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Julia Child’s Pain Français (French Bread)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (120º-130º)

Preparation

  1. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer using the flat beater, combine the yeast, 2 1/2 cups flour and salt. Mix on low for about 30 seconds.
  2. With the motor running on low, pour in the warm water. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Clean off beater and switch to the dough hook. Mix in the remaining cup of flour a little at a time, to make a soft dough, adding more or less flour as needed. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. The surface should be smooth and the dough will be soft and somewhat sticky.
  3. Turn the dough onto a kneading surface and let rest for 2-3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl.
  4. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and let it rise at room temperature (about 75º) until 3 1/2 times its original volume. This will probably take about 3 hours.
  5. Deflate the dough and return it to the bowl. Let the dough rise at room temperature until not quite tripled in volume, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the rising surface: rub flour into canvas or linen towel placed on a baking sheet. (I used parchment paper.)
  7. Divide the dough into 3, 6, or 12 pieces depending on the size loaves you wish to make. Fold each piece of dough in two, cover loosely, and let the pieces relax for 5 minutes.
  8. Shape the loaves and place them on the prepared towel or parchment. Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature until almost triple in volume, about 1 1/2-2 1/2 hours.
  9. Preheat oven to 450º. Set up a “simulated baker’s oven” by placing a baking stone on the center rack, with a metal broiler pan on the rack beneath, at least 4 inches away from the baking stone to prevent the stone from cracking.
  10. Transfer the risen loaves onto a peel.
  11. Slash the loaves.
  12. Spray the loaves with water. Slide the loaves into the oven onto the preheated stone and add a cup of hot water to the broiler tray.
  13. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown. (If you used parchment paper you will want to remove it after about 10-15 minutes to crisp up the bottom crust. Spray the loaves with water three times at 3-minute intervals.
  14. Cool for 2-3 hours before cutting.

Source: Adapted for a Kitchen Aid Mixer by Barbara Bakes

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