I believe simple food, done well, is an art. And French Bread, with the plain ingredients of flour, salt, yeast, and water, exemplifies simple food. Peter Reinhart, in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, showcases a technique for making outstanding French Bread. On my first attempt, I created bread that we devoured within 48 hours. And considering the amount of bread I’ve been making for the BBA Challenge (this is our 14th type of bread!), that’s saying an awful lot.
To make this bread Peter’s way, you must first make a pâte fermentée and let it rest in the fridge overnight. (Don’t worry, I have no idea how to even say it, but it’s super easy to make!) The idea is that you are developing the flavor and unlocking the sugar in the flour. So, like many of the breads in the challenge, it’s a 2-day process. The end result is that the bread tastes nothing like a simple mixture of flour, salt, yeast, and water. It’s chewy, crusty, and tender in all the right places. The flavor has a bit of nuttiness to it. It’s a bread you can dress up or down, as versatile as a pair of black pants, but far less boring! (And, let’s be honest, it won’t exactly help you fit into those black pants, either, but that’s another story.) The recipe can be found in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice, page 168.