French(ish) Bread

2 Aug

I love French bread, until it’s a day old. At which point it’s a doorstop. Paperweight. Weapon. Boomerang. Hard as nails and not something I want to eat. So I tend to not buy it very often, as our family won’t eat a loaf in a day and waste in my kitchen means waste in my wallet, and that makes me sad.

Last weekend, I set out to make French bread. I did this not realizing that most recipes call for a special mold you’re supposed to use to rise and bake the bread. Y’all know I’m a fan of Alton’s–death to the unitasker and all that. And I’m a fan of not having big gadgets suck up half my cabinet space. So those recipes weren’t going to work.

Finally, I found a French Bread recipe that let you mold the bread by hand and bake it on a baking sheet. As it should be, right? I printed it out and got all my ingredients in a row and started measuring and mixing, and it wasn’t until I left things along to rise that I realized I screwed it up.

The recipe called for an egg yolk, see, that you were supposed to use to brush over the bread right before baking, to give it that shiny crunch on the crust. But because I was really tired (I’m a working mom, you know) and in a hurry (dinner was three hours away), I flew through the directions (adding a step to proof the yeast, which was missing in the original) and plopped that yellow sucker right into the dough. Negating, right then and there, French bread’s claim to fame–that it’s light and fat-free.

Oops.

Being tired and time-crunched, I decided to let things go. My kitchen got to smelling warm and yeasty and the bread was moist and delicious when it came out of the oven, and then it lasted for FOUR DAYS wrapped up on my countertop without turning all petrified.

So it’s not exactly French bread. It’s French(ish) bread. And it’s super yummy, on its own or as part of a sandwich, or just buttered, or made into garlic bread to go with pasta–we’ll talk about pasta tomorrow.

Give this a shot. And if it’s not the best French(ish) bread you’ve ever tried, give me a yell and let me know. I’m curious.

To make this bread, you’ll need…

1 cup warm/hot tap water (hotter than your skin when you touch it)

1 tbsp white sugar

1 1/2 tsp yeast

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups bread flour (yes, bread flour–softer crumb, crunchier crust)

2 egg yolks, divided

1 tbsp water

Stir the sugar into the cup of water until it dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast on top of that and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until it starts to look foamy on top.

In your bread machine (or mixer if you don’t have a bread machine), combine the flour, salt, and one egg yolk. Then add the yeast mixture. Let your machine go through a dough cycle, and then let it sit an extra half-hour after the cycle ends without messing with it. If you’re using a mixer, mix together the ingredients until they form a ball knead them for 5 to 10 minutes until soft and elastic, and then let rise for 90 minutes.

Punch down dough. On a lightly (very) floured surface, roll it into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle–you’ll have to let it rest a few times, as it starts springing back a lot. Cut the dough in half, creating two 8 x 12-inch rectangles. Roll each of these up, starting from a long side, pressing down every so often to get rid of air bubbles, and rolling the whole log on the counter to form tapered ends.

With a sharp knife, slash the dough down the center, length-wise, about an inch deep. Place each log on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise another 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mix remaining egg yolk with the tablespoon of water, and brush that over the dough. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.

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2 Responses to “French(ish) Bread”

  1. Wendy August 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    I will try this! It reminds me a lot of Pam Anderson’s recipe from The Perfect Recipe – easy peasy! I just love when the house smells like bread baking!

  2. mary m August 3, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    I think I’ll get Tom to make this tomorrow. He made an herbed bread (from a mix) today and he and the kids ate 1/2 of it AFTER eating lunch. Lol.

    Now that he’s home, I’m trying to get him to cook more 😉

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