French-Style Crusty White Bread

French-Style Crusty White Bread


Though I’ve called this white bread, the flour I’ve used here is a French stoneground variety from the Foricher les Moulins, near Paris, called Farine de Meule and it produces a crumb with a light caramel colour and a rich wheaten flavour. It’s not 100% wholemeal as it has only some of the bran finely milled into it, meaning that it has a close crumb (fewer air bubbles) compared to white flour, and is best suited to recipes where the dough is kept quite firm, avoid long or extended rising, and prove it at a relatively cool temperature. But in return you get an amazing rich flavour, and a crackling crisp crust (when first baked) unlike any you get with a British flour, and certainly more flavour than any white wheat flour.


The night before, dissolve the yeast in the water then stir in the flour. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours until tripled in volume.

The following day stir in the water, flour and salt and mix to a soft dough. Knead lightly in the bowl then cover and leave for an hour at room temperature.

On a floured surface scoop the dough gently out of the bowl and roll up into a sausage shape, pinching the ends together neatly. Place the dough seam-side down on a baking paper-lined (or flour dusted) tray, or in a lined 1lb loaf tin, and leave for an hour to rise. You want the dough to rise by about 50%, not quite double.

Heat the oven to 220C fan. Dust the top of the loaf with flour, slash the top with a blade then bake for about 20 minutes until golden.


Though you can shape the dough and leave it to rise on a tray, or in a loaf tin, many bakers leave the dough to rise in a basket – made of wicker, cane or wood-fibre - known as a banneton or brotform, lined with a flour-rubbed cloth (or liner) to stop the dough from sticking. The loaf is then tipped out onto the tray, baking stone or bread pan (see below) just before baking, or even left overnight in the basket placed in the fridge to develop even more flavour. At BakeryBits we have a big range of banettons and brotform to choose from, and these help give the loaf a very beautiful rustic look.

Then, to give the crust a rich colour during baking, and help any cuts made in the top open up dramatically, many bakers place the loaf in a covered metal or ceramic pot. This holds any steam released by the dough, or sprayed onto the crust, inside and gives you that beautiful finish. On this loaf above I’ve baked it in the Challenger Bread Pan to guarantee a great crust.

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