New Orleans “French” Bread

New Orleans French Bread …served at fine dining establishments and hole-in-the-wall poboy spots… is crispy on the outside and soft as air on the inside. For home, I love the version that the local grocery store, Robert’s (pronounced Roe-bears), makes. Leidenheimer’s bakery is famous for their version. Driving by their bakery when they are baking can cause you to swoon in delight. It is that good!

bread

Should one even attempt to make this delicacy at home? Can it be done? For help, I turned to Julia Child, the grand dame of French cooking. According to her, in the US, we don’t allow our bread to rise long enough to develop an interesting flavor and character. She contends that French bread making should take a minimum of 7 hours. It is basically the same recipe as any other French bread recipe, but the rising times are at lower temperatures and last longer. Instead of doubling the volume on the first rise, we give it time to triple.

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Below is her basic recipe with my adaptation of the instructions. She says to do this on a dry day – as if that ever happens in New Orleans! Maybe, that makes a difference. Humidity is just part of life around here, so we have to adapt. New Orleans is supposed to be the city that care forgot; so, I’ll slow down and give it a try.

First the ingredients:

  • All Purpose Flour
  • Yeast
  • Water

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That’s it. Very simple ingredients to make very good food. Take a day, and see if you don’t agree it is worth the time. Of course, most of the time is passive – while the dough is rising. You can even stop and put the dough in the refrigerator between any of the risings and pick it up the next day or so. Just don’t let it go past a couple of days.

For the recipe below, I actually added a bit of rosemary and shaped it into round loaves. Delicious!

New Orleans “French” Bread
Print Recipe
Crispy on the outside and light as air on the inside. Takes some time but it is soooo worth it,
Servings Prep Time
3 bagettes 8 hours
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
3 bagettes 8 hours
Cook Time
30 minutes
New Orleans “French” Bread
Print Recipe
Crispy on the outside and light as air on the inside. Takes some time but it is soooo worth it,
Servings Prep Time
3 bagettes 8 hours
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
3 bagettes 8 hours
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: bagettes
Instructions
  1. Stir the yeast in 1/3 cup warm water in a small bowl (optionally, you can add a pinch of sugar to feed the yeast here). Julia says you must make the yeast prove itself! So much pressure. Set aside while measuring flour into a large mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.
  2. Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough, and making sure that all bits of flour and pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto a floured kneading surface. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl. Knead the bread by lifting the near edge of the dough and flipping it over onto itself. Turn the bread and flip over on itself again. In 2 to 3 minutes the dough should have enough body that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. If it remains sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 to 10 minutes. Knead until the dough draws back into shape and begins to clean itself from the kneading surface. Let it rest for 3 or 4 minutes and then knead again for a minute until the surface is smooth.
  3. First rising – let rise until the dough has tripled in volume (3 to 5 hours at around 70 degrees). Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the lightly floured kneading surface. Lift the corner of the near side and flip it down onto the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally lift the near side and tuck it just under th edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.
  4. 2nd rise – Return the dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it is not quite tripled in volume. Remove the dough from the bowl and cut into 3 pieces for baguettes or in 2 for round loaves.
  5. After you have cut the pieces, fold them over on themselves and let them rest for 5 minutes before shaping.
  6. Shape the dough into baguettes or round loaves. Cover on the board and let rise for an additional 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. With a sharp knife, quickly cut slashes in the the baguettes in long diagonals on the formed dough. For 16 to 18 inch loaves, cut 3 slashes. On round loaves, cut an x into the dough. Back for about 25 minutes in a preheated 450 degree oven. In the last 5 minutes, brush with butter. Cool the bread for 2 to 3 hours on a rack or upright in a basket.
Recipe Notes

Storing – Because it contains no preservatives, French bread is best when eaten the day it is made. It will keep for a day or two when wrapped airtight and refrigerated but does best if you freeze it once it has cooled. To serve, thaw, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a cold oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

For more detailed instruction and variations, get Julia Child’s book here:

 

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102 responses to “New Orleans “French” Bread”

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