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Mar 2, 2009 09:46 AM

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:

        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:

          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: 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).