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Help! My French Bread is too bready!

I love making bread but my go-to recipe for that divinest of baguettes - French Bread, leaves me cold. I don't know why I haven't sought a new recipe before now, maybe becuase I don't make it often.

I made this recipe yesterday and wished I had just gone to the store and bought a couple baguettes.

The bread is dense but soft, chewy, too much like a long loaf of white bread. I would like a bread that is crusty on the outside, soft and billowy on the inside....

My recipe came with my stand mixer... I have googled French Bread recipes....many are similar to mine....

Here is my recipe, it makes two baguette loaves:

2 packages yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
7 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn meal (for the bottom of the loaf pans)
1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water to glaze

Any and all help is appreciated! Thanks.

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  1. If you are not getting the crustiness you want than I suspect you are not giving it the steam treatment. When you preheat the oven put a large high-sided baking pan on the rack below where the bread will go. When you put the dough into the oven pour a cup of hot water into that lower pan. Then, with a spray bottle of water, spritz the loaves and the oven walls (avoid the light bulb area). Close the oven, wait two minuites and spritz the loaves and walls again. Wait one minuite and spritz for one last time.

    If the texture of the interior of the loaf is not right, it sounds like you are not doing the resting/rising properly. But without knowing your procedure it is kinda hard to give advice. Are you letting the dough rest in the refrigarator overnight? You should be.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ThaiNut

      Exactly, ThaiNut! Trish, if you want crusty bread, you absolutely must introduce moisture in the early oven time. I don't bother with the pan of hot water but just spritz with a bottle of cold water two or three times in the early baking period and I get nice thick peel-off-the-crust-and-eat loaves. And for testing for when the bread is done, I tap the top of it with the back of a tablespoon. If the loaf sounds hollow, it's baked. If it has a solid kind of "thunk" to it. it needs more time. To me, based on your description, I think your entire problem is with not introducing moisture in the early baking period.

      Oh, and the reason I don't use the pan of water is because I was taught that if you do use it, you're not supposed to leave it in for the entire baking time. I'm clumsy. I don't want to try to remove a large flat pan of scalding hot water from the oven! Spritzing alone has always worked fine for me.

      Good luck!

      1. re: Caroline1

        I use an old beaten-up layer cake pan that lives in the oven and just tip in about 2C water when I put the bread in the oven. It all evaporates well before the bread is done (within the margin of time when the bread should be exposed to steam).

    2. Thanks for the response Thai Nut, here is my baking method:

      1. Let dough rise until doubled (in a covered bowl, in warm area free from draft).

      2. Punch dough down, break in half, roll each half into a rectangle, roll like a jelly roll, put loaves onto french bread pan with cornmeal on the bottom. Let rise again.

      The dough rises adequately, in fact it rises very very well... The inside is fine if it were a loaf of white bread. It's soft, but denser than what French Bread is.

      I've never tried the spritzer, steam method.... I can give that a shot. What you are saying is the spritzing is done pretty much in the beginning minutes of baking?

      1 Reply
      1. re: TrishUntrapped

        Ditch the pan! Buy a stone. I form/rise on parchment to transfer to the stone with ease. I preheat a cast iron pan, and throw in a couple cups of ice when I put the bread on the stone. It evaporates quick enough.

        Your shaping and recipe needs improving. I'm loving the bread in Bouchon Bakery myself.

      2. What flour are you using, and how do you measure it (spoon-and-level, or dip-and-sweep)?

        Find a recipe without butter or oil. That doesn't belong in French bread. You don't need the egg wash, either. Use steam, as ThaiNut suggested.

        Peter Reinhart can always be trusted:
        http://www.applepiepatispate.com/brea...

        Weigh the ingredients, if you can. Even then, go by the description of the dough rather than following the recipe exactly. Good Luck!

