Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pain d'epeautre Ordinaire (Plain French Bread with Spelt)

Since I missed the most recent FFWD recipe, I decided to do a substitute post: my favorite bread recipe.

This bread is very close in flavor and texture to all-white flour French bread. I like it because it has a soft but slightly chewy crumb, a nutritious amount of whole grain without any bitter whole-wheat taste, and is not made with a starter. My kids especially like it because it is not too dense for sandwiches and tastes better than loaves made with whole wheat flour (even white whole wheat).

For years I made most of our breads with a starter and with at least some whole grain flour for nutrition’s sake. I often had two types of starter going in my refrigerator or would start one the night before for a particular recipe. While we still like these breads, this new loaf is now our favorite and has turned out to be easier and more foolproof than any other bread I’ve tried.

For the best texture, I keep the sprouted spelt flour to no more than one cup. I do use more spelt flour when I am the only one home, however, my family likes the texture best with one cup or less of the spelt. The bread is also great with 3 cups of bread flour and no spelt at all. Also, instead of sprouted spelt flour, I have tried sprouted whole wheat flour, as well as a combination of sprouted whole wheat and sprouted spelt flours. The spelt is the best; I do not like sprouted whole wheat flour. It makes for a mushier loaf. Supposedly, sprouted whole wheat and sprouted spelt flours can be substituted directly for white flours, however, I have found that is not the case, more drastically so with the sprouted whole wheat. I tried sprouted whole wheat for a 100% whole wheat bread recipe once and it was terrible. I made the same loaf with all sprouted spelt flour and it was much better.

My starting point for this bread was the Pain Ordinaire from my favorite bread book, Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine (Eckhardt and Butts). In addition to almost all of the regular wheat & rye breads from this book, we also love the Golden Greek Hot Cross Buns, Raisin in the Rye Rolls, Milk Rolls, Chocolate-Cranberry Gugelhupf, and Pane alla Cioccolata. I'll also recommend two more of our favorites: Sweet Brioche with Dried Cherries from Bread Machine Baking Perfect Every Time (Brody and Apter) and the Rustic Potato Loaves from Baking with Julia (Dorie Greenspan).

Pain d'epeautre Ordinaire

  1             c  sprouted whole spelt flour (OR 1/2 c sprouted whole spelt flour and 1/4 cup "Hi-maize Resistant Starch)
  1/8          c  rye flour
  1 1/2        t  instant yeast
  1 1/4        t  salt (or as little as 1 t)
  2              t  (or more) vital wheat gluten (optional)
  2             c  bread flour
  1/4           c  seeds and/or grains (optional)
  1 1/4        c  water
  1              egg white whisked with 2 t water (optional - I usually skip it)

1.  Add dough ingredients to bread machine pan in the order listed.
2.  Process on the dough setting (20 minutes = preheat; 20 minutes knead; 70 minutes = rise). The final dough should be fairly moist & sticky but still formed into a ball.
3.  Gently remove dough to lightly floured silpat or more heavily floured counter top.
4.  Press dough down or knead it to remove air bubbles (I do not knead the dough). You may need several dustings of flour - just use as little extra flour as possible to keep dough from sticking to your hands.
5.  Form into a fairly tight ball.
6.  Cover with a large bowl and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
7.  Put a piece of parchment paper inside a heavy 5-quart or 6-quart pot.
8. With floured hands, gently flatten dough on a lightly floured silpat or counter top to remove air bubbles and then shape as desired.
9.  Place loaf on the parchment, spray with a little water, and cover the pot. Let rise for 20 minutes.
10. After 20 minutes, turn the oven on to 450º.
11. Let bread continue to rise until almost doubled in bulk; 10 to 40 more minutes.
12. Brush the loaf with the egg wash (optional) and make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes that are about ¼” deep (I use a sharp, serrated paring knife dipped in water).
13. Bake the bread in the uncovered pot for 4 minutes.
14. Spray the bread with some water or spray/dribble some water on the inside of the pot lid (do not let any water get on the oven door glass or it might crack!). Cover the pot and bake for 14 to 20  minutes.
15. Remove pot lid; bake the bread in the uncovered pot for 12 minutes.
16. Remove bread from the pot and bake bread directly on oven rack for 4 to 5 minutes. The bread will be around 210º usually  ends up higher if you want the crust brown on the bottom. Cover with a piece of foil if getting too dark.
17. Remove bread to cooling rack and let sit for at least two hours before slicing. Let sit for three or more hours before freezing.

- I use SAF-Instant Red or SAF-Instant Gold yeast (note that instant yeast is not the same as quick-rise yeast).
- For a round loaf, I use a heavy 5-quart Dutch oven and for an oblong loaf, I use an oval 6.3-quart Dutch oven (Emile Henry Flame Top).
- Handle the bread gently when removing from pot to oven...the sides will still be a little soft and it is easy to crush the bread at this point. Using "glove" style potholders works best  for this maneuver.
- When adding the seeds or nuts, you do not need to add more water. My favorite mixture is Harvest Grains Blend from King Arthur Flour (whole oat groats, wheat flakes, rye flakes, midget sunflower seed kernels, toasted sesame seeds, flax-seed, poppy seeds,  and hulled millet). I also like to use just whole ground flaxseed meal.
- Takes about 3 1/2 hours from start to finish plus 2 hours for resting = 5 1/2 hours start to serve.
- The vital wheat gluten is helpful in certain weather or when using more spelt flour.

 Store in a paper bag the first one to two days. After that, store in a paper bag loosely set in a plastic bag. The bread is best fresh on the day it is made. It is still good the next day but, like real French bread, the crust is softer and the inside a little dryer. For several more days, it is still great for toast. Also freezes well.


  1. I apologize if I'm leaving this comment twice (I lost the first one, somehow!) This is fascinating! I'm usually afraid of these unusual grains, but the way you've described the spelt makes me want to try this. I've also been meaning to try these Dutch oven breads. I don't have a bread machine anymore, but I used to make the (plain) pain ordinaire (or not-so-ordinaire) from Rustic European Breads ALL the time...even just so I could have homemade breadcrumbs.

  2. Hi Audrey! So great to know someone else who has baked from this book! I just love that pain ordinaire. My recipe tastes so close to that recipe but with the added nutrition - I hope you will try it sometime (worth a bread machine, imho :). The spelt has such a great flavor but is really mild. Making the recipes from that book with the Dutch oven method has hugely improved my breads. Which is good because I bake at least three loaves a week, usually the recipe above.

    I've also made the basic no-knead bread from "My Bread" by Jim Lahey which is a pot-oven bread. I make the part whole wheat version with white whole wheat or sprouted spelt. It is so easy! The loaves are on the flat side and really really chewy with a thick crust but, surprisingly, not a lot of flavor. I changed the recipe by adding 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup of starter and some vital wheat gluten. This makes a fantastic super-sourdough loaf.

  3. If anyone does try this recipe, note that it has been edited...the amount of rye flour should be 1/8 cup (originally, I posted 1/3 cup).

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Also, I just edited the recipe to add vital wheat gluten...I've needed it sometimes to get a better rise and texture, especially when using more spelt flour.

  6. I just edited this again for more different ingredients and I tweaked the baking method.