New Orleans French Bread & Po-boy Bread


I started this discussion but a computer glitch blew away all that I had posted before I submitted it, so I am going to submit the subject so that I ncan return to it without losing the data.

badge posted by: artarnold on August 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm in General discussions
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reply by: artarnold on August 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm

"Creole Breads"

Perhaps no branch of Creole cookery so interests visitors to New Orleans as our Creole Breads.
Our Bakers Bread, or Pain de Boulanger, of itself stands unique among the breads of the United States, and has been bthe subject of more than one interesting newspaper and magazine articles.
It has the peculiarity that one never tires of it, as they do of other breads, an the reason for this is that it is of exquisite lightness, white and tender, of an even porous character, with a thin crisp crust, and one cannot just eat one piece, no home-made bread in the U.S. stands to compare vwith it.
Bakers' Bread is the daily offering, morning, noon and night, on every New Oreleans table."

This is an excerpt from one of my books on Creole Cooking.
New Orleans French Bread stands alone in its taste and quality.
I must admit that I have tried numerous times to recreate this wonder of breads, that I enjoyed the better part of my life.
New Orleans French Bread and Po-Boy Bread of the nature and quality stated above is very hard to come by in New Orleans today. Most of the bakers have started using pre-made frozen dough which can never compare in any way with the old method of baking this bread.
In my Muffaletta post I was asked about New Orleans French Bread and Po-boy bread, so I am going to throw out all I have on the making of these breads, in the hope that one of you great bakers will be succede where I have failed, and produce a great loaf of New Orleans French Bread. Maybe King Arthur Bakers will jump in and give it a try.
I nwill guarantee that if you are successful, you will find that it is the absolute best Bread,. you have ever tasted.
The Old New Orleans bakers always used compressed yeast for leavening bread, as it does noit necessitate making a ferment or setting ponge before mixing the dough.
They also use only "Hard Wheat Flour" and Crisco in their recipes.

"Bakers' Bread (Pain de Boulanger" from Creole Baking
Rised the bread at 75 degrees fahrenhite
Bake at 360 degrees, or hot enough to raise the inside of the bread to 220 degrees. This is necessary to cook the starch, expand the carbonic gas, steam and air, and also to drive off the alcohol which is used in the yeas
1 oz compressed yeast
1-1/2 oz salt
2 qurts water
Enough hard wheat flour to make a smooth dough

Allow once ounce of compressed yeasy to one qt. of luke warm water, and mix well in a wooden bread trough. Then add flour enough to make a nice smooth dough of medium degree, not too stiff, nor too soft. Work it well, and then l,et it stand for about 5 hours, or begins to fall (you csn tell this by watching the sides of the dough), add the same amouint of water tht was used in making the dough, putting 2 teaspoonsfull of salt into the water before adding it.
Work this well, and then throw down on the table, cut and mold the dough into loaves of whatever length is desired, and take a smooth stick and press lightly down across the loaf about 2 inches from the edge. The bakers put the loaves into nthe oven without setting into a pan. Watch carefully, and see that the oven is of the temperature mentioned above.
By following these directions, you will have anice, fresh, sweet New Orleans Bakers' Bread.
The above quantity will make about 5 loaves.

This is the 1st part of Creole Baking.

FRENCH BREAD (Pain Francais)
an ounce of yeast
1-1/2 ozs salt
2 qts water
1-1/2 ozs sugar
Enough hard wheat flour to make a smooth dough

Proceede as above to start except;
When it begins to sink, weork it well again and set it bto rise anew.
When well nrisen divide intoequal pieces, and mold into round ball shapes, or into long loaves of nabout 2 inches in thickness. Lay the loaves on a board previously sprinkled with flour nx at sufficient distances apart not to touch one another, and let rise again.
Have the oven heated , transfer the loaves into it, coat with an egg wash and make diagonal cuts half way across each loaf, half way through, and cloe oven.
When baked,brush off the flour, wipe with nadamp cloth and the breadis ready to serve.

All of the above is from my old "Creole Cookbook"

I mentioned in my Muffaletta thread that it is believed that the water and altitude oif New Orleans is a primary factor in successfully making this bread. I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS. think that it is an old wives tale$, just something mystical thet someone has thrown out.
New Orleans water supply is from the Mississippi River.
I tried making the bread using the same water and altitude an was unsuccessful. I believe that bthe success is in the baker
not the place of baking.
I will mleave this thread now and later will post the mnodern day recipes for everyone to try.
Waiting for your comments.