        1. Do you slash the loaf prior to baking? Slashing helps the loaf expand during baking. If you don't slash the initial crust formation deprives the inner portion of the loaf from expanding and can create a more dense loaf.
          I disagree with the statement that oil doesn't belong in French Bread. Although there are recipes that don't use it, many do use it at least as a coating of the bowl during rise time, some of which is incorporated into the dough mass in subsequent stages, or for brushing on during baking.
          The recipe you're using is a bit out of balance to my eye.
          The water, as a ratio to flour, is about four fluid ounces short of what I would expect it to be. The yeast load is almost twice what I might expect to use and, although I might use a very small amount of olive oil, I would not use butter.
          "jazzy77" recommends a recipe link that looks much better than the recipe you've been using.
          If you haven't been introduced to this forum:
          http://www.thefreshloaf.com/
          I hope you'll accept the invitation to join it too.

          1. I think that the biggest problem (well, not "problem" per se, but what you don't like) has to do with the water to flour ratio in your recipe. Lighter breads have more moisture in the dough - so much so that they can be difficult to work with at first. But they are totally worth it once you get the hang of it.

            Also, I've found that Peter Reinhart's ("The Baker's Apprentice") and Daniel Leader's ("Local Breads") books have been immensely helpful in creating the breads that I want.

            Here is a recipe for Daniel Leader's Baguette Normal: http://ayearinbread.earthandhearth.co... Try this one and be very exact in following the directions.

            As a note after my statement about being precise with the recipe, I always just take a pint glass and fill it with ice and "toss" the ice in the bottom on the oven (i.e. no cast iron skillet necessary). Then I go watch tv/read a book for five minutes and toss another glass of ice in afterward. And then I let the loaves finish baking. My crusts are now crunchier than they were when I used the spritzing method ThaiNut describes.

            Also, I highly recommend investing in the biggest pizza stone you can find to fit in your oven (the largest I've found is at Williams-Sonoma for around $30). The density of it ensures that whatever you are baking in your oven bakes at a more constant temperature and it gives bread and pizza that really nice brown and crunchy bottom crust. I just leave mine in the oven all the time on the bottom rack and wipe it off every now and then, so it's easy to take care of too.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jazzy77

              Two more things that I forgot above!! Always sift your flour before measuring it - especially if you are using King Arthur flour. I do this the speedy way by just aerating the flour with a wisk before measuring it out. Also, try to weigh the flour rather than by volume - it's always more exact (4.25 oz. = 1 cup). But if you don't have a scale, then use the scoop and scrape method after you aerate the flour with a whisk (I realize this sounds fussy, but it does make a difference).

            2. That seems like a lot of yeast. If you are using active dry yeast I would suggest cutting the amount of yeast at least in half. For instant dry yeast you should cut it down to about 3/4 of an envelope. All that yeast probably makes the dough rise quickly, but a longer, cooler ferment will allow flavors to develop and the dough to condition (which will yield a better crust). If you want a chewier crumb, try using all or half bread flour instead of only all-purpose flour. When baking, opening the oven door over and over again to spritz the loaves allows all the steam and a lot of the heat to escape. I usually put a small saucepan of boiling water on the free rack in the oven during the first 10 minutes of the bake and then remove it. The steamy environment at the beginning allows the crust to expand along with the loaf, but you need to have a dry oven after that so the crust can brown correctly and crisp up. And as Channa said, butter is not generally found in a baguette recipe. All you need is flour, water, salt and yeast.

              1. Like the others have said:

                For the density, add more water to the dough. This will ensure a better oven spring. Also make sure that it's rising properly, but with that much yeast, I don't think this is the problem.

                For the crunchy crust, you need steam in the oven early during cooking. Any of the listed options will work.

                1. Just looked at that recipe some more... That's a really dense (i.e. not much water) dough. This is almost certainly the cause of the density of the final product. If you're comfortable working with a wetter dough, add at least another half cup of water, probably two. It'll be harder to work with, but the end product will have those gorgeous big holes you're looking for.

                  That's also a huge recipe. Might want to try halving it until you get the hang of it so you dont have to make such a huge batch. Many mixers also have trouble kneading so much dough, which could be contributing--it might not be getting enough gluten formed.

