This pane francese recipe turns out a northern Italian bread that’s crusty and chewy and all sorts of incredible. Looks like a baguette, tastes like a ciabatta.
This pane francese recipe, to paraphrase Zachary Golper, who authored one of the best cookbooks in recent years, turns out a loaf of bread that looks like a baguette and tastes like a ciabatta. He describes his pane francese as “creamy tasting and soft textured,” which is to say almost velvety. The unique and indulgent character of the bread reflects the goodly amount of olive oil in the dough, so don’t skimp on that. And if you’re confused about the pronunciation of this bread, so we were. So we looked it up. Repeat after us: “pah-neh frahn-CHEH-zeh.” And if you’re not comfortable working with the baguette shape, you can instead simply bake this as a round loaf in a Dutch oven.–Renee Schettler
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 5 H
- Makes 4 loaves
Special Equipment: Transfer peel, baking peel
IngredientsEmail Grocery List
- For the starter
- For the pane francese dough
- For the dusting mixture
*How To Roll and Tuck
- To roll and tuck the dough, push the dough to one side of the bowl or turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Coax it into a somewhat rectangular shape with a short end facing you. Slide your fingers or scraper 3 inches (8 centimeters) under the far end of the dough and lift it up. Roll it towards you, allowing it to fold onto the rest of the dough, and then push down lightly with the side of your hand, tucking the folded-over end into the mass of dough. Repeat several times until the dough is all rolled up, giving a slight push down on the last roll to leave the dough seam side down. Rotate the dough 90 degrees so the short side is once again facing you. Flip it over, seam side up, and press gently on the seam with your palm hand or the flat side of a scraper to create a roughly rectangular shape, adding the reserved last 1/6 of the flour mixture and, if needed, a small amount of additional all-purpose flour to the bowl or work surface and your hands as needed if the dough is sticky. You should have 3 or 4 rolls along the length of dough. That is one roll and tuck. If the dough is quite sticky at first, have patience, it will strengthen and become more manageable with each roll and tuck. As the dough strengthens, you’ll notice that it begins to resist further rolling. A general rule of thumb is that when the dough becomes difficult to fold and begins to tear, it’s time to stop. Continue rolling and tucking until the dough until it begins to resist any further rolling, about 10 complete roll and tucks.
Recipe Testers Reviews
Let me say that great bread is time-consuming and takes patience. This bread is no exception. I began with the starter late on a Friday night and finished baking the loaf of pane francese late Sunday morning. I suggest reading through the recipe a few times during the preceding days to familiarize yourself with the process. If you bake breads regularly, there is nothing earth-shattering or new here, but if you're a novice, you'll want to pay close attention to the methods.
Having said this, even if you're unfamiliar with the steps, you will still be able to make some wonderful baguette-like loaves with a nice crunchy crust and an almost velvety, soft crumb. Make certain that you bake for the suggested time, as these loaves really are spectacular when finished to a dark golden brown.
Take your time, enjoy the ritual of real bread-making, and fill your home with the aroma of home-baked bread.
The crackly crust, the surprisingly buoyant interior and a flavor that sets it apart from the French baguette makes this loaf worth the effort.
My bread baking skills have been slowly improving over the last year, mostly by working my way through Leite's recipes. When I saw this one, however, I just didn't think there was any possible way that the finished loaves could be worth all the seeming lunacy of the instructions. Much to my surprise, the finished product IS worth it. And, considering that it makes 4 gorgeous loaves, definitely worth the effort.
I read and re-read the instructions before starting and would encourage others to do the same. The recipe isn't difficult at all—it's pretty standard as far as bread goes—but planning the breakdown of the timing is crucial to producing a recipe that you will want to make more than once.
I used the roll and tuck method; I found it increasingly difficult as the count increased but it did result in a very smooth and elastic dough. As well, instead of making a kitchen cloth couche, I used the flour and semolina mixture on my 4 baguette pan and it worked perfectly. It does look intimidating at first glance but by not rushing the dough and doing a little pre-planning, you will be rewarded—four fold—with some really delicious bread.