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm
Mike Nolan

I don't entirely discount the impact that water can have on breads.

There was a show on TV where they tested 3 kinds of water with pizza dough (same recipe for all 3) and all of the tasters picked the pizza made with New York City water as the best.

reply by: Mrs Cindy on August 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm
Mrs Cindy

I agree with Mike. Water CAN make the difference. New York pizza dough is New York pizza dough because of the water. New Orleans bread is the same animal because of the water. If I get a chance to get to New Orleans this fall, I will get some of the water and try a little test. What say? Am I on? Any takers?


reply by: artarnold on August 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Well,since I have used the water and am in the right altitude, and the results are not right, I have to assume that it is the baker.
Remember I hae eaten this bread most of my life, and I hasve followed the recipe (not the ones above) to the letter, and the results are much less than I care to admit.
So, it is the Baker!
I will post the recipe I have used and is closest to the Bakery recipe.

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 24, 2011 at 1:03 pm
Mike Nolan

As any regular reader of the BC can confirm, one of the most frequent requests is to duplicate some commercial bakery product, usually one that isn't available any more.

It is also among the hardest of requests to fulfill.

The main reason for this is that commercial bakeries have much different equipment, primarily the ovens, but also proofing boxes and mixers.

And in the case of very large scale bakeries (think 'Wonder Bread'), the entire process is radically different from home baking. Take a tour of a large commercial bakery some time, it is fascinating.

Ingredients can also play a role, as sometimes bakeries have access to ingredients home bakers can't easily purchase.

Everything else is just technique and proportions, both of which we home bakers should be able to approximate, given enough time and trials.

The equipment issue is hard to fix, so let's look at the ingredients issue.

Maybe the water is unique, maybe it isn't, I don't think we'll settle that issue now (if ever.) :-)

However, many 'Southern' breads use a softer lower protein flour, because that's the type of wheat more commonly grown in the South.

What kind of flour are you using?

reply by: artarnold on August 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Hard wheat flour is the perferred type for the this type of bread.

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm
Mike Nolan

That's what the recipe calls for, yes, but it may or may not be what the production bakeries in New Orleans were actually using.

(Far too often the 'copycat' recipes for commercial breads are enough different from the actual recipe as to be useless. I recently watched an episode of Sugar High on the Food Network. There is a recipe posted, supposedly from the bakery, but it has several IMHO significant changes from what they showed on TV.)

And 'hard wheat flour' covers a pretty broad range of flours.

Large bakeries have access to a wider variety of flours than home bakers do, too. And if they're big enough, they can contract with millers for precisely the flour they want.

reply by: artarnold on August 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm

The recipe I have is not a copycat recipe, it is from a true and trusted baker with a long standing reputation in the New Orleans area. We have been friends for many years. I buy the Hard Wheat Flour from the same place he does, in 25# bags.
I have a commercial stove in my kitchen. I am aware of the fact that commercial bakers use weight measurements for their recipes, but what I am trying to accomplish here is to perfect a recipe that truly reflects the real French Bread of the past.
I know that it may not be perfect, but I want it to be as true to the origionl product as possible.
I have consulted with my baker friend about my inability to produce a product to my satisfaction, but he agrees that it may be the baker not the ingredients.
This is my reason to throw out the recipe and history of the bread.
I was asked in my Muffaletta thread if I had reciopes for French Bread or Po-boy bread, this is in answer to those request.
My inability to produce a product to my satisfaction, has no bearing on other community member.
But I do understand what you are saying.
I am a Chef primarily, my baking is something that I would like to get much better, given the time.

reply by: artarnold on August 24, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I have attempted to post the French Bread Recipe 3 times, and each time after spending an hour typing it in,when I go to submit it, something happens to my internet connection and it goes blank--LOST. Very frutrating.

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 24, 2011 at 4:03 pm
Mike Nolan

Oh, that is frustrating!

Looking at the recipe in the lead post, 2 quarts of water is 8 cups.

