By: Chef Matt Chatfield

Classic Artisan French Bread

This recipe must be prepared in advance.

Convection Steam Oven Classic Artisan French Bread 

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


Preparation:

1. In a large plastic resealable container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm (about 90 degrees) water. Using a large spoon, stir in flour, mixing until the mixture is uniformly moist with no dry patches. Do not knead. The dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the 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, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks; the refrigerated dough is easier to work with than room-temperature dough.

3. Sprinkle a little flour on the 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 the dough in hands, gently stretching the surface of the dough, rotating the 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 the remaining dough or refrigerate it in a lidded container. (Even one day's storage improves the flavor and texture of the bread. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in airtight containers and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.) Dust dough with flour.

5. Using a serrated knife, slash the top of the 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.