                  1. A classic baguette had only 4 ingredients, and your butter is working against the chewier texture. You need bread flour for the best gluten development, but AP will work, in a pinch. I'm not a fan of egg washes because they tend to trap liquid inside of the loaf, but if the added shine is important to you continue to use it.

                    You can get a darker color with the addition of 1 TB of 2% milk added to the recipe because the milk protein cause the bread to brown, but it violates the 4 ingredients rule.

                    I also prefer to use the sponge method and then let the dough rise in the fridge for 2-3 days, but you can get the same taste and texture with 12-16 hours on the countertop.

                    A pre-heated stone is necessary for the proper crust. I like to preheat mine for 20 minutes at 450-500° and turn it down to 400° when I put the bread in to bake. Bake to a internal tempo of 205-210°.

                    1. Definitely too much yeast. That causes a rapid rise at the expense of flavor and texture. A long slow rise with little yeast allows the dough to mature. And I agree with the many other posters that a good baguette dough contains only flour, water, salt and yeast. No fat of any kind - that's why baguettes go stale so quickly. The dough needs to be slashed before baking and the steam is what creates the wonderful crackly crust.

                      And most of the recipes for baguettes call for first creating a starter, sponge, levain, or poolish, whatever you want to call it, then finishing the dough and more aging. Check out Nancy Silverton's books, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2, or other books devoted to good bread and you'll find recipes that will give you a better result.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: janniecooks

                        Perhaps the most recognized and admired recipe for French bread is Julia Child's which appeared in Volume 2 of her 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking.' The recipe is 8 pages long. The ingredients are flour, yeast, water and salt.

                      2. Thanks everyone for the tips. I am going to ditch this recipe and try again.

                        To answer a question, I did cut vents into the bread.

                        I think the problem is two-fold, recipe and technique.

                        I am going to do some more reading, and then some more baking.... I love the look of the Peter Reinhart baguette — hate how time consuming it is...but hey, maybe that's what you need to do....

                        Thank you for setting me on the right track.

                        1. Actual French bread is a sourdough mix, isn't it?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Soop

                            absolutely not! Sourdough is completely different. You can make a sourdough baguette and some people call this "french bread", but it is not the same as original french bread. Sourdough refers to the starter that is used to make the bread.

                            1. re: janetms383

                              Oh yeah, I see. Weird, wonder where I heard that from?

                              1. re: Soop

                                If this story is correct, sourdough had it's start in Egypt and when Egyptian migrated to San Francisco, they brought the technique with them and the famous San Francisco Sourdough was born during the California Gold Rush in the 1800s

                                1. re: Soop

                                  it's not sourdough but it is made from an aged sponge and an aged dough. not quite the same as sourdough but kind of the same in principle.

                              2. re: Soop

                                Not to be too pedantic, but there are tons of French breads that use sponges instead of fresh yeast. Pain au levain is **the** bread in some parts of France, eaten much more often than the baguette. For my money, levain from a good bakery is the best bread in the world.

                                1. re: dmd_kc

                                  You can form a baguette from a levain bread dough and the resulting loaf is amazing.

                              3. Figuring pictures say a thousand words, below are 2,000 words about my French Bread.

                                You can see it was too much dough for my bread pan. It didn't look like too much at the time, but in hindsight I would have divided this recipe by three rather than by two.

                                Also, you can see how doughy and bready it is. Fine for standard white bread, but way too much for French Bread.

                                 
                                 
                                2 Replies
                                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                  I actually started learning how to make bread doughs using the Kitchen Aid recipe, so I know what you're talking about. Keep at it - you'll find a recipe you like.

