Pane Francese – Northern Italian French Bread

Pan Francese - Italian French Bread

Pane Francese is the bastard lovechild of the baguette and the ciabatta, melding the best qualities of each iconic bread into rustic loaves. Shaped into long sticks like its French archetype, the crust-to-crumb ratio is maximized, making it a great accompaniment to rich soups and stews. The high hydration characteristic of the ciabatta, at 76% for all you bread nerds, gives pane Francese an airy crumb and irregular holes even with the addition of whole wheat flour.

While the pane Francese procedure of cutting dough into strips and stretching is less fussy than shaping traditional baguettes, the wet dough presents its own set of problems with handling and gluten development. Dough strength is achieved through a long fermentation time interspersed with stretching and folding, arguably the best technique to use for developing slack dough. Use small amounts of flour when stretching the dough on a counter, or better yet, watch Susan of Wild Yeast Blog do the same thing with less mess in a rectangular container.

Also known as pane di Como antico (Como bread of the past) in the Northern reaches of the boot, pane Francese exemplifies the shared borders and culinary traditions, with perhaps a bit of friendly rivalry, between France and Italy.

recipe adapted from Michel Suas’ Advanced Bread and Pastry
Yeastspotting at Wild Yeast Blog

Pane di Como Antico o Pane Francese
Como Bread of the Past, French Bread

makes 3 pane Francese

Pan Francese - Italian French Bread Crust
Pane Francese crust.

For the Poolish (Prefermented Dough):

Ingredients                  Volume          Ounces          Grams
bread flour                                       3.625        103
water, at room temperature                        3.625        103
instant yeast                   1/8 tsp

Mix the poolish ingredients until evenly distributed and place in a covered bowl.

Let stand at room temperature for about 12 to 16 hours before using in the final dough.

Final Dough Formula:

Ingredients                  Volume          Ounces          Grams
all of the poolish (prefermented dough)
bread flour                   2 2/3 cups         11.875        336
whole wheat flour               1/2 cup           2.375         67
water                         1 1/4 cups         10            284
instant yeast                   1/4 tsp
kosher salt                       2 tsp            .25           7

Final Dough Instructions:

Mix             Mix all of the ingredients until evenly incorporated

Knead           6 to 8 minutes (the dough will be very sticky)

Ferment #1      60 minutes at room temperature

Stretch and Fold

Pan Francese - Italian French Bread Stretch and Fold 1
Stretching and folding wet dough.

Pan Francese - Italian French Bread Stretch and Fold 2
Step 1: Stretch into a rectangular shape.

Pan Francese - Italian French Bread Stretch and Fold 3

Pan Francese - Italian French Bread Stretch and Fold 4

Pan Francese - Italian French Bread Stretch and Fold 5

Ferment #2      60 minutes at room temperature

Stretch and Fold

Ferment #3      60 minutes at room temperature

Divide          3 pieces

Rest            15 minutes at room temperature

Shape           Stretch gently into strips, about 16 inches long

Preheat Oven    475ºF/246ºC

Final Proof     30 minutes at room temperature

Steam           1 cup of boiling water poured in a heavy steam
                pan (preferably cast iron)

Bake            Bake for 20 to 24 minutes at 475ºF/246ºC, rotating
                the loaves halfway if necessary.

Cool            At least 30 minutes

Pan Francese - Italian French Bread Crust
Pane Francese crumb.

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32 Responses to “Pane Francese – Northern Italian French Bread”

  1. Caitlin says:

    Ooo – I love ciabatta, but I must admit my favorite part is a chewy crust. These look like the perfect balance for me, just in time for soup season. Beautiful too.

    last blog post: TWD Rewind: Perfect Pound Cake

  2. Rosa says:

    Fantastic! Your loaves look perfect! What a nice crust!



