in volume. Remove the dough onto a work surface and knead for about three minutes. This is placed back in the bowl and covered again, except with waxed paper. It now rises for about 1-1/2 hours or until triple in volume.
It’s now turned onto your work surface and here, you can divide it and shape it as you choose. I did rolls for this photo shoot, but you can do the long loaves or “Baguettes” as they’re called in France. Once shaped, the loaves are covered and they set at room temperature until dough has more than doubled in size, about one hour.
This is what makes this French bread so authentic: you place a pan of water in the bottom of your oven and then set the risen dough in to bake. In about 25-30 minutes, check for doneness by turning over a loaf and if the bottom crust sounds hard and hollow when you tap it, it’s done. Listen to the loaves as you take them from the oven: you’ll hear a crackling sound, which is very characteristic for this bread! Let cool, spread with butter and enjoy yourself!
Though this recipe appears very detailed, once you get started, it actually moves quite fast. The long rising periods are great for you to do other things around the house while it rises. This is wonderful buttered and toasted for breakfast or sprinkled with garlic salt to serve with Italian dishes, such as spaghetti or lasagna.
Have fun with this bread as you pay tribute to the French for this wonderful treat!
PAIN ORDINAIRE CAREME (A Daily Loaf)
- 6 cups bread or unbleached flour, approximately
- 2 envelopes dry yeast
- 2-1/2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)
- 2 teaspoons EACH salt and water
Measure 3-4 cups of the flour into a large bowl, along with the yeast and hot water. If using a heavy-duty mixer, use the flat beater and mix at medium speed for 10 minutes. If by hand, mix for the same amount of time with a sturdy spoon (rest as you get tired). This will be a smooth batter and will pull away from the sides of the bowl. Near the end of the 10 minutes, dissolve the salt in the 2 teaspoons of water and add to the batter. Blend for 30 seconds more.
If your mixer has a dough hook, use it and work in additional flour in 1/4 cup measurements until a dough forms and cleans the sides of the bowl. If it becomes sticky, add sprinkles of flour. Knead for 10 minutes. If doing this by hand, work in the flour in 1/2 cup measurements, first with a spoon then with your hands. When the dough becomes a shaggy mass, turn out onto a work surface and knead with an aggressive “push-fold-turn” motion. If dough becomes sticky, sprinkle additional flour on the surface. Periodically, throw the dough down against the countertop, which help develop the gluten.
Place the dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let set at room temperature for about 2 hours or until the dough has more than tripled in volume. Remove the dough from the bowl and return it to the work surface. Knead for about 3 minutes and return to the bowl, this time covering with waxed paper. Let set at room temperature again for about 1-1/2 hours or until triple in volume.
Meanwhile, prepare the pans by greasing and sprinkling the surface with plain cornmeal. If using non-stick baking pans, no greasing will be necessary. Remove the dough from the bowl and back onto the work surface. Divide dough to the type of bread you choose to make and let dough stand for 5 minutes before shaping. Here, this can be divided into four 10-inch “baguettes” by dividing into four pieces and rolling under your palms for a roll about 16-20 inches and 3-4 inches in diameter. Place on the baking sheet. For rolls, roll the dough into about 24 balls and place directly on the baking sheets.
Cover the prepared bread with a cloth and let stand at room temperature until dough has more than doubled in size, about 1 hour. Before preheating the oven to 450 degrees 20 minutes before baking, place a broiler pan on the bottom rack. Five minutes before baking, pour 1 cup hot water into the hot pan, being careful of the steam.
If desired, diagonal cuts may be made down the lengths of the dough for decoration. When ready to bake, place the bread in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Turn over a loaf and tap the bottom. If it sounds hard and hollow, it’s done. Remove to wire racks to cool, but listen for the crackling as you remove it from the oven! Yield 4 long loaves or about 24 rolls.