Recipe Review: Revisiting the French Country Boule

Recipe Review: Revisiting the French Country Boule

Emma Christensen
Nov 3, 2008

The last time we made this recipe, we weren't very impressed with the results. But now that the weather's cooler and the sting of disappointment has faded, we decided to give it another chance. Hear our results below:

We repeated everything exactly as we did last time, but with two exceptions. First, now that it's almost November, we didn't have the heat and humidity to contend with. Secondly, and perhaps even more significantly, we finally bought a stand mixer and let it do the kneading this time!

At first we thought something still might be off with the recipe. The kneaded dough had developed enough gluten to pass the window-pane test, but it was still as sticky as bubblegum. Cookbook author Daniel Leader usually does a good job of describing how dough should look and feel once it has been kneaded, and his description that this dough would become "smooth, resilient, and tacky" as you continue to knead led us to believe that ours wasn't quite right.

Still, we resisted the urge to add more flour and turned it into an oiled container to rise. The dough actually felt less sticky once it had risen, and we were able to shape it into rounds with just a light dusting of flour.

When we finally sampled the baked loaf, our eyes (and mouths!) popped with surprise. So good! So different than last time!

The crust was surprisingly soft and chewy, especially since high-moisture doughs usually have a very crispy crust. As compared with other rustic loafs, the crust was also comparatively thin - not bad thing, but just something worth noting.

The crumb was very tight with lots of tiny, evenly-shaped air pockets. Visually, it was was a soft tan with flecks of darker rye and whole wheat. It was soft and pillowy in the mouth, tasting of malty wheat and just a hint of sourdough tang.

It makes fantastic sandwich bread, as we can attest after a week of lunches! We think the flavor is mild enough to please folks who might otherwise shy away from whole wheat or sourdough breads, but it still has enough complexity to stand out over any store-bought bread.

We're glad we gave this recipe a second try!

• Buy Daniel Leader's book, Local Breads for $23.10 on Amazon.

Related: Recipe Review: Oatmeal Toasting Bread

(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)

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