Head baker at Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer Thomas Subrin was awarded Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2019, and has now risen to the challenge of producing a recipe for homemade bread with just 7 steps and 4 ingredients: flour, salt, yeast, and water. Not forgetting a healthy amount of love, of course...
Mix the dried yeast with half the water in a bowl, then add all the other ingredients and use a spatula to combine into a smooth dough.
Now it’s time to knead. Hold the top part of the dough, and slap the bottom of it against the work surface. Fold the top over the bottom. Pick the dough back up from the left-hand side and repeat the process. Do this for 6-7 minutes.
Once your dough is silky smooth, check that you’ve kneaded it enough by breaking off a small piece and gently stretching it out. If your dough is elastic enough to let light pass through without tearing, then congratulations! The carbon dioxide created during the fermentation and baking process will stay trapped inside the bread, and you’ll get a good rise on your loaf. Once you’re done, shape your dough into a ball, place into a cloth-lined bowl, and cover it up. Leave to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Once the dough has rested, remove it from the bowl and fold the right-hand side into the centre. Carefully repeat the process with the left-hand side. Shape the dough back into a ball and leave it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and split it into two equal pieces (to make two loaves – follow the steps below for each piece). Make the same folds as you did during step 4 and shape the dough into a ball, then cover it back up with a cloth to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Leave to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes to relax the dough.
Now it’s time to preheat your oven to 255°C with an upturned baking tray inside.
Gently flatten the dough out on your work surface – you don't want to squash it, so don't push too hard. Fold the edges into the middle as before, and press down so the seams hold. Rotate the dough and repeat the process so that both edges are folded into the centre.
Lastly, fold the top of the dough towards the bottom, and press the seam together lightly so that it sticks. Well done! The shaping process is complete.
The last step before baking the bread is to flip it over onto a sheet of greaseproof paper so that the seam runs along the top. After you’ve shaped it, leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes before baking so that it rises better. You can check if it’s proved by pressing it gently with your finger. If the dough springs back slowly, it’s ready to bake.
Before you put the loaves in the oven, flip them back over so that the seam is on the bottom. Make a few shallow slashes on top with a knife. Put a container of boiling water on one side of the baking sheet and scatter 10 ice cubes around it – this is a quick way to create steam for shiny, well-risen loaves. Put the loaves into the oven straight away, and close the door to stop the steam escaping.
Leave to bake for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 200°C and bake for a further 5 minutes to form a crispy crust.
There’s one last step: treat yourself to a taste!