French Bread

Boy, did I sound depressed in my last post, or what?

I feel much better now.  We had a sunny fall day, and it made all the difference.  This place is gorgeous on sunny fall days; simply gorgeous.  My motivation zipped right up, and I cooked (well, baked) like a fiend yesterday.  I’ve got lots to share over the next couple posts, so yay!

I started out baking a couple of loaves of bread.  There is just something about baking bread that makes me overly happy.  Giddy almost.  I think Hubs thinks I’m cuckoo sometimes, but I can live with that.

I needed a simple, easy (basically boring) bread to use for a higher purpose – which I’ll share in the next post.  I had such good results using a homemade bread for a meal, that I knew I had to do it again.

The Recipe:

Gold Medal Classic French Bread, adapted from bettycrocker.com

3 to 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1 T sugar

1 t salt

1 package regular or quick active dry yeast (2 1/4 t)

1 c very warm water (120ºF to 130ºF)

2 T vegetable oil

1 egg white

1 T cold water

In large bowl, mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.  Add warm water and oil.  Beat with electric mixer (or in Kitchenaid mixer) on low-speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently.  Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently.  Stir in enough remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle (dough will be soft).

On lightly floured surface, knead dough about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  Grease large bowl with shortening or spray with cooking spray.  Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides.  Cover and let rise in warm place 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.  Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Grease large cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray.  Gently push fist into dough to deflate; divide in half.  On lightly floured surface, roll each half into 15 x 8-inch rectangle.  Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side, to form a loaf. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal.  Roll gently back and forth to taper ends.  Place both loaves on cookie sheet.

Cut 1/4-inch-deep slashes across tops of loaves at 2-inch intervals with sharp knife.  Brush loaves with cold water.  Let rise uncovered in warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.

Heat oven to 375°F.  In small bowl, mix egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water; brush over loaves.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

They turned out exactly as I’d hoped – but the process wasn’t quite as perfect as I’d liked…

Things to keep in mind:

1. When mixing the dough, as I was adding 1/2 c of extra flour to the mix, I think I went a bit crazy and didn’t wait for the flour to mix completely in.  So my dough was not sticking together (when I finally stopped to really notice).  Ooops.

2.  Just randomly adding more water and oil to try to get the dough to form a ball isn’t always the best idea – it may cause the dough to turn out tough and rubbery, rather than soft and flexible.

(This is where I add that I didn’t give up.  I just decided to let it rise and see what would happen.  Sun = Optimism in my house.)

3. Remembering to coat all sides of the dough with oil before it rises might eliminate a crusty dry top.

4. Forming the perfect baguette shape is much harder than you think.  Case in point, below.

before the second rise

Please no commentary on the shapes.  Get your minds out of the gutter, folks.  🙂

Also, notice the crusty pieces found at the ends – that’s what happens without oil.

(Oh, and yes, I do know my cookie sheets are well-loved – that’s the way I like to describe them.)

right before baking

Even with all these minor slip-ups, they ended up looking like this:

Golden goodness, with the exact taste and texture I was looking for.  And frankly, I didn’t care at all about the crazy shapes.

It didn’t matter at all for part two…

coming soon.

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10 thoughts on “French Bread

  1. They look great! We used to call those French buns (Bulka francuska) – loved with lashings of butter and some homemade jam! I am so proud of you, if I can say so, bread is one of my downfalls… Will try this recipe!

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  2. Looks great to me! I’ve been getting more brave with trying to make breads lately. I actually have a yeast bread to be posted soon, too! But I’ve been looking for a tasty french bread recipe to try out so thanks! Can’t wait to see what you used it for!

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  3. So glad you are all sunshiny today but it’s always good to be real. That’s my philosophy. These bread loaves are perfect. I love rustic looking bread. Perfect looking bread makes me think of commercial loaves and beautifully curvy, bumpy breads make me think warm and cozy. I must try this recipe. Have a great week Courtney! 🙂

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  6. Hi Courtney,
    Your bread looks delicious, I can almost smell it cooking in the oven. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday. Hope you are having a great week and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

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