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This Crusty French Bread is the perfect blend of chewy and super soft. Learn the secret to the crispiest crust that crackles and crunches as you slice.

Prep Time    : 1 hour
Cook Time   : 5 hours 40 mins
Total Time    : 6 hours 40 mins

Servings      : 1 large loaf


·         1 3/4 cups warm water 90˚ to 100˚F
·         1/2 tsp molasses
·         2 1/3 cups 290 grams unbleached bread flour, measured correctly*
·         2 1/2 cups 315 grams unbleached all-purpose flour, measured correctly*
·         1 1/4 tsp 1/2 packet instant yeast (quick rise)
·         2 tsp salt I used fine sea salt
·         All-purpose Flour and semolina flour for dusting


1.  In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand), whisk together 1 3/4 cups warm water and 1/2 tsp molasses until dissolved.
2.   In a large glass or plastic bowl, whisk together 2 1/3 cups bread flour, 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 tsp yeast and 2 tsp salt. Add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until you have a single mass of dough. Using a dough hook or clean hands, knead dough 4 minutes. Dough should be soft and feel sticky to the touch but should not stick to clean and dry finger tips. If your dough is too sticky after kneading, add more flour a tablespoon at a time.
3.   Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp (69-75˚F) for 4 hours. Every hour while it rests (3 times total), with a wet hand, punch the dough down and fold it over onto itself a few times (a wet hand will keep the dough from sticking to you without adding any unnecessary flour).
4.  Meanwhile, place a pizza stone or inverted baking sheet in the center of your oven. Place a cast iron pan on the bottom rack and preheat with both in the oven to 500˚F (for safety, don't use glass baking dishes at those high temps).
5.   After rising a total of 4 hours, draw dough edges into the center, turn over and place in a large well-floured bowl, sprinkle the dough with flour, cover with a tea towel and let rise 1 1/2 hours at room temp.
6.  Sprinkle the back of a baking sheet generously with fine semolina flour and invert your risen dough over the top of the semolina. Score the top of the dough several times. Slide dough onto preheated baking stone with the help of a spatula if needed and add 1 cup of ice cubes into the preheated cast iron pan below (making sure not to drip on any glass oven surfaces). Bake at 500˚F for 10 minutes then reduce temperature to 400˚F and continue baking 30-35 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Turn oven off, crack door open with a wooden spoon and leave bread in the oven another 10 minutes. Remove bread to a wire rack to cool and let it rest at least 15 minutes before cutting into it.

·         *To measure flour correctly, fluff it up then spoon it into measuring cups and scrape off the top for an exact measure.

Recipe from natashaskitchen.com

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