Bozy Davis, the certified baker and trainer at Panera Bread, spent two days talking to students enrolled in the Muscogee County School District's culinary arts program. He taught them to make pizza dough and a French baguette.
While Panera's French bread dough is a secret, Davis suggests using any recipe for the same results. He offers these tips.
Baking is a varied and almost difficult process, so be very exact in measurements.
After your bread has "proofed," also called rising, it's ready to be shaped.
But first, make sure your oven is heated to 375 degrees.
To prepare your peel, the big paddle-shaped spatula, by sprinkling rice flour then spreading it evenly on the wood surface. Davis prefers the rice flour to cornmeal, which can also be used.
For a French baguette, pull it into the long, cylindrical shape on the peel. It needs to be at least 22-inches-long. Take a very sharp knife and score the dough diagonally, about an inch apart. When it bakes, it gives the bread its familiar look.
Slide the peel into the oven and slowly jiggle the peel back and forth toward you so the dough will slide onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven door to "check" on the bread.
At about 18 minutes, check on the bread. If it's golden brown, take it out. If it's not quite that color, leave it for another two minutes.
Take the baking sheet out of the oven. Carefully take the bread off the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack.
Brush the top of the bread with melted butter. Add flavorings to the butter if you'd like.