Since we have come home from the hospital, every day I feel more and more able to tackle the recipes I have been saving to create over the year. At the beginning of 2011, one of my goals was to bake some yeast bread from scratch this year. My hope was to become a baking machine by Christmas, along with getting a nice baking stone, and make my way through a homemade recipe book for artisan breads. Obviously, some more important things came up early on this year and all of my time and energy were spent helping my husband through chemo and a stem cell transplant (He is still working hard and steadily getting better, he is my hero!). With a week left of this year to go, I thought “hey, we are home, we are hungry, and better late then never, right?”. So, I decided to go ahead and attempt the recipe that had caught my eye and my ambitions earlier this year: Homemade French Bread.
The smell of fresh baked bread in the oven is one of the many reasons I will continue to make this French Bread recipe. The crust is crisp and the bread inside is light, airy and soft…and absolutely delicious. We ate this bread alongside some Irish Stew I made and was great as a stand alone side and also as a dipping bread. And since we can’t eat an entire loaf of bread in one sitting, we used the leftovers for a homemade baked french toast that we could eat the next morning. Yum!
During the process, I decided to take a few shots with my iPhone to get a little bit of the process captured. Below you will find the steps I caught:
- 5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons granulated white sugar
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
- 1 tablespoon corn meal
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon warmed milk
- Proof yeast by heating up 1/2 cup of water to 110 degrees, add yeast and sugar. Give the mix stir and wait 10 minutes. If the yeast is active, the mixture should produce bubbles on top and rise.
- In a large food processor, add 2 cups flour and salt and pulse a few times to mix. (I used a dough attachment in my food processor for this step). Next add the proofed yeast, remaining 3 cups of flour, and pulse together. Slowly add in the remaining warm water until the dough forms a ball and starts to pull away. You may need more or less water, what you want to look for is a well-formed ball of dough – not too dry, not too gooey and wet (you can add a little flour or water depending on your dough to get the right consistency).
- Remove the dough from the food processor and transfer to a lightly floured surface and begin to knead the dough. Watch the time, you will want to knead for about 10 minutes getting a stiffer dough that is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place into a greased (and lightly floured) large bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Set in a warm place and let rise until doubled in size (could be anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hr 30 minutes). If you need to create a warm place – heat your oven to the keep warm setting – around 180 degrees and then shut it OFF, let it cool for about 10 minutes and then place your dough in and let it rise in the warm air.
- Once the dough has risen, punch the dough down and then divide the dough in half to make 2 separate balls. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll each half into a rectangle and then tightly roll up the dough using the long side of the rectangle. Moisten the edges with water and seal and taper the ends and seal.
- Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray and lightly coat with the corn meal. Place the loaves seam side down onto the baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut 3-4 diagonal cuts into the loaves. Lightly beat the egg white and warm milk together and brush the mixture over the loaves. Cover with a warm, damp cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and then bake loaves for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture and then bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until bread tests done. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on wire rack.
Source: modified from Allrecipes.com’s recipe for French Bread.