                                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                    I regularly make fabulous french bread (crusty, light and fluffy) with a bread machine (I know, shame, shame...) and sometimes even with whole wheat flour, although for years I struggled with heavy bready baguettes. The trick that seems to make the most difference for me is SHAPING the bread properly. You must have a pretty soft dough, roll it out, and roll it up. Never forget the three slashes across the top with the knife to allow it to grow. I do put a pan of water in the oven, and I also find I have better luck in a gas oven than in an electric one. I don't spritz the oven or sift the flour, but I do kind of fluff the flour if it looks packed. My recipe is:
                                    2 cups all purpose Flour (or 1/2 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cup white - even half and half works for me but gets a little heavier, of course)
                                    2 cups bread flour (or add a tablespoon gluten to all purpose if you don't have bread flour)
                                    2 tablespoons oil
                                    2 teaspoons sugar
                                    2 teaspoons salt (I know this sounds like a lot, but it works)
                                    2 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
                                    1 1/2 cup warm water
                                    Dump it all into the bread machine, set to the dough setting, and let it go through the final rising. I check for softness during this period, the dough should not be too stiff, so add water if its spinning to quickly - my rule of thumb is that there should be a visible smear of dough under the kneeding pin. When the cycle is done I just leave it in the machine for another hour to rise again. I split the dough in two (it should be pretty soft still) and roll into rectangles, then tightly roll up again, tuck in ends, slash the tops. Cover with a cloth and put them in a nice warm spot to rise again. When double brush the tops with egg whites and bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then another 25 minutes at 350. This is the easiest and yummiest recipe I've found so far. Hope it helps! My disclaimer is that I live above 6000 feet in the southwest, but I never follow the instructions for high altitudes, it doesn't seem to make any difference to my baking. And I bake a lot!

                                  2. Hi:

                                    I'm going to go out on a limb here...

                                    The formula that came with your mixer is not traditional french dough.

                                    Hit the book store.

                                    go look for the book: BREAD by Jeffrey Hamelman.

                                    purchase a cheap dietary scale and a thermometer and start using weight instead of volume.

                                    Once we get a good formula for french bread...say 100% flour, 66% water, 2% INSTANT yeast, 2% salt and a preferment like a biga or poolish...then we can start to troubleshoot.

                                    Let me know if I can help.

                                    Ralph
                                    Adagio Bakery & Cafe
                                    adagiobakery@gmail.com

                                    1. Thanks lil2u and adagio for your advice. I don't have a bread machine, but I do think I could use a new recipe. I will check out that Bread book.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                        Too much yeast as mentioned and use more water. Let it rise slowly , I usually let it rise overnight in the refridgerator or a cooler area.

                                      2. Technically Trish, that recipe does not make french bread, true french bread is make with flour, water, salt and yeast, that's it, no egg, no sugar, no fat.

                                        My recipe for french bread,

                                        1 lb King Author bread flour
                                        11.2 oz (by weight) warm (90°) water
                                        .3 oz salt
                                        5/8 tsp. instant dry yeast

                                        Combine the dry ingredients, add the water and mix with the flat beater on low speed for 2 1/2 minutes, change to the dough hook and need for 4 - 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky (it should be at 70% hydration), remove the dough hook and cover the mixer bowl with a shower cap.

                                        It will take 2 1/2 to 3 hours for the first rise, and you'll need to fold the dough at least two times. Set a time for 40 minutes, when it goes off check to see if the dough ball has doubled, if so fold it, if not give it another 10 minutes and check again.

                                        Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface, lightly flour your hands and pat the air out of the dough. as you're facing the dough, pull the right side of the dough and fold it a third of the way across the dough and pat it down, brush off any bench flour that remains, and do the same with the left side, repeat with the top and bottom, form the dough in a ball return it to the mixer bowl, cover with the shower cap and let it rise again for the same amount of time it took the first, then fold again, form and cover for the third rise.

                                        After the third rise, turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, gently pat the air out and form as you normally would. Let rise 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until it has doubled in size before baking.

                                        I bake this recipe on a stone in a 460° f oven for 40 minutes, adding boiling water to a cast iron skill in the bottom of the oven just prior to loading the the loaf into the oven.

                                        Can't offer suggestions as to how long or at what temp. using a loaf pan.

                                        I've been baking bread for over 20 years, these days it's every two or three days.

                                         
                                         
                                         
                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Master

                                          Wow, Master, that is quite the recipe - FOUR rises! It's crazy enough to work and it's doable for me. So, I'll give it a whirl and will report back! Love your pix, hate mine which follow yours.

