Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread Recipe

This Pain a l’Ancienne French bread recipe is now our master recipe for French bread, baguettes, ciabatta and pizza. A traditional method that is easy, foolproof and makes a bread that rivals the bread we found in France and the pizza in Italy.


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PAIN A L’ANCIENNE FRENCH BREAD IN FRANCE

Paris, France. We came across this traditional way of making bread called Pain a l’Ancienne (l’Ancienne looks like the word Ancient, but actually means traditional). Pain a l’Ancienne bread gets it’s name by referring to a traditional way of making bread, by allowing it to raise for a long time in a cold place. It is available in a few bakeries in Paris. The bread was truly incredible, with a buttery, almost nutty flavor, a soft interior and a crusty exterior. It was definitely not like the soft American sandwich bread we were accustomed to.


PAIN A L'ANCIENNE FRENCH BREAD
PAIN A L’ANCIENNE FRENCH BREAD

THE SCIENCE OF MAKING PAIN A L’ANCIENNE FRENCH BREAD

It took some research, but we discovered the science behind making this bread. The cold fermentation slows down the yeast and allows the flavor to develop. Over time, the starch in the flour converts to sugars and other flavors are released. However, this process requires about twelve hours, and most recipes allow the bread to raise for only a few hours at room temperature. Putting the dough in a cold place to raise will slow down the yeast while the flavors continue to develop. This is easy to do at home just by putting the dough in the refrigerator. It can be much harder for a bakery to do because of the limited space in the refrigerator, so bakery bread is often made with a portion of refrigerated dough (a poolish or a biga) and a portion of fresh flour and water making the recipes more complicated. This explanation is an over simplification of a much more complicated process, but it does give a clearer picture of why this works.


METHOD FOR MAKING PAIN A L’ANCIENNE FRENCH BREAD

The method for making this bread is to use more water, less yeast and allow the dough to rise in a cold environment for the first twelve hours. Using more water allows the gluten to form naturally without kneading the dough.

The second thing we discovered is that the ovens in France inject steam during the baking process which causes the bread crust to become crispy. A home oven does not have a steam injector. Even if steam is created, many ovens have a fan that would remove it. The French have traditionally used a bread cloche to reproduce the effect of a professional oven. A cloche is a ceramic or metal, often bell shaped vessel that is inverted over the bread as it bakes, keeping the steam from escaping. There are two methods we have tried that have worked well to mimic this. The first was baking the bread in a Dutch oven, and the second was baking it under an inverted tinfoil pan. There are also a variety of traditional cloches available that work well.

The slow rise improves the taste, but also makes it much easier to make. The bread dough can be made in the evening and baked the following day at a convenient time. We make up a batch of dough in just a short time with very little work and put it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning it is ready to shape and bake. We make up a batch of dough almost every week and decide at the last minute what it will be. The ciabatta and pizza are made by adding olive oil – we usually use our homemade garlic olive oil. Variations can be made by using different oil and coating with different nuts or seeds. We have used this recipe for everything from Flammekuchen to seeded baguettes.


INGREDIENTS FOR MAKING PAIN A L’ANCIENNE FRENCH BREAD RECIPE

Ingredients for making Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread Recipe
Ingredients for making Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread Recipe
  • Use the best ingredients – brands matter! We included the brands we used. The flour must be bread flour, which has more protein than all purpose flour, and must be unbleached, since bleaching interferes with the yeast. We use King Arthur because it is a high quality, tastes great and has a consistent amount of protein, which is very important when making bread. We use Diamond Kosher salt. Salt varies between brands and will weigh a different amount for a specific volume, taste different, and will effect the yeast differently. The yeast is saf-instant. I don’t know why, but this brand just works better for us. The Instant yeast is easier to work with and is more reliable because of how it’s processed. The malt syrup adds extra flavor.
  • Use a stand mixer – it makes life so much easier. The recipe requires some working of the dough, but it’s so wet that this is not difficult.
  • Use a scale to measure the ingredients – it is much more accurate and this is especially important when baking. Measuring flour with a measuring cup can be off by as much as a third. Measuring by weight can also be much easier – just put the mixing bowl on the scale and zero the scale before adding each ingredient – so easy. Measuring by weight is so important that all the measurements are given in grams, except the smaller amounts that are more accurate using teaspoons and Tablespoons.

