Easy Rustic French Bread – A Great Sunday Project

Yesterday we made a few delicious recipes to take over to our friends with a new baby, and this was one of them. I’ve been wanting to dabble in the more rustic side of bread for a long time. I just haven’t, basically because many recipes take multiple many-hour proof sessions that I rarely plan ahead enough for.

For this recipe, you still need to start planning way ahead of time. But the hands-on time is very minimal. Start this recipe at least four hours before you want to eat.

This recipe is straight out of my Mark Bittman cookbook, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” Here’s what you need:

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • About 1 cup 110-degree water

The ease of this is just beautiful, however, I do have one adjustment to the way Bittman does bread. One of his biggest MOs is simplicity, and he doesn’t do a lot of baking recipes. I’ve never seen a bread recipe from him that uses warm water specifically, and I think that is absolutely essential to making a decent loaf of bread. And not just “warm.” 110 degrees. There is no rule of thumb that compares to a thermometer in this case.

So, begin by putting all of your dry ingredients in the food processor, and pulse it a couple of times just to mix it up. Then, turn the mixer on low and slowly pour in your 1 cup of water at 110 degrees. When there is enough water in the dough, it will combine into a ball. This doesn’t take very long – maybe a minute or less. You are looking for a smooth, simple dough. If it’s sticky, it’s too moist.

One thing I do love about Bittman is that he knows that there’s wiggle room in all recipes. So – if your dough’s too moist, add a tiny bit of flour until it’s right. If it’s too dry, add a little water.

Move the dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the warmest spot in the house and let it rise for 2 hours.

Take the dough out onto a floured surface afterwards, and form into a long loaf (or several little loaves). Bake at 375 until the internal temperature reaches 210 degrees. This took the better part of an hour for me, but I foolishly did not get the exact time.

This bread recipe was delicious, but I think it could benefit from being a teensy bit less dense. I might go with a full two teaspoons of yeast next time. And, I think I’d mix the yeast in with the warm water, give it ten

2 Comments »

  1. Thank you for your blog. I have a couple of questions. Because this is a lean bread can I assume that it’s all purpose flour rather than bread flour? Also, there was no mention of any kneading whether in the processor or manually. Would kneading affect the density? Lastly, when you were talking about using the food processor to combine the dry ingredients then you mentioned turning the motor down on the mixer. I appreciate your help. Thank you.

    Comment by Cathy — February 26, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

  2. Hey Cathy, Thanks for reading. Yes, it was AP Flour. The only kneading I did was to shape the dough – I think it would have a chewier texture if you kneaded more but I don’t think that would affect the density – I think the density was because the recipe called for a relatively small amount of yeast for how much flour there was.

    With the food processor, I only pulsed it (pushed the button briefly a few times) to mix the dry ingredients. My food processor has a setting where you can just turn it on low and not keep your finger on the button. I turned that setting on and slowly poured the water in to mix the water. Pretty quickly, the dough formed a ball on its own.

    Comment by bekky — February 26, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

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