Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame

Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame

I am a bread addict. Yes. I confess. And since I have moved to Paris, it has gotten worse and worse. Have you seen the boulangeries here? They are crazy! Bread is simply too good to say no to. Especially when on your way home you resist boulangerie number one, also number two, but unfortunately (or should I say luckily?) you can’t look the other way, yet again, when you walk by boulangerie number three. This city is invaded by boulangeries! They are everywhere. Really. So naturally, every day I come back home with half a baguette. This is my way of resisting French bread: I never, or almost never buy a whole baguette ;).
So much bread around me made me want to make my own. Why not right? And I had the perfect excuse for it too.
For almost 3 months I've been hosting dinners at my apartment in Paris. My boyfriend helps me with the service part of the evening, a super cool waiter, if I may say so! We have had guests sitting at our table from the four corners of the world. So far, it has been a very fulfilling experience! A great ride. We are lucky enough to meet new, exiting people every week! This allows me get creative, and try to come up with different main courses, entrees, appetizers, and desserts. It keeps me on point. It’s a challenge putting together a beautiful meal in a tiny kitchen. Really. But who doesn't like a challenge?
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
So I decided I was going to serve homemade bread at my dinner parties. Yes. I don't only love eating bread, but I also love making bread. It's relaxing to me, working the dough, shaping the bread, the whole process. I even love the part where I have to wait for hours. It is with great pride that I announce that I have mastered my impatience through bread making. Miracles do exist people!!
This brilliant idea I had has allowed me to study bread a little. And I am rather enjoying it. This will be only the first of many bread posts I imagine. And I'm hoping to keep learning the art of bread making and sharing it here with you.
I've made bread before, on many occasions, but usually bread that didn't take very long to make and fermentation was obtained by adding bakers yeast to the dough. This choice of process was due to the fact that the recipes I had, I learnt at school. Usually we needed to start a product and finish it by the end of the class, so naturally the bread recipe of choice needed to be adapted to a time frame of about 2 h and 30 minutes.
When I was at Ecole Lenôtre, we had a few weeks during which we learned the art of bread making. French "boulangerie", no less. Because the format of courses there is different, (they last a week) so is the approach on teaching how to make bread. We didn't need to rush: we had all week! In all of the recipes there we used a natural starter, as well as yeast. We actually made the natural starter ourselves!
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
The fact of using a natural starter makes the bread taste even better, and it also slows down the fermentation process. They say bread shouldn't be rushed :). The good news is that after you make your starter you can keep it for a long time, as long as you "feed it" every 3 days approximately. So it is a one-time job really. And you can make your own super tasty bread anytime you want. Which is kind of cool.
A while back I bought Eric Kayser's Bread Book. Kayser is a bread making artisan in Paris, and I love his bread. When I started reading the book, I realized that baker yeast and a starter/levain was required in every recipe. Evidently if I was going to attempt any of the recipes in the book I had to make one myself.
He uses a mixture of natural yeast, aka. the bread starter, aka. the "levain", and of baker's yeast. Although the quantity of baker's yeast used is very very small. He uses it to accelerate a little the fermentation process, otherwise if only using the starter, it would be much much longer. I thought it was a good compromise. Also, in his book Monsieur Kayser uses a liquid starter, which is so easy to make you won't even believe it.
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
And because good bread, fresh bread, homemade bread really makes everything better I'd like to share with you a quick recipes where bread is a real protagonist. A French classic I can't go without for long: croque madame. Almost on every menu in the Parisian brasserie circuit, however the homemade version is still a winner. Especially with this bread!
Let's get started.
Happy Cooking.
Liquid "Levain" / Liquid Starter
Ingredients
Makes 500 g
Rye flour 140 g
Water (20 degrees Celsius) 240 g
Honey 10 g
Bread flour 100 g – T65 in France – 00 or 000 if you have the 0 classification system like in Argentina for example
Procedure
It takes 15 minutes to make over 4 days!
Day 1: In a bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix 20 g of rye flour with 20 g of water and add 5 g of liquid honey. Cover with kitchen towel and let it rest for 24 hours at room temperature. If the starter forms a crust you should mix again.
Tip: Important! I started off on the wrong foot, because I left my starter near the oven, and I literally killed it :(. So my advice to you is to keep it in a place far away from the oven and far away form any source of heat (heater, stove, you name it). In case you make the same mistake as mine, you need to start over! I had to. Unfortunately I only realized this the next day when I went to "feed" it.
Day 2: Bubbles have developed in the surface! If they don't then something went wrong. This is how I realized I'd killed my "levain". Get a bigger bowl, and mix 40 g of rye flour, with 40 g of water and 5 g of liquid honey. Mix in the preparation you obtained after day 1. This operation is called "refreshment" or in fancy French "rafraichir le levain". Cover with kitchen towel and let it ferment for 24 hours at room temperature.
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Day 3: Get an even bigger recipient and mix together 80 g of rye flour with 80 g of water. Mix in the day 2 preparation. Cover with kitchen towel and let it ferment for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 4: Add 100 g of regular bread flour and 100 g of water. Mix together. Your "levain" is ready to be used. It should have the consistency of a thick crepe mix.
Conservation
Keep your "levain" in a glass container (it should have a lid!), without closing it. It should always be in contact with air.
The "levain" will stay active during 3 days following its refreshment. So every 3 days you should feed it (if you want to keep it alive and going) by adding 50% of its weight of flour and water (in equal parts). So for instance, say you have 300 g of "levain", you should add 75 g of flour and 75 g of water to it.
The "levain" is a living thing, so it must be fed to keep it alive.
If you don’t do bread that often or if room temperature is too high, close the pot and keep it in the fridge. You should feed it before using if you kept it in the fridge.
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
La Boule
Ingredients
Makes 1 Bread of 950 g approximately (or you can make two smaller ones)
Bread flour 500 g
Water (20 degrees C) 375 g
Levain 100 g
Bakers yeast 2 g
Salt 10 g
Procedure
If you are using a Stand Mixer (with the hook attachment)
Add all the ingredients in the bowl of the stand mixer and mix for 4 minutes at slow speed and then during 6 minutes at a high speed.
By hand
In a bowl add in the flour and make a hole in the middle. Pour half the water, the "levain", the baker's yeast and the salt. Mix. Add the rest of the water and work the dough until all of the flour has been absorbed.
Transfer the dough onto your work surface and knead until it is soft and smooth. To knead you should tap the dough against your counter, fold it and repeat the movement.
Pointage or First Fermentation
Shape the dough into a ball and cover with a humid kitchen towel. Let it grow for 1 h 30 minutes. At the end it will have gained some volume.
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Façonnage
Flour your work surface. Get the dough and turn it over. Watch the video to see how to shape the dough into a tight a ball. It's called "façonnage" in French.
Second Fermentation
Turn the tight ball over (so that the closing is looking up) onto a floured round plastic recipient. Cover with a slightly humid kitchen towel and let it rest for 2 hours.
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Scoring
Turn your bread onto an oven tray lined with parchment paper. Using a cutter, score your bread as shown in the pictures that follow.
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Cooking
15 minutes before the end of the fermentation pre heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius, and place an empty tray at the bottom of your oven.
Just before putting your bread in pour 1/2 a glass of water onto the empty tray.
Cook for about 30 minutes, or golden brown. (It will depend on your oven!)
Once it's cooked, transfer onto a rack and let it cool down before eating!
Once it's cooked, transfer onto a rack and let it cool down before eating!
Ok, so now you can eat your bread :). I propose a recipe in which this delicious bread can be utilized. It's called "Croque Madame". Very very French. And it's topped with a fried egg. Say no more, and let's get to it.
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Croque Madame
Ingredients
Makes 2 croques
Gruyère (grated) 100 g
Egg yolk 1 u
Béchamel sauce 100 g
Ham 2 slices
Salt
Pepper
Nutmeg
Egg 2 u
Bread 4 slices
For the Béchamel Sauce
Makes 500 g

