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Aug 8, 2009 07:20 AM

The "Chew" in French Bread

Hi folks. I'm baking bread now, and I desperately need to get the chew going in my bread.

What do I have to do to increase it? I have most everything else right, but the chew. Crunchy bread annoys my mouth. Chewy bread is much more flavourful.

So what do I do?


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  1. The "chew" comes from gluten, and the only way to activate the gluten is either kneading or long fermentation or both! Have you tried any of the numerous no-knead bread recipes that have been discussed at length here? I've found the best chew -- that artisanal texture home breadmakers chase after -- in a no-knead bread made with no more than 40% whole wheat flour.

    I happen to like Nancy Baggett's version more than Bittman's because I can't be bothered with the floury towel business! Otherwise, the recipes and techniques seem basically the same to me.

    Anyway, give one of those a try and see if that's the texture you're after. Incidentally, if you don't like a crisp crust, just wrap the bread while it's still warm and the crust will soften slightly. I adore the crackly crust you get with no-knead bread, but to each his own!

    1 Reply
    1. re: LauraGrace

      If you are freindly with your local pizza shop try to get all-trumps flour, you might have to buy it in 25# sacks but it fairly cheap and makes the best chewey bread and pizza dough.
      You can buy it online here.

    2. You need to use bread flour as it contains more gluten than all purpose. Most supermarkets should carry King Arthurs unbleached bread flour or something like it.

      I've been baking the most delicious crusty chewy frenchy style bread using a slightly modified version of Jim Lahey's no knead bread recipe. I bake in a toaster oven which has a 15min max setting, gasp.

      This bread has a crusty (not hard) golden outer shell texture and a chewy, moist, very holy, fluffy, inner texture. It tastes incredible right out of the toaster oven with just a tiny bit of butter or peanut butter.

      The Recipe

      My Mod: Instead of using a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, I use 1 full packet of Fleischmanns yeast and let the dough rise for only 3 to 4 hours. It will look very wet and bubbly. Quarter the dough and bake one section in a small clear pyrex loaf pan with no cover. Set the toaster oven to 450 and bake for 30 mintues. This small loaf is good enough for just 2 people. Save the rest of the dough in the fridge and bake when needed.

      I don't dust the bottom with flour or cornmeal or transfer the dough on to a dry towel before baking. Just transfer the dough right out of the rising bowl and into a glass loaf pan, shape if possible and bake.The bread will slide out after baking.

      I like to add toppings before baking. Sprinkle freshly ground peppers and shave some parmesan cheese on top, few pieces of basil. So delish.

      4 Replies
      1. re: tokimoki

        I know a lot of people swear that you need the higher protein content of "bread flour" to get the chewy results. The flour I most frequently use is Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose flour, and people often rave about the chewy crumb. There is probably an advantage in the higher protein content for sourdoughs that are very acid, since the acid weakens gluten. But in my experience, the all-purpose gives good results for French type breads. And Raymond Calvel, the leading expert, says he has baked very good bread with American all-purpose flour. I think a good part of the quality of the loaf depends on how much enzyme activity has gone on while the dough is rising. Long, slow rises--as in a no-knead loaf--do give great results. But another approach is to use a pre-ferment like a poolish or biga. Almost any good bread book published in the last fifteen years will explain how to make and use them. They make a huge difference in the quality of the crumb. Finally, I think baking in a moist atmosphere affects the quality of the crumb as well as the crust, because the loaf can expand and the vapor trapped in the alveoli of the dough as it heats up contributes to the cooking of the gluten and to the conversion of the starches into starch gels.
        You've got lots of good suggestions in these posts. Good luck. And don't be afraid to stay with it--it's only flour and water.

        1. re: Father Kitchen

          My first thought was the moisture, too. I've been going in the opposite direction to get a crisper crust. If I add a lot more water in the beginning, it seems to make a chewier crust. I've also played around with when I remove the lid on baking the no knead bread, the earlier I take it off, the crisper the crust. For me on experimenting, it's not the material or the cost but the time it takes.

          1. re: chowser

            Chowser, those experiments are great. And I hope our readers understand that almost any loaf of bread they make while testing all these variables will still be eminently tasty and edible. Even one of my first sourdough hockey pucks--which had great flavor but insufficient rise--was turned by a distinguished cook friend into crispy toast for hors d'ouevres for a party he was giving. He sliced it thin and toasted the pieces. And complimented me by passing it off as his own.

          2. re: Father Kitchen

            All purpose flour makes great bread, including French bread. If I'm not mistaken, I remember reading somewhere that authentic French bread is not made with high gluten flour anyway.

        2. I'm making some fench bread using the all trumps flour, water, yeast, oilve oil and salt. ill let you know how it turns out.

          3 Replies
          1. re: horseshoe

            The addition of olive oil, while delicious, will soften the crumb and give you smaller holes.

            1. re: horseshoe

              I so seldom make bread, I was wondering what is it about the All Trumps flour that makes it different? Just the higher gluten content?

              1. re: cuccubear

                All Trumps is high Gluten. King Arthur also makes one called Sir Lancelot but like All Trumps only available commerically in 50lb bags. They are both 14% protein. King Arthur 's All purpose is actually the same flour they sell comerically as Sir Gallehad which is labeled Bread Flour at 11.3% (This is their low level bread flour. They also make a 13% bread flour which is what they sell as bread flour in the 5lb bags.)
                This is a bit higher in protein than most all-purpose and therefore works very will for breads except those that need the highest protein level, like bagels and thin crust pizza.

            2. Use AP flour (bleached or unbleached; doesn't matter) and leave a pan of steaming water in the oven throughout the entire baking cycle. Brush the loaf with melted butter just at end of proofing, just prior to loading into oven. Remove the loaf, let it cool for 2 - 3 hours on cooling rack, place in plastic bag overnight. No crunch, nice chewy texture, no problem