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.
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.
Adagio Bakery & Cafe
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.
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!
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.
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.
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°.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.