When people think of France, they often think of bread, cheese and wine. The products are so incredibly good that I have had countless meals consisting of just that, and would highly recommend it. However, before you run off and randomly pick a place to buy your bread, there are some things that you should know and look for. Not all bread in France is equal and not all bread sold here would be considered good by the locals. *Gasp!
Perhaps I have had too much time on my hands since I became ill two years ago, but have you ever wondered what makes French bread so good? Here is a little information that I wish I had before I came to France. In order to increase your chances of buying quality bread, look for the words boulangerie, boulanger or artisan on the exterior of the establishment. In 1993, an act concerning bread was passed and then amended into law in 1998 under the leadership of Jean-Pierre Raffarin. As a bread lover who gained about 10 pounds on my first trip over to France, this is really a plus.
The bread act reserves the words boulanger and boulangerie for those establishments that use raw materials such as flour, water, yeast and salt. They knead their dough, monitor fermentation, shape and bake the bread in the place of sale. It also stipulates that the products used to make bread should at no time be frozen and that the bread in itself should not be frozen at any time. If these rules are not applied, the establishment must write the term dépôt de pain(s) or pain(s) on the exterior of the bakery.
This little piece of trivia might save your taste buds, and your meal. In addition, it could even save you the embarrassment of offering stale and dry tasting bread to your French friends. Yes, I’m not proud, but I have shamefully done this.
So, what is the secret is to making French bread? What do they do to it to make it so crunchy and delicious? Is it possible for nonprofessionals to make decent bread? Could I make French bread? While wondering all of these things, it struck me that I was living in a city full of truly amazing bread. Why would I even want to try to bake my own bread? Yeah, I’m crazy… my dear sweet man and I began testing whether we could come close to baking what might be considered, French bread. That is to say, if any bread could ever be considered French having been made by someone from New York. In doing so, I have eaten more bread than any petite woman should be proud of, but it was a lot of fun trying.
I am not a professional baker, nor do I claim to be. This experiment gave me new-found respect for all of those bakers out there, making bread to feed the mouths of many. After more trial and errors than I can count, using various kinds of flour, proportions and techniques, we I have finally come up with an easy way to make bread. It is as close as we can get to the real thing. In addition, it stays good and fresh for 4-5 days!
In fact, we actually prefer our bread to that of any dépôt de pain(s). I know that this is going to sound crazy coming from someone who lives in France, but after realizing that I had turned more stale bread from uneaten baguettes into breadcrumbs than we could possibly use, we eventually stopped buying all kinds of bread.
We make bread about once a week (1 kilo of flour), that is unless my French in-laws are here. Then, we need to make it almost daily. Apparently, it is our fault, we are told. They just keep saying, “We can’t stop eating it!” Coming from my in-laws this is a true complement… both of their fathers were French boulangers!
After their most recent 10 day visit, I decided that opening a boulangerie is out of the question for me. I had a hard time keeping up with their bread appetites and couldn’t even imagine the number of hours it takes to make enough bread to feed such a bread loving country. As easy as our recipe is, I would have no life! Instead, I have decided to share the recipe with all of you. Depending on where you live and on your tastes, you will need to adapt the ingredients to your liking. For those of you who live in the USA, this might be a challenge due to the lack of flour varieties. Before I moved to France, I thought there was only one kind of all-purpose flour… silly me! Apparently, there are many different kinds. If you do manage to make the recipe work over there, please let people know how you did it in the comments section of the blog.
Let’s get started! Believe it or not, you don’t need many ingredients to make delicious bread.
For those of you who have been waiting for this recipe, I’m so sorry for the delay. I hope that the wait will be well worth it.
Due to a “Nouvelle Recette” (New Recipe) for the brand of flour we used in our original recipe, we have made changes to our recipe. We now use 1/2 a kilo of flour Type-65 and 1/2 kilo of flour Type-80. This has gotten us as close to our original finished product as possible. If you find something that works better, please don’t hesitate to mention the flour in the comments section, and we will give it a try.
Ingredients for original recipe:
1 kilo of flour – ( 1/2 a kilo of flour Type-65 and 1/2 kilo of flour Type-80 )
625 grams of warm water
25 grams of Fresh Bread Yeast (I buy GB Extra Duo Cubes 2 x 25 g ) No, they are also not paying me to write about them. 😉
14 – 16 grams of salt (to your liking)
We use a mixer with a hook and carefully place the ingredients in a certain order. I am sure you can do this your own way, or even mix it by hand, but now that we found this to work best, we try to do it the same each time.
- Add half of the water into the bowl. Then, add the 25 grams of Fresh Bread Yeast broken up into pieces into the warm water.
- Add half of the flour on top of the water/yeast mixture.
- Add the rest of the water, followed by the rest of the flour.
- Lastly, add the salt (Be sure not to let the salt get in contact with the yeast)
- Mix ingredients until the flour mixture comes completely off of the sides of the bowl.
- Remove dough from hook. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let sit in the bowl for about 30-40 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
- Remove dough from bowl and knead with a little extra flour on the counter, pushing the air out.
- Form dough into desired shape or shapes. You can make one very large loaf or divide it up as you would like.
- Place on wax paper and cover with a cloth.
- Let rise for another 20-30 minutes.
- Warm oven to 240°C Bake // 460°F Bake – Place a water recipient in the oven. You can put the water in at this moment or wait until your dough is ready for baking (we wait until we put bread dough in oven). The water will help give the bread that crispy exterior/moist interior that French bread is famous for.
- Slice the bread in a slanted, sideways motion.
- You may want to use a spray bottle to mist a little water on the surface of the dough before popping it into the oven.
- Promptly place the dough into the oven (on the same wax paper you used when making the dough rise).
- Immediately lower the temperature to 220°C // 430°F
- Bake for around 20-25 minutes, or until desired coloring of the bread.
- Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
Sit back and enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread wafting throughout your kitchen. Your ears will also get a treat from the wonderful crackling sound the bread makes when removed from the oven. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!