A 'normal' ratio of flour to water is about 3 cups of flour for every cup of water. So that would mean 24 cups of flour, which is beyond the capacity of home mixers.

Converting that recipe to baker's math using 4.25 ounces per cup of flour as recommended by King Arthur (and assuming I haven't made any errors), I get:

Flour: 100%
Water: 64%
Yeast: 0.98%
Salt: 1.47%

The hydration level (64%) is about right (possibly a little high, but the instructions call for adjusting it to get a good dough), the salt is about right, though possibly at the low end, the yeast might be a tad low, but I don't work with cake yeast. However, I don't think you indicated that failure to rise properly was an issue.

I assume you're kneading it sufficiently.

So, if we've eliminated the ingredients and the proportions as issues, I guess we're left with technique and baking issues.

This may be a bread that needs multiple rises to develop flavor and/or steam in the oven.

360 degrees is lower than what I use for most breads, I prefer 375 if not 400, sometimes higher than that. (Baguettes start out at 500.) A higher temperature will produce more caramelization of the crust.

reply by: tgeer on August 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm

I, too, agree with Mike. After all, there are different tastes of sourdough, depending on where the starter was made. There is a definite difference between Seattle and San Francisco sourdough's. I don't see why that would be any different with water.

reply by: artarnold on August 25, 2011 at 1:25 am

Remember Mike, this recipe is from an old Creole Cookbook that was published before 1900. I just posted it so that everyone could see what and how they made French Bread, and they are baking in a wood fired oven, and the mixing was done by hand.
When I saw that second batch of water would indicate to me that it would be more of a slush than something that is ready to be kneaded.
I have been trying to post that recipe that I got from my baker friend, which is pretty much on the mark for French Bread, (that I have tried several times to make, but did not come out to my satisfaction), but every time I get it ready to submit,k somethjinh happens to the internet connection and my submission goes blank, althouigh I am still connected. Its crazy.

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 25, 2011 at 9:39 am
Mike Nolan

I did the analysis on that old recipe mostly to see if it seemed balanced. It did.

A couple of years ago my wife found a book in the library from the 1800's on bread.

A typical recipe read something like this:

"Grind a peck of wheat, add enough water, flour and salt to make a good dough, and a pinch of old dough."

Really useful, eh?

Wood fired ovens generally tend to be quite hot and the wood smoke adds to the flavor of the bread. I wonder if they used bayou woods?

Your posting problem is really curious, you might want to drop a note to Joe Caron at KAF about it.

In the interim, you could post the recipe in this thread, updating it in stages.

Whenever I write a length post (here or elsewhere), I make sure to save a copy of it every few minutes and especially just before trying to post it. That saves me a lot of grief.

reply by: artarnold on August 26, 2011 at 12:35 am

Thanks for the informationm, I will get on it.
I can't seem to save these posts while writing, I tried. How do you do it. I'm pretty computer savy, but I have not found a way to save or print my posts, except after it's posted.
Called one of my old sources (he's 96) and asked about the wood used in those old brick ovens.
He said that they used Pecan, Oak and sometimes tar blocks.
We had a lot of pecan trees down her at one time. We still have a lot of oaks.
The tar blocks, that's something else.
All of the streets in New Orleans were once paved with tar blocks, it was usually an 8x8x10 block infused with tar. Whenever there was any street repair, they would pull up the old blocks and replace them with new ones. When this happened there was always someone there to grab the blocks.
I remember when I was a youngster, my grandmother used to cook on a big cast iron stove, which would also serve as heater.
Somehow, she managed to get a load of these used blocks whenever they were available, my father would chop them into quarters, and she would burn them in her stove once she got the fire going. It seemed that they would burn forever.
She would also use coal in the stove.
Man, that stove was about 5 feet long.

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 26, 2011 at 12:42 am
Mike Nolan

I just click on 'Submit' at the bottom after I've written most of what I want to say, then go back and edit it. As long as nobody else replies directly to that post, you can edit it. Sometimes I'll tweak a post for a half hour or longer, revising what I said, improving my grammar, correcting typos and adding more thoughts.

I've seen pecan wood chips for smoking, and we used to burn a lot of oak in our outdoor grill when I was growing up. Tar blocks, now that one I'm not so sure of. We never used evergreens for cooking, the creosote pitch in the wood left a bad taste in the food.