                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                            A lot of time and a small amount of yeast is what makes it work, the technique I use was learned from the book "Bread" by Jeffrey Hamelman. I'm up by 2am most mornings so the time isn't an issue with me either, scale the ingredients and mix the dough right after having morning coffee.

                                            As to the pictures; cooking, baking and photography compete for top spot as my favorite hobby. Look forward to hearing how it comes out. If you're interested I'd be more than happy getting into more detail.

                                            Anthony

                                            1. re: Master

                                              Game on Anthony, with the lousy snow, it's a great day to make French Bread. Will post results later.

                                              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                Look foreward to it Trish, just finished mixing dough myself. No snow here (it's in the 40's), but if I'm going to use gas I'll run the oven.

                                        2. Afternoon Trish, wanted to share yesterdays bread.

                                           
                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Master

                                            Lovely looking bread Anthony!

                                            My results. Not so good. I have a long way to go. My husband thought the bread came out just fine. He devoured half a loaf with some French Onion Soup I made (That came out GREAT. Took two days to make but so worth it).

                                            While the crust was excellent, the loaves came out way too bready. I watched a Hamelman video on how to fold the bread, but that clearly wasn't my only issue.

                                             
                                             
                                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                              Keep at it Trish, I've been making bread with this formula going on three years now and there are still times when it doesn't turn out right. It always eats good all the same. ;- )

                                              1. re: Master

                                                II will keep at it, and it's true, it's still good eating. It's just, you know, striving for perfection....

                                              2. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                It should be noted that French bread is made with a somewhat lower protein flour than typical strong bread flours - proteins for French flours are in the 10%-11% range. This contributes to the fluffy as opposed to "bready" texture. As mentioned by other posters, your dough should really be quite wet, such that it sticks aggressively to your hands if you don't have them quite well-floured. I usually shape my loaves using gravity, rolling the dough between my hands while holding it in a vertical position and letting its own weight pull it into the classic baguette shape. Very effective and it produces perfect results every time.

                                                1. re: AlexRast

                                                  Visit us on Bread Baking at home on chow...we're going through the basics which is where most go wrong!

                                              3. Hi:

                                                Well...the butter removes this from the category of "french bread" I think!

                                                Before I go into changing all of this into weights, which is where you should be instead of volume, it appears at first glance you hydration (water to flour) is low.

                                                I would consider, if you want to have lovely, consistent French bread, switching from volume measurements to weight measurents, getting yourself a thermomiter to determine dough temperature, learning to make a Pre-ferment, learning about bulk fermentation, then learning about steaming the oven before baking.

                                                I can send you a formula for French bread if you like.

                                                I know chow doesn't like my giving out my email, but I know of no other way of sending it to you. I wish I could do it here. It is an excel spread sheet.

                                                Also...instead of googling...you might want to try BREAD by Jeffrey Hamelman. It's really the only book you'll need for bread baking!

                                                So if Chow will allow it, you can go to adagiobakery@ gmail. You can get my formula there, however all other advice will go through this site.

                                                Thanks!

                                                Ralph

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. Come join us on Bread Baking at Home on chow

                                                  We're going down the basics path!

                                                  RJ

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. Well...let's see.

                                                    If we do a quick calculation, we see your hydration is 65% which is just about right!

                                                    The butter usually isn't included in french bread!

                                                    Your salt is about 1.88 percent..not bad...go to 1.5%

                                                    Your yeast is about 16 grams or 1% and that's a bit low...but it will work.

                                                    so now I'm stuck...

                                                    First..."warn water"...why?

                                                    Second...are you bulk fermenting and for how long?

                                                    Third...how do you determine when it's time to bake...In other words when do you know your loaf is ready for baking? How do you test it.

                                                    And if your bulk fermenting, do you stretch and fold?

                                                    And what is the temperature of your dough when it comes off the mixer?

                                                    And...take another run at this and leave out the fat this time.

                                                    Also, we are having a huge discussion about the ins and outs of baking bread at home on the thread called: Bread Baking at home on Chow. Why don't to you take a look at that thread. Come join us!

                                                    Ralph