Pain Ordinaire Careme (A Daily Loaf)

Otherwise known as French Bread. When I saw this post over at The Barefoot Kitchen Witch, I couldn’t wait to get started on this beautiful bread. This was almost a redemption of sorts for me, as we tackled french bread by Julia Child for the February Daring Bakers challenge, but I had less than stellar results. I had been planning to revisit that recipe and give it another go, but when I saw Jayne’s pop up, it seemed almost identical, yet much more straight forward and easy to read, so went with it! Unfortunately I had an issue (will discuss in a moment – not due to the recipe, really) when I made this on Saturday, so when my friend Annie asked if I wanted to bake anything together this week I told her I was giving this another go. She was excited and hopped on board, and we completed perhaps the most in sync virtual baking in history. This bread turned out absolutely perfect – it has the characteristic paper thin and crisp crust, with a warm, chewy and airy interior. I am already beside myself with ideas on how to use this bread – french toast, panzanella salad, roasted vegetable sandwiches, plain with cheese… the possibilities are endless!

This is the simplest of bread recipes, as it derives its flavor from the classic combination of flour, yeast, salt, and water. Because of this, there are multiple rises to allow the gluten and flavors to development, so be sure you have an entire day to devote to this bread. There are two rises during which the dough will triple in volume, and a last rise once the bread is shaped, in which it doubles in size. I chose to mimic the shapes that Jayne did and made three baguettes that were 8 oz. of dough each, a braided crown, and a round boule with the remaining dough. The next time I make this (oh yes, there will be many more times!) I think I will still do the 3 baguettes, but do one large loaf instead of two smaller ones.

In Jayne’s post she mentions how when French bread cools it begins to crackle… I was so looking forward to this, as I thought it was so cool that this happens. I took my baguettes out of the oven and was slashing my round loaves when I heard it. I ran over and pressed my ear to the baguettes like kids on the Rice Krispies commercials – it was crackling! Ahh, sweet success πŸ™‚

Speaking of slashing, I really need to work on this. Sorry they’re not so pretty! I think I don’t do it quickly enough and the blade drags a little. I did a good job on the last white loaf I made, but this French bread forms a bit of a thin skin during its last rise that made it a little difficult to slash through. I’m sure I just need to get quicker and develop a “feel” for it.

And now, I’m sure you’re wondering what this problem was that I alluded to in my opening paragraph. This was my own fault… I made this bread initially on Saturday and was getting ready to bake it. In the recipe, it says to use a broiler pan to pour water in and create steam. I don’t have a broiler pan, so I used my 9×13 pyrex dish. I’m sure many of you can already tell what happened, since I am apparently the only person who didn’t realize that pouring hot water into a hotter glass pan would cause it to explode and shatter. Well, that’s what happened. And during the course of our clean up that took well over an hour, the poor bread that was waiting to be baked reached its breaking point and collapsed on itself. So, moral of the story: USE A METAL PAN! This time around, I used my roasting pan.

Pain Ordinaire Careme

Yield: 4 baguettes, boules, or couronnes

Prep Time: 1 hour (active) 4 hours 30 minues (inactive)

Cook Time: 25 to 30 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours


6 cups bread or unbleached flour, approximately
2 packages dry yeast
2Β½ cups hot water (120-130 degrees F)
2 teaspoons each salt and water


Baking Sheet or Pans: 1 baking sheet, teflon or greased and sprinkled with cornmeal, or 4 baguette pans, greased.

By Hand or Mixer: (10 mins)
The early part of this preparation, beating a batter, can be done by an electric mixer. However, don't overload a light mixer with this thick batter. If by hand, stir vigorously for an equal length of time.

Measure 3 or 4 cups of flour into the mixing bowl and add the yeast and hot water. The mixer flat beater or whisk should run without undue strain. The batter will be smooth and pull away from the sides as the gluten develops. It may also try to climb up the beaters and into the motor. If it does, push it down with a rubber scraper. Mix for 10 minutes. When about finished, dissolve the salt in the water and add to the batter. Blend for 30 seconds or more.

