Pain ordinaire

A lean dough produces a crisp baguette or 'Parisien' (slightly heftier than a baguette). The recipe for this 'pain ordinaire' turns up in countless cookbooks. In France, this bread is made several times a day. It is not a keeper. It is thin of crust, yet crisp and light of crumb. It is good with cheese, fruit, or as the foundation for a sandwich 'de charcuterie'. Here is a version of 'pain ordinaire'. Some suggest all-purpose flour best replicates French flour. I suggest bread flour is better. Many French bakers would be happy to have access to our North American bread flours. As usual, feel free to experiment. You could try half bread flour and half all-purpose. Otherwise, I suggest you make an effort to track down malt powder (i.e. King Arthur or a local homebrewing supply store). The malt helps with browning in a conventional oven. Pain ordinaire

1 tablespoon

dry yeast

1/4 cup

warm water

2 cups

cold water

5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups

unbleached all-purpose or bread flour

2 teaspoons

salt

1/2 teaspoon

malt powder (recommended)

 

corn meal (optional)

Can be made with a dough hook or bread machine. The dough needs a leisurely rise. Indulge it. In a large bowl, whisk together yeast and warm water. Let stand 3-5 minutes. Whisk in 2 cold cups of water, most of flour, salt and malt. Stir to make a mass. Let stand 10-12 minutes - this allows ingredients to better combine - French bakers call this 'l'autolyse'. Knead, adding more flour as required, to make a soft, but resilient dough (8-12 minutes). Dough should be springy and elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl and put bowl in an oversized plastic bag. Let rise in a cool place (60 F.) for 3-4 hours. Gently deflate dough, form into a round, replace in greased bowl. Let rise another 90 minutes to 2 hours in the same cool place. Sprinkle two baking sheets or a couple of baguette pans with corn meal. Gently deflate dough. Divide into 3-4 portions. Roll each piece of dough into an oval of about 8 by 10 inches. Fold in three, like letter paper, then lift the part further from you and fold in half towards you. Use the heel of one hand to 'lock' the bread in a tight seam where it meets the bottom portion. Roll dough to form a 14 inch cylinder. Place cylinders on a parchment and corn meal lined baking sheet or baguette pans. Place pan(s) in an oversized plastic bag. Let rise 45-60 minutes (until puffy). Preheat oven to 450 F. Slash loaves before baking. Brush with cold water or beaten egg white. Lower oven temperature to 425 F. once loaves are placed in oven. Bake 20-25 minutes. Loaves should sound hollow when tapped (internal temperature 200 F). Cool on racks. Can be frozen. Baker's notes: What you want on French bread is a taut 'skin'. This produces the thin, hard, crisp crust, so prized by home and professional bakers. When forming your loaves, try to keep them as 'taut' as you can. Once the loaves are in the oven, atomize them with water every two minutes for the first 10-15 minutes of baking.