This French loaf is the perfect crusty bread that is perfect for sandwiches, croutons or a great slice of toast. With just a few ingredients this is a great all around loaf of bread.
This is a great recipe as an introduction to bread making. As a matter of fact this was one of the very first loaves of bread I have ever made. I love it so much that it has become one of my default loaves. If you are looking to try your hand at a great loaf of bread that is fairly straight-forward then look no further. There are only 4 ingredients in this recipe which makes this bread tolerant to all kinds of additions. If you like seeds or grians in your bread then add them without hesistation.
In this recipe
This recipe has only 4 ingredients. This makes it easy to throw together as long as you have a packet of yeast. One of the important things is to make sure that the yeast is fresh. If it is old you will not get the kind of rise that you are looking for
Flour: Bread flour has a higher protein percentage than all-purpose flour. This will give you a loaf with a tighter crumb, the part that isn’t the crust, than all-purpose flour making it a little more chewy. Both can be used for this recipe depending on how you would like the texture of your bread.
Yeast: It is good to activate the yeast prior to baking. This recipe does not have any sugar in it. Instead all of the ingredients will be mixed together. The rise may take a little longer than expected.
Making the dough
Adding the dry ingredients together first and mixing with a spoon or whisk for a few seconds to distribute the salt and yeast will yield a better dough. Using the stand mixer with a dough hook wait until the ball pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This is the dough telling you it is ready to ferment/rise.
There might be a point in time where the mixture looks really dry and shaggy, this is ok. Keep mixing and the dough will pull itself together. Don’t add extra water at this point although it looks like the dough needs it. It will mess up the ratios needed to give you a good rise later. This can take up to 5 minutes of mixing before it pulls away from the sides.
Letting is rise
Once the ball is out of the mixer put it in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. This first (bulk) fermentation or rise is what is going to help develop flavor and the texture and strength of the crumb. Once it has doubled in size the dough is ready for shaping.
Stretching and shaping
By stretching and folding the sides of the dough like this it helps build the structure of the dough to keep it’s round shape when cooking.
Completing the entire round of dough then put the seam side on the counter. Tug the dough ball towards you an inch or so. Repeating this at least 3 more times after rotating will get you a nice round ball for the 2nd rise.
Rising in the basket
It is important that the banneton basket is well floured. The dough will want to spread into the seams and this could cause it to stick to the basket.
Dusting the top and sides of the ball will help keep the cling wrap from sticking to the dough.
Once it has doubled in size again you are ready to bake.
Slash and bake
By using a Dutch oven for baking it will help keep the steam around the loaf. This gives that wonderfully crusty bread that is just so comforting.
Once the bread is out of the oven the crackling starts. This is the crumb contracting and settling. Let the bread cool down before slicing.
Letting it come to room temperature helps develop the flavor, but more importantly it helps keep the bread from drying out quickly. Hot bread is also going to be more gummy, doughy, or sticky in texture.
Once it has cooled down enjoy your loaf! You’ve earned it.
Crusty Round French Loaf - Boule de Pain
- Stand mixer with dough hook
- Banneton proofing basket
- Dutch oven
- Cooling rack
- 3½ cups bread flour
- 1¼ cups water warm
- ½ tsp salt
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast 1 packet
- In your stand mixer or large bowl add the flour, yeast, salt and mix thoroughly. Add the water and on a medium-low speed use the dough hook until the ball pulls away from the sides. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
- Cover the dough and let rest for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.
- Pour out the dough onto a lightly dusted surface. Starting with one edge stretch and pull it back to the center and press down. Rotate a little repeat the same action. Once you have done this around the entire ball flip it over.
- Pull the ball towards your body about 2 inches, rotate 90 degrees and repeat. Flour the top of the ball and place in a clean bowl or floured proofing basket. Cover and let rise for another 30 min.
- While the dough is resting heat the oven to 425°F or gas mark 7 and place Dutch oven into the cold oven to heat.
- Once the oven has heated remove the Dutch oven and add the dough seam side down. Bake for 30 min covered, remove the lid and bake uncovered unto golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.