Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, and Recipes

Moving-and-starting-over author Peter Mayle joins with Gerard Auzet, the owner of a highly esteemed bakery in the Provence town of Cavaillon to share the secrets, tips, and recipes the Auzet family has acquired in their long stints as master bakers.

It was nice to hear about bread making from someone who has been doing this for such a long time.

Gerard Auzet keeps it simple. The most important thing is using only the best ingredients, obtaining some basic equipment, and "having the ability to count up to 56." The counting is new to me, a long time baker, but with perhaps a bit less experience than Auzet. What is the counting about? "This is 56 degrees centigrade, the combined temperature of the air in the kitchen, the flour, and the water...A degree or so of difference among these three doesn't matter as long as the total adds up to 56." Interesting.

I was most taken with the idea of baking bread with wine. What would adding wine to the dough do to the flavor of the bread? Here is one of the bread-with-added-wine recipes I tried.

Walnut & Red Wine Yeast Bread

 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached, 8 oz.)
 1 3/4 cups bread flour (unbleached, 8 oz.)
 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (1/4 oz.)
 5/8 cup water (at 90-100-degrees F. 5 oz.)
 5 ounces red wine (5/8 cup)
 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (1/2 ounce)
 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped (12 oz.)

Step 1
Sift the flour and salt together into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and mix on medium to low speed, gradually add the water and wine, until the dough comes away from the bowl, between 5 - 10 minutes. Scatter the walnuts evenly over the dough and continue mixing until they are incorporated.

Step 2
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and set it on the counter to rest for 10 minutes. Return it to the mixing bowl and place on the mixer so the dough hook plunges into the middle of the dough. Mix on medium speed until the dough is soft and pliable, about 15-20 minutes or until the dough passes the "windowpane" test (refer to WINDOW PANE TEST, below).

Step 3
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl onto a counter and gather it up in your hands in a rough ball. Bring the full length of your thumbs into the center of the ball so that they meet, and stretch the dough from the center out, as if opening a book, into an oblong shape. Turn the dough a quarter turn and stretch the dough again the same way, creating a smooth ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and set aside in a draft-free place at room temperature until the dough doubles in size, in about 45 minutes.

Step 4
Gently remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean surface. Cut the dough into 2 pieces (about 1 pound each) and shape it into 2 small balls again, as you did before the first rise. Find a surface in your kitchen from drafts and lay a kitchen towel dusted with flour on it. Place the balls on the towel and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to prevent a crust from forming on the surface. Leave the loaves to proof at room temperature until they double in size, in about 20-25 minutes.

Step 5
Shape the loaves by first patting down the balls to allow the carbonic gasses that have developed to disperse. To make boules, gather up the dough in a rough ball and shape it as inn Step 3. To make the batards, pat down the dough and shape it into a rough 4-by-10-inch rectangle. With a long side facing you, fold the bottom third of the dough to the center and press to seal it. Fold the top over it and seal along the edge.

Step 6
Place the loaves, seam side down, on thekitchen towels dusted with flour and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the loaves rise at room temperature for the final time until they have doubled in size, about 35-45 minutes.

Step 7
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450-degrees F. Carefully place the loaves on a baking sheet. Brush them with water using a pastry brush. With a sharp razor blade, make a lozenge-shaped cut on the surface of each loaf by scoring it from end to end in 2 swift motions. To do this successfully, use just the tip of the blade.

Step 8
Just before you are ready to slide the baking sheet into the oven, spray the inside of the oven with water using a spray bottle or plant mister and close the door immediately. This will create steam, which promotes a good crust. Put the bread in the oven and bake for 25-25 minutes or until it makes a hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of it with your knuckles. Transfer the bread to a rack and allow it to cool before slicing.

Step 9
Makes 2 loaves.

How to Perform the Windowpane Test: When you knead bread dough, either by hand or in a mixer, you are developing the glutens, which are the proteins in wheat that give bread its structure and flavor. When the glutens are properly developed, the resulting bread will have that yeasty flavor and the irregular pockets that are the marks of a good loaf. To determine whether the glutens have been fully developed, pull off from the dough a piece about the size of a golf ball. Stretch, pull, and turn it, thining the dough until it forms a translucent membrane (so you can see light passing through it, but not so that you create a hole), or windowpane. If the dough falls apart before it can be stretched into a windowpane, continue kneading several minutes more and repeat the test.


  1. That recipe looks yummy! I've never been a great bread baker. It's hard to get the yeast just right. I've been wondering about the windowpane test. I see the bakers on The Great British Baking Show do it a lot and have always wondered what it meant. Good to know!

    What did the wine do for the bread? Yummy or still up in the air?

    1. The wine gave the bread a dark grain taste, almost like I had used something other than a wheat flour. It added to the complexity of the flavor. I like it.

  2. I wish I'd seen this about a month ago! Rick's birthday is next week and he would love this, I think. I'll still order it but it won't arrive till later! Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. I put French bakers at the head of the class, and I want to know what they do.

  3. That does look good. I'd never thought about wine in bread. Interesting!

    1. I will try to use other wines in bread, I think. I would like to experiment a little more.

  4. I don't think I'll ever master bread. Sigh...

  5. The only way I've ever made bread is in my electric bread maker.

  6. Oh this looks delicious and so unexpected! I don't think I've ever seen wine added to bread but I'm intrigued. I'm adding this book to my Must Get list!

  7. Bread isn't something I've tried a lot, but keep meaning to when I find more time.

  8. A bread dough with wine in it is very interesting, and yours looks great. My husband is the bread baker, and he mostly does sourdough and rye breads.

    best...mae at

  9. This wine idea is fascinating. You almost make me want to make bread again just to try it!! Thanks very much for giving us the recipe.

  10. I love the smell of freshly home made bread - and with a whiff of red wine thrown in - oh my... that would be temptation plus!).... and would definitely sell houses (as per the theory that the smell of bread makes a house feel like home).

  11. This is a very intriguing recipe! And it woud be my kind of book too!

  12. I make bread quite often but the usual is a baguette. I’d never heard of adding wine and this is intriguing. Also I need to get that Peter Mayle book. This is one I hadn’t read and I enjoyed his work.

  13. This is a great sounding book, I will have to check my local library. Thank you.

  14. I don't know anything about baking but this bread sounds delicious. I love fresh baked bread. We try to make some but typically in the fall. Will have to save this recipe.

  15. I'm not a baker but sure enjoy baked goods. These look so enticing. Wish I have a French bakery close by. :)

  16. Red wine in bread!! I've never heard of it, but it sounds very interesting (and possibly delicious)! Also love the title of this book. I'd pick it up for a look, for sure!


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