BBA Challenge: French Bread, or a trip to heaven

The next bread in the challenge that I created is Peter's french bread. I don't have words for how good this came out..slightly crunchy on the outside, perfect on the inside.  This is the best baguette that I've ever eaten, much less made.  I feel like an honest to goodness baker now.  They were so much easier than I thought they'd be, I can't believe that I haven't done this before.  I now promise to never buy french bread again.  Oh the sandwiches, pizza and garlic bread that I'm going to make!

First, yesterday I made the pate' fermentee'.  Funny how I thought that that and a "sponge" just sounded gross until I actually made them (well, a sponge still is a little).  Pate' fermentee' is basically just bread dough.  I has all of the same ingredients as the rest of the bread dough does, you just make it ahead.  I took it out of the fridge an hour before i was ready to begin, cut into pieces and let it sit to let the chill out.

Place the pate fermentee into the mixer bowl, added the dry ingredients, then the water and mixed for 1 minute on low until it formed a rough ball.

 Switched to the dough hook and kneaded for 9 minutes (it an extra 3 minutes to reach the windowpane effect.)

Place in a well oiled bowl, turn to coat and let rise 2 hours.  Peter says that if it doubles before the 2 hours, knead slightly to degas then let rise again until double original size.  That's what happened, so that's what I did.

Shape into 3 baguettes.  Let rise again another 75 minutes or until double.  Score diagonally with serrated knife.  Meanwhile prepare your oven as for a hearth.  I don't have a baking stone yet (want!!!) so I just put a heavy cookie sheet in as it was preheating.  When oven reached 500F I placed a loaf in (on the back of another cookie sheet), then poured hot water in the steam pan.  Sprayed the inside of the oven at 30 second intervals in the beginning twice, then reduced to 450 and baked 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

The result was a marvelous crunchy, chewy crust and fantastic crumb.    I'm so proud of myself!

See more at Pinch My Salt.


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