Kneading (10 mins.):
If the machine has a dough hook, continue with it and add additional flour, ΒΌ cup at a time, until the dough has formed under the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. If it is sticky and clings, add sprinkles of flour. Knead for 10 minutes.

If by hand, add additional flour to the beaten batter, Β½ cup at a time, stirring first with a utensil and then working by hand. When the dough is shaggy but a solid mass, turn onto a work surface and begin kneading with an aggressive push-turn-fold motion. If the dough is sticky, toss down sprinkles of flour. Break the kneading rhythm occasionally by throwing the dough down hard against the countertop - an excellent way to encourage the development of the dough.

First Rising (2 hours):
Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will more than treble in volume - and may even be pushing against the plastic covering.

(If prepared with a new fast-rising yeast and at the recommended higher temperatures, reduce the rising times by about half.)

Second Rising (1Β½ hours):
Turn back the plastic wrap and turn the dough onto the work surface to knead briefly, about 3 minutes.

Return the dough to the bowl and re-cover with wax paper. Allow to rise to more than triple its volume, about 1Β½ hours.

Shaping (10 mins)
The dough will be light and puffy. Turn it onto the floured work surface and punch it down. Don't be surprised if it pushes back, for it is quite resilient.

Divide the dough into as many pieces as you wish loaves. One-quarter (10 oz) of this recipe will make a baguette 22" long and 3" to 4" in diameter.

Allow pieces of dough to rest for 5 minutes before shaping.

For boules or round loaves, shape the pieces into balls. Place in cloth-lined baskets (bannetons) or position directly on the baking sheet. For baguettes, roll and lengthen each dough piece under your palms to 16" to 20" , and 3" to 4" in diameter. Place in a pan or on a baking sheet or in the folds of a long cloth (couche).

This loaf's characteristic couronne or "crown" can be made in several ways. One is to flatten the piece of dough, press a hole through the center with your thumb, and enlarge the hole with your fingers. Another is to roll a long strand 18" to 24" and curl into a circle, overlapping and pushing together the ends. Yet a third way is to take 2 or 3 shorter lengths of dough and join them together in a circle, not overlapping top and bottom but pressing the ends together side by side into a uniform pattern - this one will be irregular but attractive.

Third rising (1 hour)
Cover the loaves with a cloth, preferably of wool, to allow air to reach the loaves and to form a light crust. Leave at room temperature until the dough has risen to more than double its size, about 1 hour.

Before preheating the oven to 450 degrees F (very hot) 20 minutes before baking, place a broiler pan on the floor of the oven or bottom rack so it will be there later. Five minutes before baking, pour 1 cup hot water into the hot pan. Be careful of the burst of steam - it can burn. I use a long-handled cup to reach into the oven when I pour.

Baking: (450 degrees F/25-30 mins.)
Carefully move the loaves in baskets and in couches to the baking sheet. Make diagonal cuts down the lengths of the long loaves and tic-tac-toe designs on the boules.

Place on the middle shelf of the oven.

The loaves are done when a golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Turn one loaf over and if the bottom crust sounds hard and hollow when tapped, the loaf is done.

(If using a convection oven, reduce heat 50 degrees.)

Final step:
Place on a rack to cool.

(Source: Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads)


41 Responses to “Pain Ordinaire Careme (A Daily Loaf)”

  1. themilkmanswife on August 6, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Yum! Great job! Sorry about your Pyrex dish. πŸ™ A minor setback on the road to amazing bread! Looks great! πŸ™‚


  2. Lisa on August 6, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    That looks so good! I am definitely going to give that a try. I’m so afraid of bread baking – the whole rise and fall issue. But this bread just looks so good I’ll have to put my fears aside.


  3. Kate on August 6, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    I love how much bread you make – and am completely jealous of how much bread you make.


