Gros Pain

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From the Essential Pépin tv series, Episode 117: Rollin' In Dough

Gros pain, or “big bread,” was the regular daily home bread of every French family when I was a kid. It is a bit coarser in texture than a baguette and less expensive, and it keeps longer. —Jacques Pépin

Makes 1 large loaf

4 1/2 cups (1 1/2 pounds) bread flour, preferably organic, plus 3 tablespoons for kneading and for sprinkling on the loaves
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 cups cool water (approximately 70 degrees)
1 tablespoon cornmeal or farina

Put the 4 1/2 cups flour, the salt, yeast, and the 2 cups water in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or the bowl of a large food processor. If using a mixer, beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until a smooth, elastic dough forms. If using a food processor, process the mixture for about 45 seconds on low speed if your processor has variable speeds, or for about 30 seconds if your processor has only one speed. (The temperature of the dough should not exceed 75 degrees.)


Transfer the dough to a plastic bucket (preferable) or a large deep ceramic or stainless steel bowl. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (about 70 degrees) for about 3 hours, until doubled in bulk.

Break down the dough by bringing the outer edges into the center and pressing down to release the air inside. Lift the dough from the bucket with one hand and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the remaining flour into the bucket with the other. Return the dough to the bucket and knead it until the flour is incorporated and the dough is elastic, about 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball, stretching and pinching it together underneath so it is nicely rounded and taut on top.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and sprinkle the cornmeal on top. Place the dough seam side down on the sheet and cover it with the overturned bowl or bucket. Let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled. Alternatively, let it rise, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Sprinkle the top of the dough with the remaining tablespoon of flour. Cut several slits across the top of the loaf with a serrated knife. Place the loaf in the oven. Using a spray bottle filled with tap water, mist the interior of the oven a few times to create steam (CAUTION: do not use this step if there is an exposed light bulb in your oven), then quickly close the door. After 5 minutes, mist again. Bake the loaf for 15 minutes longer, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for 1 hour longer, or until brown.

Cool the bread on a rack for at least 3 hours before slicing.

More Essential Pépin television episode information

Copyright © 2011 by Jacques Pépin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.