Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bread Baking Babes; Pane Francese

Care to join us for dinner? Because Sara (I like to Cook), in her role as our Kitchen of the Month forced us to bake this wonderful bread. 

Must admit we were all willing victims; we had to invite a Chef and coach him to even higher heights. Elevation! Levain! 
What's keeping you, come on and bake! If you were hesitating all along to bake with us and become a bread baking Buddy this is your bread! It's wonderful, it takes ages, creates holes, and has the real artisan flavour. (Can you tell I loved this bread?).

The dough starts with a small piece of "old dough" and that's just what it is, a piece of dough you keep from another batch and feed. Once fed, this piece of old dough is now called a "levain" and with this levain you create the final dough. I baked twice, for one batch using a starter, the next time I made old dough.

Recipe old dough (or chef):
pinch of yeast
180 gr. bread flour
120 gr. water
Combine and knead for a couple of minutes; resulting in a soft sticky doughball. Cover and leave overnight at roomtemperature.

Creating the Levain
chef (1/4 cup old dough, or 1/4 cup sourdough starter, unfed)
1/4 cup warm, water
1/2 cup Bread Flour
Let the chef soften in the warm water, then whisk out any lumps. Mix in the flour until you've formed a stiff dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes. The chef (now called a levain) should be moist but firm. Place the levain in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place till doubled. This will take 5 to 6 hours.

Second-Stage Levain
All of the levain (from above)
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups Bread Flour
"Refresh" the levain by placing it in a medium-sized bowl, chopping it into small pieces, and adding the water and 1/2 cup of the flour, stirring till smooth. Add the remaining flour gradually to create a stiff dough. Knead the dough for several minutes, then return it to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 3 to 5 hours, till it doubles in size. Punch down the risen levain, and reserve 1/4 cup as your next chef. (Wrap in plastic and store in the fridge for later use).

all of the second-stage levain (from above)
3/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups Bread Flour
Chop the levain into small pieces, and mix them with the water, stirring till they begin to dissolve. Add the salt, then 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured or lightly greased work surface, and knead until the dough is smooth and satiny, adding only enough additional flour to keep the dough from sticking unbearably. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for 8 to 10 hours.
Shaping: Cut the dough into 2 pieces, and shape each piece into a round or oval. Transfer the loaves to a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, or to a floured banneton; cover with a heavily floured cloth, and allow them to rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until they're almost doubled in bulk.
Don't slash or glaze the loaves. Bake the bread in a preheated 450°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they're a deep, golden brown. Yield: 2 loaves.

Not sure why you're asked to not slash the loaves, my loaves had so much ovenspring that they literally burst out their coats... The pain épi stayed in shape perfectly, due to the scissor cuts I think. So, I'd like to bake again and see what happens when slashed. The kids asked for soup to go with this bread and with some herb butter it was a great combination!


  1. Love your bread. Can you email me?

  2. Oh yay, now I'm definitely making this if you were such a fan. It looks absolutely beautiful!

  3. What great height you got out of your loaves! So vigorous and lively with great holey crumb!
    I love the epi too, it looks perfect.

  4. Karen, your loaves are fantastic looking, especially that epi!

    I wondered the same thing about not slashing this bread. I think my batard would have been more lovely with a nice slash.

  5. Love the holes you got! Mine were nothing like that! Great epi, how adorable! You did a super job!!!

  6. Your bread looks incredible! Love the cross section, and the epi shape!

  7. I'm not going to talk to you anymore, that bread makes mine suck big time. yours is BEAUTIFUL!

  8. After all the times I baked this, I didn't slash once. Gorn is going to love you because now I'm baking this again for an epi!

    Yours is absolutely beautiful! And I never got holes like that.

  9. I love the shaping you did on these - gorgeous! Wasn't this a fun dough?

  10. WOW! Amazing breads. So glad you liked it.

  11. Love the holes in your bread and the pain epi is just lovely!

  12. What a nice crumb structure. The epi looks perfect too! Hoping to join in again with baking this month.

  13. Your bread looks delicious. I just love the holes in the bread. I need quite a bit more bread making practice before I can make bread like that. Something to look forward to :o)

  14. Soup and Butter? What more could I ask for - oh, a glass of wine, please...
    Looks perfect!

  15. Need to try this pain epi form next time I make this bread. it looks divine!

  16. I love all the bread baking that you are doing, lots of inspiration on your blog! I also wanted to make the loaf with the scissors cuts, I saw them in a recent issue of the American Gourmet Magazine.


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