Chicken in a Bread Crust Recipe

I attended the Omnivore Food Festival in Deauville last week, a three-day event during which chefs from France and way beyond hop on stage and do live demos. This was the sixth edition and I’ve only missed one since it started, but this year was extra special for me because I’d been asked to host the pastry chefs’ demos in the sucré auditorium.

I had a blast meeting such talented individuals, from Bubo‘s Carles Mampel to Noma‘s Rosio Sanchez by way of the Ritz‘s Sébastien Serveau, and accompanying them through their demo so the audience got the most out of it.

One of the (many) perks of this job was that I got to hang out backstage in the salé auditorium when I didn’t have demos to present myself. And this is where I was when Sven Chartier, the young chef behind the über-hyped Paris restaurant Saturne*, started his presentation.

The chef was showing something he called la poulette des amis, a young hen from the Sarthe that he had cooked in a bread crust, nestled in Christophe Vasseur’s now-legendary Bread of Friends.

I was chatting with friends while keeping an eye on the monitor, and saw that Chartier was showing something he called la poulette des amis, a young hen from the Sarthe that he had cooked in a bread crust, nestled in Christophe Vasseur‘s now-legendary pain des amis (bread of friends).

Chartier sliced the dark-brown crust open to reveal the chicken inside, and immediately two thoughts popped in my head: 1- this is like salt-crusted chicken, only 100% edible, and 2- someone’s got to get that chicken-juiced crust back in here.

That someone was me (I am nothing if not determined, so I walked out on stage after the demo and asked Chartier’s commis if there was a chance he might donate the crust in the name of culinary research) and our lucky little group happily tore samples from it.

I returned home with the idea firmly lodged in the lobe of my brain I allocate to such vital matters. We happened to have friends over for dinner a few nights later, and the menu planning took a nanosecond: I was going to cook a bread-crusted chicken of my own, using a sourdough crust I’d make with my trusted starter Philémon (you guys have met, right?).

The overall method I used was merged from the ones I’ve already described for salt-crusted chicken (including the subcutaneous parsley) and pain au levain (with the addition of dried herbs for flavor). I found that the bread dough was easier to work with than the salt crust dough, because it is more elastic and therefore more docile.

I baked the chicken for an hour and a half, and the bread crust was nicely browned, but not too dark, when I sliced it open for carving. The skin of the chicken was less golden than with the salt crust, which I suspect is more porous, but plenty of juices had collected inside, and the chicken was just as moist and flavorful.

The very bottom of the bread crust, right where the chicken was sitting, wasn’t crisp enough for serving, but I cut the rest of the bread into big chunks to eat with the chicken, a wonderful treat that the salt crust method can’t quite compete with. And over the next couple of days, the leftovers of that crust were reheated in the oven and served with a grated carrot salad, and then alongside the stock I made with the chicken carcass.

* Where I still haven’t been because too much buzz kinda kills it for me.

Chicken in a bread crust

Chicken in a Bread Crust Recipe

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 9 hours

Serves 4.

