‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a delicious carb could be found and all I wanted was a piece of bread.
Haha ok, that didn’t rhyme at all, but that’s what happened on Christmas Eve honestly. I had gone to the wholesale fish market a couple days before and had a ton of Kumamoto oysters to eat, and felt like it would just go so nicely with some buttered toast.
Quickly looked up my favorite bakeries to see none of them would be open on Christmas Day and then thought to myself, “I have like 50lbs of flour sitting around and a bunch of yeast, I could just make my own.” I called the recipe midnight french bread because I started the actual baking at midnight. Here’s what I ended up doing:
The ingredients prep I generally derrived from King Arthur Flour.
Prep 15 mins | Bake 45 mins | Total ~5hrs
- Cast iron dutch oven
- Sharp knife for cross-hatching
- 1 cup cool to lukewarm water
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 3/4 teaspoon active dry or 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 3/4 to 4 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, to taste
Stir all of the starter ingredients together to make a thick, pudding-like mixture.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 2 hours.
For best flavor, let the starter rest longer; overnight (up to 16 hours) is best.
- Stir down the starter with a spoon and add the water, yeast, sugar, 3 1/4 cups (390g) of the flour, and the salt. The dough will be a loose, messy mass.
Let it rest for 12 to 15 minutes, then stir it again; it should become more cohesive and a bit smoother.
- Knead the dough, adding up to an additional 3/4 cup (90g) flour (as necessary to make a soft dough), 10 to 12 minutes.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or plastic container, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until almost doubled (depending on the weather, this could be 1 to 2 hours). You can also let the dough rise slowly in the fridge for a longer duration. If your dough has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature before shaping; it’ll warm up and rise at the same time.
- Deflate the dough gently, but don’t knock out all the air; this will create those “holes” so important to French bread. For the large loaf (boule), form the dough into a round ball.
- Dust your boule with semolina- or cornmeal- and gently place the ball(s) of dough back into the bowl, seam-side down.
- Cover the bread gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s puffy and about 40% to 50% larger, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 450°F with the dutch oven inside. This will prevent your dutch oven from cracking by not having you put a cool cast iron into an extremely hot oven. Once your oven has reached the right temp, carefully take your dutch oven out of the oven.
- Slash or cross-hatch the bread with a sharp knife or lame. Dust it with a little flour. Cook for 35 mins with the lid on, then the last 10 mins remove the lid to give it that extra golden crust color.
- Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Resist the urge from breaking into a boule instantly. The bread needs to completely cook while it cools, otherwise you could end up with a doughy inside or by cutting in too early you could also risk letting all the moisture escape too quickly and then ended up with an extremely dry loaf.