With experience, you will find that the amount of flour and water needs to be modified to obtain the desired dough texture. It is important to explore, experiment, and dare to modify recipes according to your experience and inspiration.
This bread dough is rather soft, and even sticky. This is what is called ''hydrated dough''. It is difficult to handle but produces a longer-lasting, more flavorful bread, with a light, moist, springy, and honeycombed center. The crust is fine and crisp.
1. Mix the ingredients.
- In a large bowl, quickly dissolve the yeast in water and add the salt. Gradually incorporate the flour. Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until you have a dough that is smooth and consistent (approximately 5 minutes). At this point, do not add any flour. The dough will be damp and sticky... that's perfect! Work the dough quickly so that it does not stick to your hands too much. If it does, wet your fingers.
2. Let the dough rise.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise (30 to 60 minutes) at room temperature as indicated in the recipe.
3. Fold over the dough.
''Folding over'' the dough while kneading it gives it consistency and strength. This is very important as it will give the dough elasticity while capturing the air.
- Stretch out the dough and fold it over to the center. Repeat 15 to 20 times, and if using a bowl, turn the bowl 1/4 turn each time
- Use a large bowl when kneading soft dough, and use a floured flat surface for firm dough.
- Wet fingers if the dough is too sticky.
4. Cover and let rise 1 or 2 hours, according to the recipe.
5. Knead the dough again from 5 to 20 times, according to the recipe. Flour the dough at this stage and forma ball.
To form a call with the dough (for firmer dough):
- Flour the surface of the dough to make it less sticky.
- Hold the dough in your hands.
- Stretch it lightly and fold it over.
- Press the open part with the palm of your hand. Repeat 5 or 6 times, moving the dough 1/4 turn each time.
- Make a smooth and clean surface.
Avoid tearing the dough. Place the formed balls, seamed side down, in the bowl or on a baking sheet.
6. Cover and let rise 1 or 2 hours according to the recipe.
7. Divide and shape the dough.
- Put the dough on a floured board.
- Cut the dough into the required number of sections, according to the recipe. Use a knife or pastry cutter. Sprinkle flour as necessary.
- Shape or form the sections according to the recipe. When the dough is too sticky, flour lightly to make it easier to work. If it is still difficult to work, let it rest a few minutes and start again.
8. Let rise.
During this last rising, the yeast produces carbonic gas, which will allow the dough to rise. The time required for the dough to rise depends on several factors, like the quantity of yeast used, the room temperature, and work methods.
- Let the bread rise away from drafts, near a preheated oven, for 30 to 60 minutes, according to the recipe. The dough should double in volume.
- This step is the last one before baking. The dough should be handled as little as possible and very lightly.
- Always preheat the oven before use.
- To obtain a better bread rise as well as a shiny and crisp crust, place a container with hot water on the lower rack of the oven when preheating.
- Avoid opening the oven door during the first 10 minutes of baking, as the dough is still rising and the rounded top is being formed during this time.
- Most breads are baked on baking sheets. If the sheets have a non-stick finish (Teflon), the dough can be placed directly on the surface. With other baking sheets, grease lightly with oil or use parchment paper.
- Often in bakeries, slashes are made on the bread crust. This allows a higher rise of the bread during baking. This slash, the signature of the master baker, can be made with a very thin, sharp knife or a razor blade. This is called ''signing'' the bread.
- The indicated temperature of household ovens is often not accurate, so check the bread 10 minutes before the end of baking. It should have a golden color and its crust should be firm. Tap the top of the loaf lightly. If it sounds hollow... all is well.
- Bread gains about 50% of its volume in the oven.
10. Let the bread cool.
- Place the loaf on a rack when indicated in the recipe, allowing the steam to evaporate.
- Let the loaf rest 10 to 15 minutes before eating.
11. Storing bread
- It is best to store bread in a tea towel or a cloth (cotton) bag at room temperature. It can also be kept frozen in a plastic bag.
Recipe: Josée Fiset & Éric Blais