Butter 30 g
All-purpose flour 30 g
Whole milk 500 g
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
For the "appareil à croque"

Béchamel 100 g
Egg yolk 1 u
Gruyere (grated) 60 g
For the Finishing Touches
Bread 4 slices
Ham 2 slices
Gruyere (grated) 40 g
Appareil à croque
Fried egg 2 u
Procedure
For the Béchamel Sauce
In pot over high heat melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk together. Cook for about 3 minutes whisking from time to time. Pour in the milk whisking at the same time.
Cook until the sauce thickens whisking from time to time (or all the time as you prefer) so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes whisking energetically. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cover with plastic wrap in contact with the surface. You can keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
For the "Appareil à Croque"
Mix together the béchamel, the egg yolk and the grated gruyere. Rectify seasoning if necessary.
For the Finishing Touches
Turn on the oven grill.
Pour neutral oil onto a pan over medium-high heat.
Slice the bread.
Get two slices and cover each one with a slice of ham and half the gruyere you have left.
Spread half the "appareil à croque" onto each of the remaining bread slices. They are the top part of the sandwich you are making! Assemble the sandwiches so that the slices with the "appareil" stay on top!
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Bake in the oven until golden.
While the sandwiches are in the oven, make your fried eggs.
When the oil is really hot, break the eggs onto the pan and cook until que egg whites have set and begin to color in the borders (1 or 2 minutes).
Transfer each fried egg onto each sandwich or "croque". Now you can enjoy them!
Homemade Bread Featuring Croque Madame
Bon appétit.
Preparation Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:
8 servings
Calories: 2797 cal
Carbohydrate: 405 g
Fat: 72 g
Protein: 120 g
Sodium: 5 757 mg
Sugar: 10 g

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