The only difference between and Italian and French loaf is the shape and the French has 1 extra rise. Both recipes and shaping choices are in my recipe!
1 1/2 cups warm water (Tip: I like to replace 1/2 of the cup of water with white wine or simply add a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar, it helps the rising!)
4 cups unbleached bread flour (King Arthur is my favorite)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt OR 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
Kitchen Aid OR Food Processor OR 2 Hands!
Parchment linen sheet pan OR pizza stone and a paddle w/ parchment OR a flat pan's bottom with parchment
~Mixing & Kneading~Food Processor Method:
Place all of the dry into the machine with the dough hook attached and mix on low for a few seconds.
While it is still running add the water and oil through the shoot.
After a ball forms allow it to mix for 1 minute longer working out all of the bumps and forming an elastic ball. Remove the dough and place in an oiled bowl covered with an oiled sheet of plastic wrap.
Rest at least until a finger indention remains ( 2 hours) but the longer the better (I let it rise until it is to the top)
Kitchen Aid Method:
Mix water & yeast in mixer until foamy, mix 2 cups of flour, salt & oil for a minute add more flour until a dough ball forms, Mix for 8 minutes (Kitchen Aid) adding flour if it becomes too sticky, although you do want a slightly sticky dough.Oil up your hands and cover the ball of dough in oil, leave it in the Kitchen Aid bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap.
Mix the flour and salt and make a well. Add the yeast and liquid into the well. Stir the liquid and yeast together gradually adding in the flour from the edges to the middle. It will be messy at first. Eventually you will have a very sticky ball of dough, it will still be messy at this point. Using your hands and a bench scraper or spatula start scraping the dough up and slapping it back down on to the counter, do this continually for 15-20 minutes. Until it's smooth and elastic.Rest at least until a finger indention remains ( 2 hours) but the longer the better (I let it rise until it is to the top)
~Forming Loaf/Loaves: You can make 1 large or 2 medium from each dough recipe)~Baguette loaf:
Classic Italian Round Loaf:
.Punch down the dough and flour the counter. Form a ball by tucking and re-tucking the dough underneath it self. Dust very lightly with flour. If it tears then start over, you want a smooth top that is nice and compact.
A true French bread has 2 rises before forming rather than 1 so punch it down after the first rise and allow it to rise a second and then proceed.
Punch down & roll or pat it out to a rectangular or oblong shape about the size of a sheet of loose leaf paper for 2 loaves (Ficelle) or a large sheet pan for 1 loaf (Baguette).
Roll it up (short ways) tucking in ends.
Roll dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands toward the two ends as the dough lengthens. Allow your finger tips and the bottom of your hands to touch the counter.
French Country Loaf:Start this out the same as the Baguette except that as you roll it allow the ends to be a bit thinner and the middle thicker. Then with your hands rolling bring the ends to a slight point.Rolled Loaf
Roll dough out to form a rounded triangle were it is larger at one end and small at the other.
~Baking & Slicing the top~Rub olive oil on a straight edge razor (carefully) just before using and then give it a good slit down the middle for the round loaf or 3 good slanted slits for the baguette just before baking.
Place the loaf or loaves on parchment on a sheet pan OR a piece of parchment on a flat pan's bottom for sliding or a paddle, cover and rise for 1 hour or until double.
Preheat the oven to 450 & and place a stone on the bottom rack
When the dough is ready slide the parchment sheet with the loaf in the oven on top of the stone, or place the sheet pan on the middle rack, throw 3 ice cubes in to oven close quickly & bake for 15 minutes
Set oven to 375 (do not open!)
Bake for 20 more minutes.
When finished it will sound hollow when tapped and be golden brown. Place on rack to cool. Try really hard not to slice for atleast 1 hour!