I won’t go on and on about this bread partly because my fingers are still a bit tired from typing about focaccia, but also because I just don’t have that much to say about it.
I think it’s a very workable recipe. It made a nice loaf and the dough was quite easy to work with, but it lacked the depth of flavor of its cousin, Pain a l’Ancienne (which I first tried back in May of 2007). What’s nice about the French Bread recipe is that the dough is easy to work with and firm enough to score (unlike the very wet l’Ancienne dough). And if you happen to have some pre-made pâte fermentée in the fridge (and who doesn’t?), you can make this recipe in a single day. French bread for dinner!
Five or six hours before you want to be eating a baguette, mix the dough (a combination of unbleached all-purpose and bread flours, salt, yeast, pâte fermentée, and water), then knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Ferment the dough for two hours, divide the dough into three pieces, shape into baguettes, and proof for another hour or so. Score, bake, cool, cut. Couldn’t be simpler.
You can see the step-by-step pictures for this bread here.
It’s a perfectly pleasant, easy-to-make bread, and the crust and crumb were both nice, but it lacked that nutty, rich flavor I crave in a baguette. Somehow we managed to polish them off anyway.
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, open a big bag of flour, and plunge in!