High Altitude Crusty French Bread
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"Perfect french bread is possible at high altitude! This rustic loaf comes together quickly and easily, sporting a crackly, chewy crust with a light, airy interior."
-- @butterandair
Recipe

Details

Prep time 15mins
Cook time 55mins
Serves or Makes: 1 loaf

Recipe

Method

  • Step 1

    In a small bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar.

  • Step 2

    In a separate medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour and salt and stir to mix. Add liquid and stir until the dough begins to come together in a ball. If it seems too dry, add a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is craggy and sticky, then tip the dough out onto a floured surface for kneading (or leave in stand mixer to knead with bread hook).

  • Step 3

    Knead for 10-15 minutes, until dough is smooth, and elastic, and slightly tacky to the touch. Form into a ball and place in a medium bowl that’s been lightly oiled. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature 1-2 hours, until doubled in size.

  • Step 4

    Remove the dough to a floured surface and give it a pull-and-stretch: Stretch about a quarter of the dough ball away from you, then fold it back on top of itself, ending in the middle. Turn the dough a quarter-turn and repeat three more times, so all sides have been folded in. Flip the dough upside down, pat into a ball, and place on a piece of parchment paper. (At this point, if you do not plan to bake the bread the same day, you can place it in a bowl, cover it tightly, and refrigerate it overnight, or up to 18 hours. Remove the bread and allow it to come to room temperature, about one hour, before baking).

  • Step 5

    Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow to rise about 30-45 minutes, until it has reached approximately 1.5 times its size.

  • Step 6

    While the dough is proofing, place dutch oven or other large lidded, oven-proof pot on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees (alternatively, if you are baking in the open oven without a container, place a roasting pan on the bottom rack and add one inch of hot water just before baking the bread).

  • Step 7

    When the dough is ready to bake, score it. Using a very sharp knife or razor blade, quickly and gently make a quarter-inch deep slash in the dough, from one end of the loaf to the other (or other design of your choice). Be sure not to press too hard and deflate the dough.

  • Step 8

    Using heat-proof gloves or oven mitts, carefully remove the dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Pick up the edges of the parchment paper and gently lift the dough into the dutch oven, parchment and all (if not using a dutch oven, place on a baking sheet or stone). Replace lid and put the pot back in the oven.

  • Step 9

    Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and bake another 30 minutes. Check after a total of 40 minutes or so; if the loaf has not browned much, remove the lid and continue baking uncovered.

  • Step 10

    The bread is done when the crust is brown and crisp and has a hollow sound when rapped with a knuckle. You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temp – if it’s between 190 and 205 degrees, it’s safe to say it's done.

  • Step 11

    Cool the loaf on a baking rack for at least 20 minutes, or until it is fully cooled. Slice at room temperature. Store leftover bread tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. … don’t be tempted to cut into the loaf while it’s still warm. Cooling continues to both develop flavor and allow some of the moisture in the warm bread to evaporate. If you cut into the loaf too early, it will flatten and become soggy. If you want to serve warm bread, slice it when cool and warm the slices, wrapped in foil, in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. … it’s important to note here that flour, water, rise times, and baking temps (and times) can all vary a bit depending on the temperature in your kitchen, your particular oven, the weather, and whether the moon’s in Scorpio that week (not really, but you get what I mean). Point is, it takes time to get a feel for how everything works together, so be patient with yourself and use your instinct if something seems too wet, dry, under/overbaked, etc.

  • 2 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/ 4 cups warm (not hot) water
  • 2 1/ 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt