How to Make Chestnut Bread with Maison Kayser

Just in time for the holidays, we stopped by bakery Maison Kayser to learn from master baker Yann Ledoux how to make a classic French bread using just a few ingredients.

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The Daily Schedule    

Depending on the day of the week, this one location of Maison Kayser produces over 25 kinds of bread and uses over 600 pounds of flour every day. On the weekend, baguette production skyrockets to 500 per day. While the bakery makes all of their bread in a massive mixer, Yann took us through the process of making the bread by hand (a stand mixer works as well).

Chestnuts and Corn Flour

Chestnuts were such a popular item in the Paris location of the bakery that the owners decided to bring them to their American stores. Yann first dips the chestnuts in corn flour so they stay whole during the bread-making process and don't sink to the bottom of the bread.

Flour and Water    

Using artisanal, organic wheat flour means there's more protein for the yeast to feed on while the dough rises. Create a crater in the flour and pour in room-temperature water.

Add Salt and Yeast

Table salt works just fine for bread making. If you don't have liquid levain or your own starter, substitute fresh yeast. 

Incorporate the Liquid    

Slowly incorporate the flour-and-water mixture, working from the inside out. If you are using a stand mixer, you can add all of the ingredients together and then mix on slow speed for 4 minutes, then high speed for 7 minutes.

Consistency Is Key    

Yann knows that making bread by hand is time-consuming, but since he's been baking since he was 15, the process just feels natural. It's all about the feel of the dough between your fingers.

Becoming a Dough    

As the dough comes together it will be less and less gooey. Use a bench scraper to further incorporate the liquid before continuing to combine with your hands. Stretch and fold the dough for about 15 minutes to fully expand the gluten.

The Dough Is Ready    

You'll know the dough has come together completely when you can pull it apart without creating holes but still are able to see through it slightly. Let the dough rest for an hour and a half.

Chestnuts and Honey    

Cover the dough in honey and add the corn flour-coated chestnuts.

Create a Dough Ball    

Incorporate the chesnuts and honey to create a large ball of bread dough.

Let It Rest

Let the dough rest for an hour, covered by a damp cloth so the dough can breathe but not dry out.

Individual Loaves    

Cut the large ball of dough into four pieces and shape into rounds, almost like a large dumpling. Leave the dough on a sheet pan, covered, at room temperature for an additional 2 hours. When Yann bakes bread at home, he leaves his dough in the bathroom, where the humidity is perfect for his resting loaves.

Ready for the Oven

Uncover your dough and preheat your oven to 480 degrees F. The best surface for bread baking is stone, so if you have a pizza stone on hand, use it!

Create Steam    

While the ovens that Yann uses are temperature- and humidity-regulated, getting the perfect environment in your own oven can be a challenge. Include a pan or container of water that will slowly release steam into the oven as the bread cooks.

Cooking the Loaves

Bake the bread for 25 minutes at 480 degrees F. The bread will increase in size and then stabilize. Turn the oven off and let the bread stand inside for an additional 10 minutes. 

Chestnut Bread

The finished loaves will be delicious on their own or can be incorporated into any holiday stuffing.

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