French Bread - Revisited

After a while it has come to fruition, the bread, that is. I certainly can’t take the credit, or really care about credit anyway, but the bread is rather extraordinary. And, so here are some tips for the couple thousand hits due to the ‘French Bread’ title, google based blog, and whatever treatments it receives from their search engines.

Without the aid of a professional steam oven in my small townhome kitchen, I have used the wonderful training received during those formative years in Princeton Day School Intermediate Science classes. It was a rather good school - it even had a planetarium. I call the training ‘good science’.

First: Estimating the moisture content to be about 67% to 70%, water weight divided by flour weight, seems to make a rather perfect combination of fluffy inside and crispy crust.

Degassing: Very important. Squeaking out those bubbles of trapped gases is quick and enables long rises with ever-developing flavors.
Don’t Rush: Have extended the rise, especially the last one to two hours before turning on the oven. Cooler temps, longer rise, more flavor.

Lame: Visit the King Arthur website and get those razor cuts going in the right direction.
Steam: Wetting the dough after cutting, with hot water from a spray bottle taking one’s time about it, being a bit messy, will provide the extra moisture to allow the bread to really rise.

Temps: Preheating to 435 works. After placing the dough in the oven, an oven temp of about 375F to 400F for about 10 minutes is great and causes the wetted dough to really rise. I have a crappy oven. Then, about 12 minutes later after cooking at 430F to 435F, increase to 450F for the last 6 to 8 minutes. Creates an amazing flavor in the crust.

Rice Krispies: So, now there’s a little more ‘hands-on’ time but the reward is a loud crescendo of snapping and popping as the smooth crust crackles like a loaf purchased at Boulangerie Saint Preux walking up Rue Lepic, well almost.

Cheers and Have Fun.

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