Wednesday, December 2, 2009

more bread

I've always said I'm decent at cooking, but I don't do bread. And living here can be a little sad sometimes (when it comes to bread) because there aren't too many places to buy good artisan bread. Actually I can't think of anywhere. Maybe I haven't looked hard enough ... I got pretty good at making bread machine bread;), and Irish soda bread, but that isn't a yeast bread so I feel like it doesn't count. And then my sister came to visit when my daughter was born and taught me how to make my aunt Carolyn's perfect rolls. I can't seem to get them quite like either of them do, but they're still amazing, so I'm not complaining. But that experience made me realize that (some) bread isn't as intimidating as I always thought. So I started researching breads, and for Christmas I'm getting myself a new bread book.

Anyway, in the midst of all of this, I discovered a French bread recipe I wanted to try. It was so easy and amazingly puffy and chewy and delicious! And it took me maybe a total of 2 hours, start to finish. Now, if you're a purist and you like the traditional "real" French bread with a super crispy crust and an airy interior, call it something other than French bread and make it for your family. But if you don't experience the joy of real French bread too often, and your definition of it is an oblong loaf with slits cut on top, this will be your new favorite recipe and you'll never want to buy a loaf at Walmart again!

But someday I will learn to make "real" French bread. And ciabatta. And brioche. And croissants. And foccacia. (Not the wannabe that I made, but the real thing) And all sorts of beautiful, more famously temperamental breads.

But for now, this Americanized French bread works perfectly for me. I'm going to try it with 25% whole wheat flour today. Hopefully that turns out:)

fluffy, chewy, easy French loaf
makes 2 large or 4 small loaves
2 T active dry yeast
2 T granulated sugar
1 T salt
3 C warm water
2 T butter (softened) or oil
8 C flour

egg wash:
1 egg white
2 T water
  1. Place the first 5 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until combined. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add flour. Knead until elastic.
  2. Let dough rise for 10 minutes, punch down and let mix for a few seconds. Repeat this 5 times (50 minutes).
  3. Shape the dough into 2 rectangles (or 4, if you're making 4 smaller loaves) and roll up into a log shape. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and let rise to double in size. Brush with the egg wash and with a very sharp knife, cut 3~4 diagonal slits on the top.
  4. Bake at 400°F for about 15 minutes (less if you're making the smaller loaves, of course). The bread is done when golden brown.
Keep in mind that the bread will flatten a bit if you eat it right out of the oven. So if you want it to maintain it's shape, let it cool a little bit. If you don't care (and why should you? Fresh bread is so worth it!), eat it right out of the oven with butter. Or even better, honey butter!

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