  3. grace says:

    i love your step-by-step directions–so helpful. the texture of the finished bread looks spectacular. :)

    last blog post: pop, crackle, and snap

  4. kat says:

    It has such a beautiful crumb!

    last blog post: Bacon and Lentil Soup

  5. Ben says:

    That is a pretty bastard child! Nice bread.

    last blog post: Silence

  6. Susan/Wild Yeast says:

    I’m in awe that you were able to fold this dough with so little flour on the counter. Really excellent loaves!

    last blog post: Tips for Idiots

  7. sweetbird says:

    That looks outstanding. I was thinking about making some bread today, now I’m thinking I might just sit here looking at yours and pretending I’m making bread. Seems a lot easier.

    last blog post: Debate

  8. rainbowbrown says:

    Yum. Super yum.

    last blog post: TWD Créme Brûlée

  9. Adam says:

    Jude, you are seriously the bread baking queen. I am so impressed everytime I come over here. Ever think of owning a bakery? We’re talking some boku bucks here :)

    last blog post: Kapusta for World Food Day

  10. Mike says:

    This looks beautiful, especially that last shot of the slices/crumb. I love your breads

    last blog post: Sweet Cherry Pie

  11. Alexa says:

    Jude, your bread is always such a delight to look at it and this one is no exception.

    last blog post: Daring Bakers September Challenge: Lavash Crackers & Toppings

  12. peter says:

    This ciabatta is one I can only wish for…I try again.;(

    last blog post: Pasta Shells With Fresh Tomatoes & Feta

  13. Claire says:

    That’s a beautifully colored loaf. And, as you said, perfect crumb to crust ratio for soups!

    last blog post: Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

  14. Madam Chow says:

    Those turned out GREAT, Jude! And I love the “please … don’t … stick”! ;)

    last blog post: A New Blogging Event for Me: Recipes to Rival

  15. Sandie says:

    So very drool worthy. I have a total soft spot for homemade bread.

    I swear, this looks so good I can almost smell it. Why can’t technology be scratch ‘n sniff?!

    last blog post: Falling Head Over Heels In Happy (Recipe: Bacon, Apple & Cheddar Breakfast Panini)

  16. Nils says:

    Thanks. These will be good with some Italian sausage for my lunch tomorrow. Regards, Nils

  17. Jo says:

    oohh .. another lovely looking bread recipe. looks wonderful!

  18. bee says:

    lovely step-by-step pics. i must admit i like ciabatta more than baguette. this is definitely worth a try.

  19. Big Boys Oven says:

    This is amazing just love to have them!

  20. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    Absolutely gorgeous loaves of bread!

  21. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Beautiful loaves!

  22. My Sweet & Saucy says:

    That bread looks sooo good! Homemade bread is definitely one of my favorite treats~

  23. sandra avital says:

    This is an amazing bread!! And it looks exactly like Peter Reinhart’s pain à l’ancienne !
    Thank you Jude for giving me another bread recipe to try!
    When I work with very wet dough, I always use my bench scraper to help me hold the dough, makes the folding much moree easy ;)

  24. Y says:

    Awesome looking bread! I’d love to try this recipe but seem to struggle to find enough time these days for bread. Love your marble countertop, by the way! :)

  25. johanna says:

    amazing looking bread sticks! i also love the pictures of the strech and fold (a technique I use all the time), if you don’t mind, i will link to it next time I need it – i have never taken my own pics of it and it’s kind of difficult to explain or rather understand when you haven’t done it before!

  26. YeastSpotting October 10, 2008 | Wild Yeast says:

    [...] Pane Francese – Northern Italian French Bread ~ Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté [...]

  27. Hopefully the pictures help if you guys try it…

    Sandra – Pane Francese does remind me a lot of pain a l’ancienne. The real thing is slashed but I can never get it right.

  28. cahide says:

    Çok güzel bir ekmek,mutlaka denemeliyim….

  29. More bread! « Half Baked Cupcake says:

    [...] By halfbakedcupcake Today I decided to make ‘Pane Francese‘. I was supposed to make it yesterday but I woke up late and upon reviewing the recipe and [...]

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