Pane Francese

Pane Francese from Zachary Golper




If you are a bread lover and particularly if you love to bake bread at home you have probably heard the buzz about Bien Cuit, the book that celebrates the dark, crusty loaves from the Brooklyn bakery of the same name. Baker Zachary Golper promises to share “his insider’s secrets to making his delicious, artisanal bread that will have home bakers creating professional-quality products in no time—and inexpensively.” A bold promise indeed, but this book, and the breads, are truly unlike others you have tasted or that are discussed in other books. His breads are rustic yet quite elegant in their treatment of ingredients, texture and flavor. Don’t miss the other bread that Zachary has shared called A Simple Loaf.




I first tasted a bread like this when I was a stagiaire (a kind of a low-level apprentice) in the town of Blois in France’s Loire Valley. Like most young, aspiring chefs, I rarely had the time or money to take advantage of being in such a legendary dining country. Most days I ate dinner with a local family who took in paying dinner guests. Breakfast was at the bakery, usually black tea and leftover brioche from the day before. That’s what our chef ate, so that’s what we ate. When I had a few extra Euros, which wasn’t often, my other meals were some combination of goat cheese, local wine, lots of ratatouille, and bread.


Zachary Golper by Thomas Schauer


There were three or four bakeries in town. They were good but not extraordinary, except for one bakery that made one special bread, which was creamy tasting and soft textured, thanks to a good amount of olive oil in the dough. It looked like a baguette and tasted like ciabatta (hence the Italian name by which it was known in France), but its shape was a little flatter. These breads were so good that I often consumed them en route to my room. Living as I did, in very modest circumstances, I appreciated simple pleasures when they came my way.



Pane Francese
Makes: 4 loaves
  • 300 grams (2 c + 2 tbsp) white flour
  • 0.2 gram (pinch) instant yeast
  • 300 grams (11/4 c) water at about 60°F (15°C)
  • 500 grams (31/2 c + 1 tbsp) white flour, plus additional as needed for working with the dough
  • 20 grams (1 tbsp + ¼ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 1 gram (generous ¼ tsp) instant yeast
  • 235 grams (3/4 c + 3 tbsp) cold whole milk
  • 70 grams (1/4 c + 11/2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Dusting Mixture (see below), for the lined proofing basket and the shaped loaf
  1. FOR THE STARTER: Put the flour in a medium storage container. Sprinkle the yeast into the water, stir to mix, and pour over the flour. Mix with your fingers, pressing the mixture into the sides, bottom, and corners until all of the flour is wet and fully incorporated. Cover the container and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours. The starter will be at its peak at around 13 hours.
  2. FOR THE DOUGH: Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour about one-third of the milk around the edges of the starter to release it from the sides of the container. Transfer the starter and milk to an extra-large bowl along with the remaining milk and the olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, break the starter up to distribute it in the liquid.
  4. Add the flour mixture, reserving about one-sixth of it along the edge of the bowl. Continue to mix with the spoon until most of the dry ingredients have been combined with the starter mixture. Switch to a plastic bowl scraper and continue to mix until incorporated. At this point the dough will be sticky to the touch.
  5. Push the dough to one side of the bowl. Roll and tuck the dough, adding the reserved flour mixture and a small amount of additional flour to the bowl and your hands as needed. Continue rolling and tucking until the dough feels stronger and begins to resist any further rolling, about 10 times. Then, with cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a clean bowl, cover the top of the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
  6. For the first stretch and fold, lightly dust the work surface, your hands, and a 9 by 13-inch (23 by 33 cm) baking pan with flour. Using the plastic bowl scraper, release the dough from the bowl and set it, seam-side down, on the work surface. Gently stretch it into a roughly rectangular shape. Fold the dough in thirds from top to b bottom and then from left to right. With cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough, seam-side down, in the floured baking pan, cover the pan with the towel or plastic wrap stretched tight, and let rest for 1 hour.
  7. For the second and final stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then return the dough to the pan, cover with the towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for 1 hour.
  8. Line a half sheet pan with a linen liner and dust fairly generously with the dusting mixture.
  9. Lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and let it spread, then gently stretch to form a 9 by 7-inch (23 by 18 cm) rectangle. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, each measuring about 21/4 by 7 (5.5 by 18 cm) inches. Gently stretch each into a rectangle measuring about 2 by 12 (5 by 30 cm) inches. Transfer to the lined pan, positioning the loaves across the width, rather than lengthwise. Dust the top and sides of the loaves with the dusting mixture. Fold the linen to create support walls on both sides of each loaf, then fold any extra length of the linen liner over the top or cover with a kitchen towel. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill for 12 to 16 hours.
  10. Set up the oven with a cast-iron skillet for steam, then preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C).
  11. Using the linen liner, lift and gently flip the loaves off of the pan and onto a transfer peel. Slide the loaves onto a dusted baking peel. (These loaves are not scored.) Working quickly but carefully, transfer the loaves to the stone using heavy-duty oven mitts or potholders. Pull out the hot skillet, add about 3 cups of ice cubes, then slide it back in and close the oven door. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 460°F (240°C). Bake, switching the positions of the loaves about two-thirds of the way through baking, until their surface is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
  12. Using the baking peel, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. When the bottoms of the loaves are tapped, they should sound hollow. If not, return to the stone and bake for 5 minutes longer.
  13. Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours. If you are not comfortable working with the baguette shape, you may bake this as a round loaf in a Dutch oven.

Zachary Golper’s Dusting Mixture

For most doughs—with the exception of sweeter, enriched loaves like the White Pullman Loaf —I dust the kitchen towel, linen liner, or proofing basket, and the top and sides of the dough with a blend of semolina flour and white flour. The semolina, which is slightly coarser, helps keep the dough from sticking. Don’t use this mixture during mixing, rolling and tucking, stretching and folding, or shaping, as the semolina will change the quality of the dough incorporated into it. To make the Dusting Mixture, combine one part fine semolina flour with five parts white flour. If you bake often, mix up a large batch and keep it on hand.

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