Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Easy French Bread

This tasty basic French Bread is surprisingly easy to make. Like any bread, "easy" does not mean FAST - you still have to let it rise twice. BUT you could be doing a million other things while it rises, so you really aren't spending much time on it. This is a really excellent white yeast bread, and you can choose to make the outside nice and crusty like a traditional French Bread or, by skipping one small step, leave the outside softer and less crusty. This recipe makes one good-sized loaf. You can double the recipe if you want two loaves.

3 - 3 1/2 Cups All-purpose flour (start with 3 C and only add more if needed)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 Cups water (You can also use beer if you'd like)
1 Tablespoon melted butter

Add the yeast and the salt to the flour and stir well. Slowly add in the water and melted butter, and stir well. (You can also do this step in a KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment). Add more flour a little at a time as needed to make the dough workable - it should be very moist, but not so sticky that it won't come off your hands when you work with it). Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for a few minutes until smooth and soft.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Put it in a warm place free from drafts, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. I like to put it in my oven (unheated but with the light on and the door closed).

When it has doubled in size, punch down the dough.  With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle (about 12" wide by 15" long). Starting on one of the long sides, tightly roll the dough into a long loaf. Pinch the ends a little to taper them. Place the loaf on a greased cookie sheet and cover loosely. Let rise again for another hour or until doubled in bulk.

During the last 25 minutes of rising time, preheat your oven to 450.

When the loaf has doubled, take a sharp knife and make four diagonal slits on top of it (gently - don't press down hard and deflate the loaf). Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Take the loaf out and brush it with egg white mixed with a little water. Put it back in the oven and bake another 5-8 minutes. (If you do not want the traditional crusty outside, you can skip this step and just leave it in the oven until done.) If it is browning too much and doesn't seem completely done yet, you can tent aluminum foil over the top. 


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