French Bread Dough

makes four 16-inch loaves, six to eight batards, or four pizzas

Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day

Music Pairing: Walking on Broken Glass by Annie Lenox

Some of you have followed along with my bread making endeavors on Instagram. The ingredients are from Reinhart’s book noted above, but I’ve adapted the technique. For starters, he calls for bread flour. I’m obsessed with Antimo Caputo “00” pizzeria flour, and that is what I use. He also notes to let the dough rise overnight. I say it needs to go even longer to develop that crisp crust, and more importantly, the air pockets that are a sign of truly great bread.

A few things I feel are non-negotiable to achieve the bread I made, and the kind of bread I set out to make in the first place are as such: you need a pizza peel, and baking stone, and you can’t skip adding a pan of water to the oven (see directions). And the real key—patience. The dough can’t be rushed. At first, it will seem impossible. Then you will fall into a groove, and enjoy the rewards as you portion your dough out in the morning to bake fresh bread. Patience is an ingredient that costs nothing, but is often in short supply.

That said, this doesn’t mean you can’t make excellent bread using just bread flour, or using a preheated baking pan. It just means that your bread won’t look like the one pictured, so please keep that in mind before leaving a comment saying so. Okay, I can sense I’m getting a little cranky from that last sentence. It’s likely because I should’ve gone to bed hours ago. I will let you be, and good luck with your breadmaking endeavors.

680 grams bread flour (I use “00” pizzeria flour), plus more for kneading

7 grams dry active yeast

14 grams sea salt

454 grams water

oil (grapeseed or olive oil), to grease the container

Add the flour, yeast, and salt to a deep bowl. Whisk to mix well. Pour in the water, and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a scraggly-looking dough. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until it forms a smooth, somewhat tacky but not sticky, dough.

Wipe a large plastic bucket lightly with oil. Place the dough inside the bucket, cover, and refrigerate for at least 36 hours, and up to 4 days.

When ready to use, cut off the amount of dough you need about two hours before baking (a little less for more dough, a little longer for a larger piece of dough). If making bread, shape into a baguette, and set on a floured board. Cover with a light towel, and let rise until doubled in volume (it will feel light and airy to the touch). If making pizza, place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.

For making bread, adjust one rack to the center position, and put a pizza stone on it. Adjust another rack to the lowest position, and place a deep, metal baking dish onto it (do not use glass!). Turn the oven to 550F to preheat 45 minutes before the dough is ready.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil.

When ready to bake the bread, score the dough. Do this by using a very sharp paring knife to cut deep diagonal slices every couple inches across the loaf. The depth of the cut should be about 1/3 of the way through the loaf. Transfer the loaf to a floured peel (wooden board).

Carefully pour the boiled water into the pan on the rack under the pizza stone. Be careful! The water will immediately bubble and evaporate, so keep your face away from the pan. Reinhardt suggests putting a towel over the oven door glass to avoid it cracking, but mine got pretty singed in just the few seconds it was there. I don’t use the towel anymore, and just pour the water slowly, and carefully. With a quick flick of the wrist, slide the dough onto the stone, and close the door immediately. Turn the oven down to 450F.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes. I like to bake my bread to a very deep brown color. Remove it from the oven (use the peel or tongs), and set it on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before eating.


Follow directions for preheating the oven, except skip adding the pan for water. Shape the dough into a circle. Place on a lightly floured peel. Add desired toppings, tomato sauce, cheese, sausages, vegetables. Slide onto the pizza stone. Bake until crust is golden, and cheese is bubbly, 7 to 9 minutes.