TIPS

  • The dough is made one day, and then refrigerated overnight, making baking flexible.
  • It’s important to wait until the bread is cool (at least an hour) before slicing.

French Bread

PAIN A L’ANCIENNE FRENCH BREAD

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 16
Calories: 132kcal
Author: Lisa LeCoump

Equipment

  • kitchen scale
  • Stand Mixer with paddle and dough hook attachments
  • parchment paper
  • dutch oven

CHOOSING BRANDS:

For certain products, the choice of brand will make a big difference in the outcome of the recipe and in your carbon footprint. So, for those products, we have listed the brand. We are not paid to mention a brand and have no affiliates.

Ingredients

Instructions

DOUGH

  • Using a scale, measure the flour and the salt into the mixing bowl. Stir and then add the yeast, barley malt syrup and water.
    Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread Recipe
  • Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and wait 5 minutes.
    Paddle attachment for Mixer
  • Switch to the dough hook, and mix on low for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and wait 10 minutes. Mix again on low for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and wait 10 minutes. Mix again on low for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and wait 10 minutes.
    Dough Hook attachment for Mixer
  • Using a spoon, lift a corner of the dough and fold it over the top. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and do this again. Fold it like this a total of eight times.
    Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread dough
  • Put the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl with enough room for it to double in size. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (12-16 hours)
    Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread dough

ON BAKING DAY

  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Shape it into a boule.
    Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread Recipe
  • Put the boule in a basket or on parchment paper. Oil the top and cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap.
    Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread Recipe
  • Let the dough rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
  • Place the Dutch oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. for at least 30 minutes.
  • Remove the dutch oven from the oven. Leaving the boule on the parchment paper, lift it into the dutch oven. Using a scissors or sharp knife, make a few cuts around the top of the boule. Drizzle a Tablespoon of water onto the boule. Place the lid on the dutch oven and return it to the oven.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the lid on the dutch oven. Continue baking for about 15 to 20 minutes until the bread is golden brown.
  • Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack. It's important to wait until the bread is cool (at least an hour) before slicing.

Nutrition

Calories: 132kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 292mg | Potassium: 44mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 0.003mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 0.3mg

WHY THIS RECIPE IS SUSTAINABLE:

Check out the chart below to see how food choices affect climate change.

By Hannah Ritchie - https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=114706754

By Hannah Ritchie – https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local, CC BY-SA 4.0

https://tonyfitzgeraldphotography.com/2021/07/02/pain-a-lancienne-french-bread/
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Nutrition Facts
PAIN A L'ANCIENNE FRENCH BREAD
Amount per Serving
Calories
132
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
1
g
2
%
Saturated Fat
 
0.1
g
1
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
0.3
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
0.1
g
Sodium
 
292
mg
13
%
Potassium
 
44
mg
1
%
Carbohydrates
 
26
g
9
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
0.3
g
0
%
Protein
 
5
g
10
%
Vitamin A
 
1
IU
0
%
Vitamin C
 
0.003
mg
0
%
Calcium
 
6
mg
1
%
Iron
 
0.3
mg
2
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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2 Replies to “Pain a l’Ancienne French Bread Recipe”

  1. This recipe sounds wonderful. My husband recently bought me a Cuisinart Steam Oven and I’ve been searching for a crusty bread recipe. Do you know how the French would bake this recipe in a steam oven?

    1. Wow! This should be the perfect recipe for this oven. And, of course, you would not use the Dutch oven. I would love to know how it turns out. Maybe you could send me a picture. : )

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