Chicken in a Bread Crust Recipe

Ingredients

    For the bread crust (makes ~1.1 kilos / ~2 lbs 7 oz herbed bread dough):
  • 540 grams (19 ounces) bread flour (I used French T80 flour)
  • 12 grams (0.4 ounces) salt
  • 3 tablespoons dried thyme or other dried herb(s)
  • 180 grams (6 1/3 ounces) ripe 100%-hydration sourdough starter (see this post for more details)
  • 370 grams (13 ounces) water
  • For the chicken:
  • one chicken, organic and/or from a source you trust, about 2 kilos (4.4 pounds)
  • 1 medium bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat of a knife blade
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Start preparing the bread crust at least 7 hours in advance (or in the morning if serving the chicken for dinner). Put the flour, salt, thyme, starter and water in a large mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk to form a shaggy dough. Add a little water if necessary for all the flour to be absorbed.
  2. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Using a flexible dough scraper, stretch and fold the dough 8 to 10 times as shown in this video. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes, then stretch and fold the dough another 8 to 10 times.
  3. Cover and let rest for 1 hour. Stretch and fold the dough 6 to 8 times. Repeat every hour for the next 3 hours. The dough will become smoother and smoother each time; these stretching and folding steps replace the actual kneading.
  4. Lightly oil a baking dish big enough to hold the chicken comfortably. Set aside. Combine the chopped parsley with a teaspoon of salt. Set aside.
  5. Place the chicken on a work surface, on its back, with the neck side facing you. Slip your hand under the skin, starting at the base of the neck, and work gently to get your hand further in, lifting the skin from the flesh over each breast, and down over each thigh, without tearing the skin. Once the skin is loosened, slip in the salted chopped parsley, pushing it underneath the skin to cover the breasts and the thighs as evenly as you can.
  6. Herbed chicken
  7. Sprinkle a few pinches of salt inside the cavity of the chicken, and add in the garlic. Using a piece of chicken string, truss the chicken as demonstrated in Peter Hertzmann's Preparing for roasting video at minute 2:30. Rub a little more salt onto the chicken and set aside.
  8. Scrape the bread dough out of the bowl and onto your well-floured work surface. Sprinkle flour over the ball of dough, and roll it out into a circle of even thickness throughout, and large enough to wrap the chicken in it (I shoot for a diameter of about 50 cm or 20").
  9. Place the chicken in the middle of the circle and fold opposite flaps of the dough over the chicken to wrap it entirely, moistening the edges of the flaps so they'll adhere.
  10. Chicken in a bread crust
  11. Lift the whole thing carefully but with determination, and transfer it to the prepared baking dish. Place in the fridge until ready to bake -- you can leave it in for a few hours or overnight. Remove the chicken from the fridge an hour before baking.
  12. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) with a cast iron pan on the floor of the oven (alternatively, a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack will do). Insert the dish in the oven, then quickly pour 60 ml (1/3 cup) boiling water into the cast iron pan (work carefully and wear oven mitts so as not to burn yourself) to create steam in the oven.
  13. Bake the chicken for 1 1/2 hours.
  14. Remove the dish from the oven, and slice the crust open all around the chicken with a bread knife, trying not to slice into the chicken itself (as you can see in the picture above, I didn't quite manage to avoid that).
  15. Lift the chicken from the open crust and transfer it to a cutting board for carving. Serve with the cooking juices, the cut-up bread crust, and a green salad.
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  • http://nestmeg.com Meghan

    Oh my goodness. This recipe has the potential to be even more delicious than Zuni chicken + bread salad. I’ll have to investigate further.

  • Jennifer

    I served your Salt-Crusted Chicken to friends this weekend and it was a lot of fun to prepare and serve. My husband was disappointed that the dough was not edible and had to be thrown out. I am excited to now be able to make a dough that he can eat! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  • http://www.goodbitein.com Sarah at Good Bite In

    What a brilliant idea! It looks like the ultimate comfort food!
    sx.

  • http://yummrs.com Carly from Yummrs

    Well then, off to make a sourdough starter! What a beautiful presentation.

  • Jennifer

    The cookbook “Stir” by Barbara Lynch has a roasted chicken cooked in a flaky, cracker-like crust. It is fantastic and one of the reasons I bought that cookbook.

  • Rob

    sorry but the reference to”” truss the chicken as demonstrated in Peter Hertzmann’s Preparing for roasting video at minute 2:30″” is incorrect

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m not sure what you mean — it’s not possible to link to each individual video, so the link I gave refers to the entire video series, and then you have to click on the “Preparing for roasting” video to view it.

  • http://www.foodhuntersguide.com The Food Hunter

    that is pretty cool idea

  • rob

    I don’t want to be just negative, if you double click on “”Peter Hertzmann’s Preparing for roasting video at minute 2:30. “” you end up in his “Chickening In” introduction. Scrolling down on the page you can choose the actual “Preparing for roasting” video

  • http://mrsredbootsfood.blogspot.com/ Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    Do you suppose one could make this with a yeast bread, too? I only bake once a week, so it’s not worth doing sourdough. But this looks so good – more to my taste, I think, than the salt-crust one!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      You can use any kind of bread dough you want; I’ve indicated the total weight you need in the recipe, so you could substitute easily.

      I also want to note, for what it’s worth, that I only bake every week or so, and still find it plenty worth it to keep a sourdough starter. :)

  • http://bonniebanters.com Bonnie Banters

    This is marvelous…would be a great conversation entree; I think in a casual setting, maybe picnic style. I agree a green salad (add some wine), and you’re good to go! I almost wanted to ask how this would be to take to an actual picnic, but I thought maybe because of the juices, it just wouldn’t work. Beautiful!

  • Deanna

    I’ve been making bread like crazy since I made my sourdough starter, Neville. I’m having a party this weekend and I think this would be the impressive dish I need.

  • http://www.dinnersanddreams.net Nisrine

    This reminds me of the soups that come in a bread bowl. The idea of having chicken that way sounds fun.

  • http://chiocolat.blogspot.com Chihiro

    This is amazing. I seriously cannot wait to try this! Is it possible to put the unfinished bread back into the oven to finish baking?
    Either way, this is my next roast chicken. Thank you!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Yes, this is what we did the next day, and it crisped up some. Let us know how it turns out when you try it!

  • http://naturally-delicious.blogspot.com/ renee

    Your chicken looks lovely with the herbs showing through the skin. We don’t have access to chickens here with such yellow skin, I wish we did. I know France is famous for her chickens, now I see the evidence. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Can I use a yeasted bread dough? I am too impatient right now to wait for a mature sourdough and not sure I can care for it properly. On a side note, can I use whole wheat bread flour for the starter or does it have to be all-purpose?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Yes, you can use any kind of bread dough you prefer!

  • http://beaglebea.blogspot.com Beatrix

    My family has been making a traditional ham in a bread crust for decades…. never tried it with chicken though..think it will be tried this month :)

  • http://sasasunakku.com Sasa

    Mark II ! My boyfriend was rather disappointed that he couldn’t eat the bits from the salt crusted so this will go down well ^_^

  • http://www.tandcake.wordpress.com Tamsin

    Oh wow, I have to make this! Don’t you just love it when a recipe gets you all excited. Thank you.

  • http://kitchenvoyage.blogspot.com/ kitchenvoyage

    Amazing! After a long time you convince me to buy a whole chicken. Regards.

  • http://www.joeinvegas.blogspot.com/ joeinvegas

    Sounds marvelous

  • Jacques

    I tried the salt-crusted chicken last month and it was fabulous! But I just had a conversation with Romuald (my starter – see Le Génie des Alpages) and we agreed to team up and try la poulette des amis this week-end.

  • http://leah10x10.blogspot.com/ Leah

    That is SO cool. I’ve actually been meaning to make your salt-crusted chicken; I even got some flax seeds. I’ve always had qualms, though, about wasting that much salt and flour, so this is simply brilliant. I’ll definitely be trying it some time soon.

  • http://lacaffettierarosa.wordpress.com Caffettiera

    I join into the groups of those shouting hurra! at the idea of being able to eat that beautiful, beautiful crust, finally. The salted crust chicken was lovely and we were so disappointed of not being able to bite into that golden marvel. Thanks so much!

  • http://purplefoodie.com Shaheen {The Purple Foodie}

    Mighty impressive.

  • http://lerocherhotel.wordpress.com Le Rocher

    This is absolutely amazing! Looks so delicious!

  • Dory

    Looks yummy as usual.

  • Nutrition Mama

    Clotilde, your post about dehydrating sourdough starter made me take the leap of making my own starter. Because of you, my family has been enjoying a loaf of sourdough bread about once a week, courtesey of “Scout”.
    I will try this recipe this weekend, it looks fabulous! Thanks for a wonderful blog!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I couldn’t be more pleased, and I wish Scout a long and fruitful life!

  • http://senseofhome.blogspot.com Sense of Home

    This looks so amazing. I would have loved to have been at that festival!

    -Brenda

  • http://stephanieeverswrites.blogspot.com/ Stephanie

    I’m hooked! I officially LOVE this blog!!

  • http://www.necessarypleasures.blogspot.com Tanya

    Hats off to you! When we first saw this, my husband said it reminded him of the Pork Wellington he made recently.

    But I don’t know. Your chicken looks a bit more complicated. How long does it take? (Guess we’ll find out when we try it next week!)

