I’m a big bread person. Well, bread and cheese, actually, but this post is about the former. I’ve had my stints with some bread making in the past, but only those kinds of bread that people actually make, like sandwich loaves and rolls and such. Nothing that could even loosely be described as “artisan.” That’s why the bakery at Wegman’s exists…for me to spend $5.00 a loaf on perfectly crisp-crusted French Boules.
Well, Not anymore.
Enter, this afternoon of hanging out in the kitchen…all day. During Milo’s nap, somehow I gravitated back there and flipped through my favorite cookbook, looking for a project. The simple French Bread recipe caught my eye, and I thought “Well, why not?” So, I mixed the ingredients all together and waited for it to rise. Which it didn’t appear to do very well. Then, a couple hours later, at the appointed time, I rolled the dough into a floured-cloth-lined colander, and waited for it to rise…at which it again appeared to fail. So then, a couple hours later, at the suggested time, I put it into the pre-heated oven, sprayed some water in there, and waited, fingers crossed. To my surprise, that ball of dough rose, and puffed, and then browned ever so beautifully. When I pulled it from the oven and tapped on the crisp shell Dave remarked, “I hope it’s not hollow!”
Oh my, the nerves as I dug the bread knife into that crust. And then the relief as I saw there was actual bread in there!! Whoo hoo!! And it was delicious. So perfect. And practically artisan! We might have eaten the whole loaf between our lentils that night and our scrambled eggs the next morning. I’ll be baking it again. Maybe tomorrow. You should try, too!
Easiest and Best French Bread
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1. Put flour, salt and yeast into a stand mixer with the dough hook, or a food processor. Mix for 5 seconds then with the machine running, add most of the water and process until dough is a defined but shaggy ball. Add remaining water 1 Tablespoon at a time until dough is slightly sticky.
2. Dump dough into a large bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise for two hours at room temperature.
3. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto the counter and shape dough into a ball, continually tucking the dough towards the center of the bottom, creating a seam.
4. Place a clean kitchen towel into a colander and sprinkle very well with flour. Place dough ball, seam side up, in the colander, and sprinkle generously with flour. Cover with another clean towel and let rise 2 to 6 hours (I let mine rise 2.)
5. Preheat the oven to 450F. Gently turn the ball onto a baking sheet or pizza peel, slash the top of the ball several times with a knife. Spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam, then place the baking sheet into the oven, or slide the loaf onto the a baking stone.
6. Spray two to three times in the first 10 minutes of baking. After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 350F and continue to bake for 25 more minutes. Remove, spray with a bit of water for a shinier crust, and cool on a wire rack.
7. Enjoy hot!