How to Bake the Best Loaf of French Bread

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After completing a two year baking program at a Midwest Technical college, I entered the baking industry and was a baker for the next seventeen years. During that time, I would experiment to try and produce a better product. I am going to share some tips from my bread baking experimentation on how to mix, proof in a bread proofing basket, and bake French bread in a bread machine. Your finished bread will have a flaky crust and a moist chewy grain. First, when mixing the dough, hold back some of your water. For instance if you are mixing a one gallon dough, hold back two pounds of water and trickle the water in as your dough develops. Test your dough frequently until it is developed, you should have extra water at the end. Next, you will have to work fast, you don’t want your dough to dry out. Scale your dough off, mold it by hand or molder, and put it in the proof box. Give your dough no more than a half proof, preferably just under that. If you have a wet proof box pull the dough out before half proof and let it floor proof. Keep checking your dough it until it forms a slight crust.

When your dough is ready, score it half deep at an angle, this will keep it from busting. Beware, if you score your bread this deep at a full proof it will drop, so it is important to only give it a half proof before scoring with this method. Preheat your oven, if your dough calls for a 380 degree bake, preheat your oven to 480 degrees. Put your dough in in the oven and drop the temp to required temp. If your bread calls for twenty seconds of steam, give it one minute, I used to give mine two minutes. The steam is what’s going to give you your flaky crust, tight shape, and gloss. Do not vent your oven of the steam. You will also have to adjust your bake time, if your dough calls for twenty two minutes, try eighteen, but check it at twelve or so. You get the picture adjust for all of your shop conditions, because no one wants to lose a dough, baking is a very taxing profession. You can even try these adjustments on your home baked bread. Happy baking.

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