  4. Tracey on August 6, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Looks great! I think I’ll have to give it a try sometime too. Maybe just half of the recipe though as I’m not sure what I’d do with 4 baguettes…


  5. Kayash on August 6, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    These looks so good. I’m still afraid of trying bread but all of your posts look so good I may have to get over my fear and try it!


  6. Sarah on August 6, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Oh my gosh, I’m drooling…..and dying for some brie and bread right now. Those look so fabulous!


  7. Erin on August 6, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    This looks great. I love the way you shaped the bread. I’ll have to give this recipe a try to see how it compares to Julia’s bread. I think I’ll probably like this one a lot better judging by how yours turned out.


  8. Amber on August 6, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    This is some amazing looking bread!! I can almost taste it through the screen. How devistating that your your first ones were never able to be baked after you had spent all day prepping them.


  9. Tanya on August 6, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    What beautiful loaves you made. I really love the crown. These look so tasty!


  10. Di on August 6, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Your bread looks beautiful! I’ve had the exploding Pyrex experience, too. Mine was due to accidentally heating on the stovetop–turned on the wrong burner (stupid apartment electric stove), which happened to be under a Pyrex pan that was sitting on the stovetop waiting to go into the oven. That sound is one I would prefer never to hear again…


  11. Annie on August 6, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    I had so much fun baking this with you, and I cannot believe how in sync we were πŸ™‚ That was pretty awesome. Your bread looks fabulous. I definitely want to try the braided loaf next time, it is so pretty.


  12. heather on August 7, 2008 at 9:20 am

    there is nothing that I love more than baking bread! It smells wonderful and is sooo rewarding! This looks delicious!


  13. Ashley on August 7, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Oh yikes sorry to hear you shattered your glass pan! I’ve done that a couple of times (though thankfully it happened in the sink when I poured cold water into the pan just came out of the ove – smart!) Your bread looks just gorgeous.


  14. Jayne on August 7, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Awesome job!!!


  15. Bunny on August 7, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    your bread looks great!! i love it!! when the weather breaks around here i’m making this,i love french bread, oh what a treat this is gonna be! they freeze well don’t they?? i hope so!!


  16. Chelle on August 7, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Hi Bunny, I have most of mine in the freezer now, so I’ll let you know how it goes! For the baguettes, I cut them in half and then sliced them horizontally, so when they thaw they’re ready to be turned into sandwiches!


  17. Susan on August 8, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I just knew this was Jayne’s doing! I have this recipe bookmarked to try – but I am HOPELESS with yeast! Just ask her! I try and fail, try and fail. Not a good bread experience yet!
    Yours look great though!


  18. hornedfroggy on August 9, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Hey! You have an award waiting for you on my blog – have a great weekend!! πŸ™‚


  19. Ally on August 10, 2008 at 9:31 am

    The bread looks beautiful! Sorry about the explosion, I’ve had it happen to me with a chicken dish, so disappointing!


  20. thegoodwife on August 19, 2008 at 7:59 am

    I was inspired by this post and decided to give it a try. I credited you for the inspiration. Here is the link. Thanks so much for being a good muse!


  21. Doug on September 27, 2008 at 8:56 am

    I’m so glad you found this recipe! This has been our family’s daily loaf for years. Our boys don’t want to eat anything else now – when we have to get an “emergency loaf” from the store they moan and groan…


  22. SAMANTHA on May 3, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    I am really fan of your blog…Thanks for article


  23. Maria on November 11, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I cannot even wait to try this. One cold winter Saturday…I am ON IT!


  24. Jelli on February 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I baked this over the weekend, halving the recipe. Of all the very many baguette recipes I have tried, this is my favorite. I love that the crust isn’t overwhelmingly thick and crunchy, that the inside is chewy AND full of lovely air holes, and well…just about everything else about this recipe. Great!