I've had a pizza baked in a coal fired oven in New York, there aren't a lot of coal fired commercial pizza ovens around and I don't think building and air pollution codes will allow any new ones to be built.

reply by: artarnold on August 26, 2011 at 1:23 am

Thanks Mike, I understand now how you do it. I have edited my post too, but never thought of doing it as you suggested.
Old brain wearing down, I guess.
It's late her so I am going to lay these old bones down for the night.

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on August 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Type your post into Notepad (I'm assuming you're on a PC running some version of Windows), then just copy and paste the whole thing. That way even if the connection blows out, you can still just copy and paste again.

And yeah, every once in awhile I'll go to Project Gutenberg and read the old cookbooks, just for fun (because I'm like that, I have a REALLY old dictionary I like to read for fun too, do you know what a "smellfungus" is? Try to find THAT word in a dictionary today!)

Anyway. And yup, in general they are just about useless. I don't know how anybody ever learned to cook, and I know now why it was such a big deal if you managed it, LOL!

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm
Mike Nolan

I have the Escoffier cookbook, and I doubt anyone could have learned French cooking just from it, either. It's a great reference book, or one to refresh your memory, but not really an instruction book.

reply by: artarnold on August 27, 2011 at 12:31 am

Got it; smellfungus pronumced smel-FENG-ges.
A fault finder, a disagreeable curmudgeon who finds fault in everything. Someone who loves misery & sharing it with others.

reply by: bigmark on October 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Greetings--I've been struggling to replicate Leidenheimer's loaves for a few years now, so appreciate your pain! I've worked with many source recipes from the last 30-50 years (Lee Bailey, Richard and Rima Collin, etc.), but they're usually too dense--about 4 ounces for a 6" loaf when it should be closer to 2 ounces.

I finally started looking at things like banh mi bread, since the vietnamese learned from the french and their loaves are very light and crusty. I've been working with a vietnamese banh mi recipe that's gotten me much closer.

The keys were:
1) shaping (getting a nice, tight baguette shape);
2) long kneading (getting really strong window pane; twice as long as I usually do)
3) long cold initial rise (adds flavor, lets flour hydrate, gluten form);
4) long, long final rise (really get the dough puffed up)
5) bake quickly in a hot oven (with steam pan inside)

Po-Boy Loaves
Makes (3) 16" loaves

- KA Bread Flour: 340g, 100%
- Water (cool; 50-60°F): 227g, 67%
- Sugar: 2 tsp/8g, 2.4%
- SAF instant Yeast: 1.5 tsp/5g, 1.5%
- Butter (room temp): 1 tsp/5g, 1.5%
- Vegetable oil: 2 tsp/10g, 3%
- Table salt: .75 tsp/5g 1.5%

- Mix in KA mixer for 15-20 minutes on 3 to develop strong window pane (or 5 mins in food processor)
- Form into ball, refrigerate overnight
- Doubled in size, punch down, return to fridge until needed
- Let return to doubled size on counter, cut into 3 pieces, form into batards (6"), let rest 20 minutes
- Roll out into baguettes, 16" long, about 1" wide
- Let rise until 2-3x larger--depending on dough temp, may take 1 to 3 hours
- Lightly mist loaves with cold water before placing in oven
- Bake in pre-heated 460°F oven, prepped with pan of steaming water (1-2 cups), for 10 minutes, rotating half-way thru, until very light golden brown

I'm finally getting 16" loaves that are about 2" high and 2.5-3" wide. They weigh about 5.3 ounces each, which is literally half of every recipe I've seen, and gives me a 6" cut loaf weighing 2 ounces...and that's exactly like the loaves in New Orleans!

Only remaining issue is crustiness--they have a great lightness and cotton-candy-like interior, but the outside could be a little crustier, flakier. I'm not sure if I should bake them hotter and quicker (say at 500° for 8 minutes) or cooler and longer (say 425° for 12-15 minutes). Any suggestions?



reply by: Mike Nolan on October 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm
Mike Nolan

I think I'd try the hotter oven. Or maybe starting with an oven that has been preheated to 500 or even 525 and drop the temperature after the first minute or two.

The hotter oven is going to caramelize more of the outside, giving you a firmer crust.