The Importance of Flour: French Bread

French Bread

What is the difference between French bread and Italian bread?

The best answer I can seem to find (other than the smart answer “the name!”) is that the difference is the shape of the loaf.  French bread is long and thin, while Italian bread is a larger, shorter loaf.  Otherwise, the ingredients and the methods seem to be virtually the same…  If anyone knows a better answer, please share!

Rolling out the white French bread dough...
Rolling out the white French bread dough…
Rolling out the whole wheat French bread dough.
Rolling out the whole wheat French bread dough.

My boyfriend and I decided to have a classy snack of brie, French bread, grapes, pear, and a little leftover cranberry Wensleydale from our trip to Zionsville a few weeks back.  In preparation, I made the French bread, from this recipe.  The method with the boiling water in the oven seemed interesting, so I chose this recipe over the 10 billion+ other French bread recipes out there.

Ready for Rising: Round 2.
Ready for Rising: Round 2.

I couldn’t decide whether to make a regular loaf or a whole wheat loaf…so I made both!  I simply cut the flour amount in half, and split the yeast mixture between the two bowls.  Note: For the whole wheat loaf, instead of using 1 3/4 c whole wheat flour, I only used 1 1/2.  And it was still a little dry, so maybe start with 1 1/4 c whole wheat flour?

So fluffy and light looking...
So fluffy and light looking…
Now this one kept its shape much better.
Now this one kept its shape much better.

I already knew that the heavier whole wheat flour would need less flour and more proofed yeast.  However, I believe these pictures show the difference much more dramatically.

DSC04710 DSC04711

I would like to think that these loaves depict what happens if you eat them.  If you eat lots of refined, bleached, all-purpose flour, then you will be big, expansive, pale, and doughy.  If you eat lots of whole wheat flour, then you will be long, lean, thin, and toned.   …I can always hope, right?

Now for the classy mini-meal:

Class.  And great taste!
Class. And great taste!

16 thoughts on “The Importance of Flour: French Bread

  1. I haven’t had the patience just yet to make traditional bread, but I’ve made the “5-min a day” artisan bread, it’s not as crunchy but tastes delicious and is quite fast. I’m planning on post the recipe on my blog soon.
    Good job on the breads, they look lovely, and I totally agree with the comparison on eating white flour! I use a lot of whole rye flour (stone-milled) in mine, it has a similar texture to the white but contains all the fibres and less gluten. I still have lots to learn about the world of breads!

    1. Oo, I look forward to seeing that artisan bread recipe! Between the therapeutic and relaxing process of kneading the bread, the lovely yeast-y smell while the bread is baking, and the delicious taste of the bread still warm from the oven….baking bread has a lot of benefits. 🙂

  2. It’s as though it was meant to be. I have been pondering bread and gearing up to bake some with different recipes, then you found me and I stopped by for visit! Thank you for this lovely blog and I can’t wait to try. M

    1. Good luck! Bread-making isn’t as hard as most people seem to think. Sure, it takes awhile, but most of that time you are not actively doing anything, you are just waiting on the dough to rise. Have fun!

  3. I absolutely love baking bread! Artisan bread was one of my favorite classes in culinary school and we used “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart as our text book. The difference b/w French and Italian bread, as we learned it, is that French Bread is traditionally a lean bread, which means there is little to no fat or sugar added and the dough is a hard dough. Italian bread, on the other hand, is traditionally an enriched bread. Enriched breads have less than 20% fat and may include sugar, milk, or eggs, and the dough is medium soft. The recipe in the BB’s Apprentice for French bread has no sugar or oil added, whereas the Italian bread recipe calls for sugar, malt powder and oil (olive, vegetable, or shortening). Italian bread is slightly softer and less crusty than French bread. These recipes are great and call for the use of a pre-ferment which produces great flavor and color. There is a time commitment involved, as each recipe is a two-day process with several hours allotted for fermentation. They are well worth the investment of time though. I hope this is helpful! I look forward to reading more from you 🙂

  4. Love your analogy and the bread. The baguettes in France are super skinny and have the thinnest, crunchiest and tastiest crust of any bread I have tasted around the world. The bread alone is a significant reason to visit France! 😃

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