Feb 1, 2017

Four Hour French Country Bread

I've been baking versions of this Four Hour French Country Bread for a while, and I'm really happy with the results. It's finally ready for sharing!


This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.


This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.

I'm really excited about this bread!! When it emerges from the oven, the crust sings and crackles away as it cools. It's all I can do not to sit there and record the sounds as the bread cools. I am a bread geek after all.


This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.

I've made this bread every week over the last few weeks, making it in various vessels and oven set ups. The only thing I have not been able to accomplish is getting a great bread "ear" with the crust. As you can see, my scoring skills need some work.

This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.

The one thing I haven't tried yet is doing the final rise in the refrigerator, which might help with the whole "bread ear" problem. However, I'm pretty sure that negates the whole four hour concept, right?

French country bread, or pain de campagne, is a combination of white and whole wheat flour, and is typically made with sourdough, but can also be made with baker's yeast.

I have a lot of French country bread recipes on this blog, including this one, that takes a couple of days to make, this one, that requires a three to four hour rise, and this, my pride and joy, which requires a couple of days.

What I'm hoping is that once you try this bread, you will definitely want to venture off into the slower breads mentioned above.

The photos above are from the last time I made this bread. While I typically bake this bread in a preheated Lodge Combo Cooker, in this case, because I wanted a batard, I baked the bread on a baking stone under a hotel pan on top of my baking stone.

This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.




Of course, you could add steam to your oven by setting a pan under the stone to create a steam oven if you don't have the hotel pan. I love rigging up lots of combinations with my baking stone and various pans to create steam. You can even use foil roasting pans to trap steam, like I did with these baguettes.

I've also made this bread into a boule (a round loaf) and baked it in a preheated Dutch oven. That's pretty much my go-to method.

This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.

With the slightly lower hydration, I got a wonderful crumb, albeit not quite as airy.

This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.

I've given away several of these loaves and they all have received raves.

I love this bread!! It's great sliced and spread with butter. It makes excellent toast... and the grilled cheese... there is nothing like a grilled cheese sandwich where the cheese melts through the holes of the bread and gets all burned and delicious! I like to add some freshly grated Parmesan to the butter on the outside of the bread, just to add to the charred cheesy goodness.

If you'd like to make a loaf of crusty and airy artisan bread, but don't have a lot of time, give this recipe a try. It's really quite flavorful! As in, jump up and down, I can't believe I actually made this myself, delicious!

This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.

If you decide to use the Dutch oven method, be sure to check out this post about transferring the dough into the screaming hot pan. If you decide to use the overturned stainless steel bowl/pan, be sure to check out this post for Hack #3.

As for shaping the dough, I recommend using a good bench scraper and your floured or oiled hand. The goal is to achieve a tight "skin" on the top of the shaped loaf, without deflating the dough. Be gentle. I highly recommend the books Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish or Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson for in depth photos and instructions on shaping. This method has been inspired by both of these books.

Four Hour Country Bread

Four Hour Country Bread

Ingredients

  • 450 grams bread flour
  • 50 grams whole wheat flour
  • 365 to 380 grams 90 to 95 degrees F water. The amount of water should depend upon how much hydration you are striving for.
  • 10.5 grams fine sea salt
  • 4 grams instant yeast
  • Rice flour for dusting

Instructions

  1. Combine the flours and the water in a large bowl or dough rising bucket. Mix with your hand until all of the flour is incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the salt and the yeast. With a wet hand, fold the dough over the salt and yeast, and then pinch the dough with your fingers. Continue to wet your mixing hand and fold the dough over itself, and continue to pinch and fold, until the salt and yeast are dissolved. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Fold the dough by picking up each "side," stretching it, and folding it over the middle. Cover again. Fold the dough again after 20 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let rise until tripled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Gently scrape the dough out onto a floured surface, and shape it into a boule or batard by gently folding the dough over itself from all "sides."  Flip the shaped dough over so that the seam side is on the counter. Using a bench scraper, draw the loaf toward you, and then away from you, to tighten up the top of the dough. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime, dust a banneton or towel lined bowl with a 50-50 mixture of wheat and rice flour.
  5. After 10 minutes, place the bench scraper under the shaped loaf, and scoot it around from all four sides to tighten up the loaf a bit. Place the shaped dough into the banneton, seam side up or down. If you do it seam side down, you won't need to slash the dough before baking, as it will open naturally.
  6. Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap or a clean towel, and let rise until puffy, about an hour. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F with either a Dutch oven or baking stone placed on the middle rack.
  7. When the dough has risen, turn it out onto parchment lined plate. Either lift it into the heated Dutch oven, or slide it onto the baking stone. Cover with the lid, or in the case of the baking stone, cover with a stainless bowl or hotel pan.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the lid or pan, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the bread is a deep brown and reaches an internal temperature of about 205 degrees F. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Yield: 1 24 ounce loaf

This Four Hour French Country Bread recipe will produce an artisan loaf with a crispy crust and a soft, moist, and, depending on how much water you add to the dough, an airy crumb.

24 comments:

  1. I am trying this. This weekend, I suppose I can do it

    will let you know... this looks pretty spectacular, and c'mon... 4 hours! You did it, Oh You Baking Goddess!

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    1. =) I've made it several times and it's made me very happy! I can't wait to see yours!

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    2. I am shooting for 3 hours and 55 ;-) ;-) ;-)

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  2. Overnight delivery starts when? So envious of your bread baking. Hubby would be in seventh heaven if I baked fresh bread - real bread. :)

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    1. Awww. Thanks Cathy! Baking bread for me is therapy. It transports me away from whatever is on my mind. Probably how you feel about hiking =)

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  3. Looks awesome! I can't believe that's only 4 hours!!

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    1. Thanks so much! It might take 5 if your kitchen is cold, but it still amazes me =)

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  4. The recipe is in grams --- can you convert for us

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    1. There's a great conversion chart on the King Arthur Flour website. Here it is http://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/ingredient-weight-chart.html Also, there are great converters on Google. Just Google grams to ounces. However, I highly recommend getting a scale for baking. Once you try it, you'll never go back. Flour is so hard to measure consistently without one.

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  5. Clarifying.. if you do the seam side DOWN, you do not slash it?

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    1. If you proof seam side down, then the seam side will be up when you bake it and will naturally open when baking. You can still slash it if it seals up too much. Does that make sense?

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    2. Sure... I totally forgot about the "flip" - slow brains...

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  6. Nicely well done Karen, the bread looks wonderful, the crumbs are nice and huge "beautiful" what you can ask for anything else but that.😉

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    1. BTW, just started the dough half an hour ago... my whole wheat flour was in the freezer, so I grabbed a bit of spelt flour I had in the pantry, serendipity - I had exactly 50 g left in the bag, isn't that something?

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    2. Awesome! I actually take my WW straight from the freezer =)

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  7. Hope we are making this one next week at our Food Bloggers meeting.

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  8. Your breads always make me crazy with envy Karen. This is another spectacular loaf - a tribute to both your baking and photography skills. May I order several loaves to be delivered cross-country please:)?

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    1. Thanks so much Laura! That can be arranged!

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  9. I have a "rustic" bread that I make, but I love your technique here. Sounds like it is a bit versatile (with the fridge option) as well! Great photos!

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  10. Tried this tonight, baked in a standard cast iron dutch oven. Great oven spring and looks gorgeous. Too bad I have to go to sleep before it is cool enough to eat.

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    Replies
    1. How cool! Patience will pay off, I promise!!!

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