Pain a l' Ancienne

By • April 7, 2010 38 Comments

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Author Notes: I have baked bread for the family every Sunday and Wednesday now for almost ten years. I really enjoy bread and I have so many favorites it is hard to choose just one. I have begged, borrowed and stolen technique and formulas from whomever and wherever they can be found. I am buy no means the creator of this recipe. Although I have seen many different versions over the years and I am sure all have had their influence but I have to give credit to two bakers who have influenced me and this bread the most Peter Reinhart and Jeffrey Hamelman. If you want to make bread search out their books. I used to make sourdough only but with the increase in quality flour prices it just got to expensive to feed the beast (the starter). So I looked elsewhere for flavor. Why this bread? Because of the cold fermentation and amylase period. This creates a flavor profile that no other breads have. It is nutty and has a mild sweetness. It is a simple dough to make with a mixer fitted with a dough hook but it is very wet and not so simple to handle. The addition of the olive oil makes the crust tender crisp not crunchy crisp. I add it because I am willing to give up the crunch for self life. The crumb in this is exceptionally tender. I use a baking stone. If you don't have one use a parchment lined sheet tray to bake the bread. I also place an old cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven to create steam. - thirschfeldthirschfeld

Food52 Review: The dough was fantastic to work with -- simple to knead and gather, both by hand and with the stand mixer/dough hook. (I made the recipe twice. I added 1 more teaspoon of salt on the second round.) Loved the toasted wheat germ and the texture and scent it provided the bread. I'm glad I had eight loaves to learn the "cut and lift to the parchment paper" method. On the 8th loaf, I had it down. This is a nice recipe for a soft crusted loaf, perfect for paninis or bahn mi. Thirschfeld's instructions are clear and it's just a miracle -- all that ice cold water is added to flour and you end up with these pretty loaves. - MrsWheelbarrowThe Editors


Serves four 12 inch baguettes

  • 2 1/2 cups ice water, as close to 32 degrees as possible
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cornmeal for dusting
  1. I fill an eight cup measure half with ice and the rest with cold water. Then I pour off the cold water in the measurements called for.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer place 1/4 cup of ice water and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let the yeast dissolve.
  3. Add the remainding 2 1/4 cups of the ice water, the flour, wheat germ and salt. Mix with a dough hook. As the dough comes together add the olive oil. The dough probably won't even gather around hook but should pull around it. If it seems to loose error on the side of a stiff dough and add more flour in 1/4 cup increments. You should see gluten development.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours.
  5. Place a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place a cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven. Keep it close to the edge you will be pouring water into it.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge. Sprinkle the counter with a good cup and a half of flour into about a 12 by 12 inch square.
  7. Flour your hands and dump the dough gently onto the flour. Spread it out to be about 8 inches by 8 inches. Dust the top of the dough with a good coating of flour and then spray it with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap. Set a timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  8. After the timer sounds, gently remove the plastic wrap. If some of the dough is stuck to it pinch it and gently pull.
  9. Place a piece of parchment onto a peel (or sheet tray if you are not using a stone). Sprinkle it with cornmeal.
  10. If your oven or stone isn't big enough only cut what will fit on your stone or in the oven and leave the remainder of the dough whole and covered until needed. Using a dough cutter dipped in water cut the dough into four pieces. Place the peel right next to the dough.
  11. Now the tricky part. You want to do this quickly. Put one hand at each end of the loaf. Lift, the middle will start to stretch and drop, quickly move to the peel and stretch back to 12 inches. Repeat with what will fit on your peel or fit in your oven. I do two loaves at a time.
  12. Slide the dough onto the stone. Carefully, but quickly, pour a half cup of water into the skillet and shut the door. Turn the heat down to 450 and set a timer for 12 minutes. Do not open the door.
  13. When the timer goes off rotate the bread 180 degrees and bake and additional 4 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

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