  • http://mrsredbootsfood.blogspot.com/ Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    Oh dear – big failure! I have just made this, and cooked the chicken at the recommended heat for the recommended length of time. The bread crust was/is delicious – but the chicken is still half-raw! No idea what I did wrong, but if I’d cooked it any longer the bread would have burnt.

    Sigh – and it was such a lovely recipe!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Hm. I’m really not sure how this could happen — an hour and a half in a 180°C oven should definitely not produce a half-raw chicken.

      Was the bird larger than 2 kilos? Did you let the bird and bread crust rest at room temp an hour before baking? You mentioned on twitter that you had followed the recipe “almost exactly” — can you tell us what you did differently?

  • http://mrsredbootsfood.blogspot.com/ Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    I think the bird was about 2 kg – maybe less. What I did differently was to use a yeast dough, and put the chicken on a pizza base to cook – I thought that might help crisp up the bread underneath (it didn’t).

    We ended up putting the chicken (without the bread) back in the oven for 45 minutes, and it did make a lovely lot of jelly, which is always good! I’ve just made stock from the bones, and the cold meat will be eaten tonight and over the next few days. So not a total loss, by any manner of means, but I don’t think I’ll be trying it again any time soon!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the additional details. Still not sure how your experience could have varied so widely from mine — I have made another chicken-in-a-bread-crust since that post, following the exact same process, and can confirm that it works for me as described.

  • Antonella

    I made this tonight. The chicken was cooked through and the bread was divine. I also made some chicken liver pate – no point wasting the liver, is there?

  • hiyam

    What do you think of just lightly browning the chicken in a pan or under the broiler before enclosing it in the dough? For some additional colour and texture to the skin….

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      You probably could. I would personally hesitate to add an extra step, for simplicity’s sake, and it might be a little unwieldy to wrap the hot chicken in the bread dough, but let us know if you try it!

  • Jodi

    I just loved the idea of this. The only thing I did differently was to De-bone the chicken first. Then I slathered it with butter, garlic and rosemary and put garlic and fresh rosemary in the dough as well. We all loved it, the only disappointment was the skin didn’t brown, next time I might remove the skin as well. The big upside was the ease of carving, simply slicing the loaf. It was really delicious, Thanks!

  • http://pipcooks.blogspot.com pip

    I’m not a big poultry lover, but this looks incredible. The moist chicken and golden crust makes this similar to one huge chicken pot pie!

  • Rebecca

    Looks delicious! I’ve been experimenting with different chicken recipes myself. http://bit.ly/i7jtif I’ll be back to check out more of your ideas!

  • http://tinyurl.com/wsgbreadchicken white shell girl

    mademoiselle cothilde! j’ai essaye la recette avec quelque improvisations. c’etait un grand success. merci beaucoup pour l’inspiration et la recette. voila le resultat.

  • Robert Skelly

    Has anyone considered borrowing a technique from a coulibiac recipe and putting cooked rice in the bread shell under the chicken to help absorb the drippings and preserving the underlying crust to some degree?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Intriguing suggestion, Robert, thank you!

  • http://www.chillilovesmalli.blogspot.com Malli

    The colors of the herbs inside the skin look so gorgeous. That tells me the chicken must be loaded with flavor!! What a wonderful meal with carrot salad… delicious!!

  • Hank Gurdjieff

    This looks so wonderful! My only concern… are all the drippings and juice lost? What about tenting w/ bread instead of wrapping, so the drippings can still collect?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      The juices and drippings seep into the bread so I don’t consider them “lost”. :) Also, the chicken remains very juicy without drying out. You can certainly try a bread tent, though, and I hope you’ll report back when you do!

  • Hank Gurdjieff

    Clotilde, thanks for replying. I’ve started my sourdough building for cooking tomorrow, can’t wait to try this! My chicken is BIG – something like 5.5 lbs – so I figure it will have to cook for longer and I hope the bread takes the long cooking, but I’ll tent w/ foil any parts that look too dark. Still can’t decide whether to wrap or tent since I love having lots of juices to make gravy with. I’ll report the results :)

  • ellina

    Clotilde, do you think I could do this with a de-boned pork shoulder? I would love to serve this for New Year’s Eve dinner!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Ellina, this would work with any kind of meat, provided it can cook in about the same time as listed here, otherwise the bread crust will be overbaked.

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