Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recipe - The Most Wonderful French Bread

The first recipe of my new blog!  One of my favorite things to make is French Bread.  I found a great recipe on a blog called Chocolate on My Cranium (and she has several other great recipes I've also used).  She calls this her Not-So-French French bread but if it is "Not-So" then I don't know what is.  I get lots of compliments on this bread and requests to make more.  Because it is so dry here in Colorado, I store these in Armor plastic bread bags (make sure completely cooled) that I get from Ace Hardware.  The bags are fairly expensive ($3.99 for 4 bags), so I give my friends a loaf a bread in the bag and tell them to save it and return to me for refills. You can find the bags on Amazon here but they are more expensive.  If you live in a climate with humidity a paper bag would probably work for you.  This bread usually does not last for more than a couple of hours around my house so storage really isn't an issue.

Here is the recipe with my modifications.

French Bread (modified from Chocolate on My Cranium)
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp Yeast
2 Tbsp Sugar or Honey
1 Tbsp Salt
2 Tbsp Oil
6 cups All Purpose Flour
1 Egg

I Add (optional):
Onion Powder
Parmesan Cheese
Italian Seasoning
Dried Onion Flakes

In a large mixing bowl combine water, yeast, and sugar/honey.  I use a small whisk to make sure it is well mixed.  Let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to soften and bloom.  If your yeast does not foam/bubble, then it is dead and you will want to get some fresh yeast before proceeding.  I buy yeast in big vacuum packages from Costco and keep it in my refrigerator in a sealed container (like Rubbermaid) once I've opened it.  I bake often enough that I don't have to worry about it going bad but if you don't cook with yeast often you can get individual packages of yeast from your grocery store, Walmart, etc.

My bloomed yeast looks most like this picture but other people don't get quite the same result.  As long as there appears to be some bubbling you should be ok.

Add salt, oil and 3 cups flour; beat well. Add remaining flour (here is where I add my herbs/spices and other items I want IN the bread - jalapenos anyone??), stirring well with a heavy spoon (or in the mixer with the dough hook). If too dry, add a small amount of water (1 Tbsp at a time).  

Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes; stir down with spoon; allow dough to rest for 10 minutes; stir down with spoon again. Repeat this process until dough has been stirred down a total of five times (I don't always remember to do it every 10 minutes and it still turns out fine). 

Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead two or three times to coat entire surface with flour. Divide into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a rough 9x12 inch rectangle. Roll rectangle up starting with a 12 inch side, pinch edge of loaf to seal. Arrange seam side down on a large baking sheet that's been sprinkled with cornmeal. I usually bake two loaves on one sheet and the last loaf on a sheet of its own. Allow to rise for 30 minutes. 

With a very sharp knife, cut three gashes at an angle in top of each loaf; brush entire surface with egg wash (1 egg beaten slightly with 1 Tablespoon water - I also add some minced garlic or garlic salt).  Sometimes instead of an egg wash, I use melted butter with minced garlic and some garlic salt sprinkled on time.  The crust is not as crusty when I do this but it is DELICIOUS.  Other toppings might include poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, caraway seeds, the list is endless.  You just need something like the egg or butter to hold them on the bread.

Bake at 400 in the center rack of the oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until a nice golden brown. Cool. Makes three loaves.

NOTE: For a crustier loaf, a pan of water may be set on the bottom rack of the oven while bread is baking.  

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