By: Matt Chatfield

Classic Artisan French Bread

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance.

Ingredients

1-1/2 tablespoons INSTANT yeast

1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6-1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting dough (2lbs)

3 cups water

Instructions

1. In a large plastic re-sealable container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm (about 90 degrees) water. Using a large spoon, stir in flour, mixing until mixture is uniformly moist with no dry patches. Do not knead. Dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to shape of plastic container. Cover, but not with an airtight lid.


2. Let dough rise at room temperature, until dough begins to flatten on top or collapse, at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours. (At this point, dough can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks; refrigerated dough is easier to work with than room-temperature dough.


3. Sprinkle a little flour on dough and on your hands. Pull dough up and, using a serrated knife, cut off a grapefruit-size piece (about 1 pound). Working for 30 seconds (and adding flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands; most dusting flour will fall off, it's not intended to be incorporated into dough), turn dough in hands, gently stretching surface of dough, rotating ball a quarter-turn as you go, creating a rounded top and a bunched bottom. Do not be too aggressive or the dough will start to tear.

4. Place shaped dough on Parchment lined sheet pan and let rest, covered, for 2 hours, until doubled in size. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it in lidded container. (Even one day's storage improves flavor and texture of bread. Dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in airtight containers and defrosted overnight in refrigerator prior to baking day.) Dust dough with flour.

5. Using a serrated knife, slash top of dough in a + or crosshatch pattern to allow the dough to “oven spring. Place loaf in Convection Steam Oven and bake in “Auto Steam Bake” mode, at 425 F, until crust is well-browned and firm to the touch, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool completely, 30-45 minutes before cutting.