Baking French Bread questions
- Wendy Lai
I baked a loaf of French bread last night. I used 1 C of warm water, 3 C of ap flour, pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, 2 1/4 t of yeast.
The resulting bread was tougher than I wanted. The crust was fairly hard and crusty which is good, but the inside was not as fluffy and soft as I would like.
Can anyone tell me what makes a bread chewy or soft or hard or elastic? Is it the flour and the kneading time? I kneaded the dough for about 8 minutes and it was smooth and elastic.
Wow -- tough questions. There are SO many variables when it comes to making bread: protein content of the flour, mineral content of the water, temperature of the ingredients, ambient air temperature, humidity of the oven, aging of the dough, and so on ad infinitum. If you're really looking to make a loaf that meets your expectations, you should do a little research and a lot of test baking. There's an excellent book called "Bread Alone" by a fella named Daniel Leader. He's been baking bread up in New York State for years and has done copious hands-on research on the subject. Reading the opening chapter(s) will give you an idea what you're up against.
re: Jim H.
That is what the recipe called for. In fact I've seen many French bread recipe that calls for AP flour instead of bread flour.
And isn't gluten what give it chewiness and structure? I'm not lacking in those properties in the resulting loaf. What I'm looking for is more soft and fluffy insides.
I've been baking bread since I was a teenager and have found that the very best recipes for same are those in Peter Reinhard's book "Crust and Crumb" - well worth acquiring if you are serious about baking. Procedures are explained in detail, in step-by-step recipes, with a lot of background info. Try the French bread recipes - the one made with pate fermentee (leftover dough from a previous batch or made in preparation for a first batch) has been my "house bread" ever since getting the book in 1999. Follow the instructions carefully, esp. re water temperatures, waiting times, etc. I always use AP flour - Heckers, usually, with excellent result. Happy baking!
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