  25. Beth on August 9, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Love your site..gonna try this today..i’ve never made a yeast bread before, only quick bread..My son loves to help me bake, so I’m guessing he’ll love the kneading! Will let you know how it goes, and I’ll post on my blog as well..


  26. The Errant Cook on October 10, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I tried this recipe the other day. I’ve made bread dozens of times, but never French. Something went wrong. The rises all went OK, and the inside of the bread tastes great, but the crust is wayyyyy too hard and not shattery as it’s supposed to be. Like, too hard to bite through. Any thoughts?


    • Michelle on October 11th, 2010 at 8:03 pm

      Hi there, I’m sorry to hear you had some trouble with the crust. Do you happen to use an oven thermometer? Sometimes if the temperature isn’t accurate the crust doesn’t set correctly when it first hits the oven with the steam.


  27. Kate on March 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

    One baker-in-training to another: for slashing, a serrated knife works wonders and you really do want that thin layer of skin to form before you pop it in the oven. It helps develop that crust. Sorry to hear about your dish. I’ve resorted to tossing a couple handfuls of ice into a metal pan in the oven every few minutes. Happy baking!


  28. Kimberly on May 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I made this bread last night and I was SO EXCITED that it actually turned out! I got a thin, crispy outside crust and a slightly dense but fluffy interior (I think it didn’t rise enough that third time, I’ll try for more next time), but it tasted a bit flat to me and my family. I think I’ll add more salt next time, but does anyone else have any suggestions for fixing that? It tasted just like regular white sandwich bread to me, not a chewy, delicious baguette.

    Thanks for your help!


  29. CANAN on January 27, 2012 at 10:39 am

    hello from Turkey,
    Δ° tried some of recipes they were excellent.
    this bread looks gorgeous” i will try it right away


  30. KIm on July 23, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Sounds incredible!! How crucial is letting it rise three times would you say? Already so hungry and too excited lol!

    Thanks for this great site!!!


    • Michelle on July 28th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Hi Kim, All of those rises are absolutely essential. Enjoy the bread!


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  32. Maria on August 22, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I was wondering how much yeast is in a packet? I buy the jar’s of yeast.
    Thank you


    • Michelle on September 27th, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Maria, One packet of yeast has 2 & 1/4 teaspoons.


  33. Nat on February 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Hi, I have been experimenting with lots of bread recipes for several years. I usually find them on the Internet. Today, I have found yours and it looks lovely! I live in the Czech Republic and Czech bread is also very nice but it’s usually sourdough rye bread. I remember the taste of French bread I ate when I stayed Normandy. Czech bakers bake it as well but it’s not the same taste. Years ago I spent some weeks in Warsaw, Poland and there was a fantastic French bakery; just like in France. I will make yours definitely! But I have a problem. Currently I live in a hired flat and there is a gas oven and I cannot set the temperature in it. And whatever I bake it nearly burns at the bottom. Tried everything that I could and I cannot find the right way. Could you please think it over and say what and how you would manage it? Regards from Central Europe!


    • Michelle on February 12th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      Hi Nat, Ack, I wish I could help you, but I’m afraid I’m not at all sure what to tell you about how to adjust your oven, especially if you can’t even set a temperature. Do you have gas marks? I know there are some conversion charts floating around about how to convert a temperature to a gas mark, you might try Googling that.


  34. Emma on May 27, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    This looks amazing! I just wanted to make sure, does this use dry active yeast or instant yeast. I’d guess instant since it doesn’t have to be dissolved first, but I wanted to make sure.


  35. Sara on August 6, 2014 at 9:21 am

    That looks amazing!! I love bread and am trying to bake it right! For some reason every time I shape the dough and let it rise when I remove the covering (no matter what it is I follow the instructions) it ruins the top layer and the rise! Then I end up with flattened loaves that are never fluffy and airy on the inside. What am I doing wrong? Any suggestions? Thanks!


    • Michelle on August 6th, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Hi Sara, You could try using plastic wrap that you have sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, that way it shouldn’t disturb the dough when you remove it.


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