Seriously, you can make homemade french bread - and if you have a mixer with a dough hook, it's so easy you will slap yourself for ever buying it from the store! The ONLY bad thing about this bread is that it is so good, my family tries to eat it all before I can even serve it with a meal! Don't be afraid of yeast, yes they are alive but they won't bite! I buy the little jar instead of the packages because it stores nicely in the fridge, I can control the amount I use, and it is cheaper. To proof yeast, just put it in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water (water that is comfortably hot...not burn you hot) and sprinkle about 1/4 tsp. of sugar on top then gently stir. Remember, yeast is a living thing...be nice! After a few minutes, you will have the fragrant bubbly/foamy creation that will make your bread Chewly Awesome!
|This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship..uh, |
I mean French bread
4 cups bread flour (it will work with regular All Purpose flour)
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (One pkg)
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of warm water
Place your yeast in your 1/2 cup of warm water, sprinkle sugar on top, stir and let it wake up - you will know it's ready when it's bubbly and foamy (From the burping, as Alton Brown says)
In the mean time, put 1/4 cup of bread flour on your clean counter top and reserve. Place remaining 3 3/4 cups bread flour in your mixer bowl.
Pour yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt on the other side (This is important because salt will kill yeast).
MIXER DIRECTIONS: Pour in the other cup of warm water and with your regular mixer paddle, mix on low speed until the dough comes together in a mass. Switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Dough should clear the sides but stick to the bottom. If it is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time. If too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water to dough to adjust. Let it rest for 3 minutes then turn your mixer on and mix for another 3 minutes. Take the dough out and put it on a floured surface and knead it just for a couple of min or until you have a nice smooth dough that is about the consistency of your ear lobe. Or , you can just poke 2 fingers down in the dough about 1/2 inch. If the holes stay, it's ready. If they pop back up, keep kneading.
BOWL/SPOON DIRECTIONS: IF YOU DON'T have a mixer, then here is what you do. Mix with a wooden spoon until it all comes together in a mass. If it is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time. If too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water to dough to adjust. Turn the dough over onto your floured surface and begin to knead the dough. Click here to find out how
Knead the dough for 6 minutes, let it rest for 7 minutes, then knead it for 7 minutes again or until you have a nice smooth dough that is about the consistency of your ear lobe. Or , you can just poke 2 fingers down in the dough about 1/2 inch. If the holes stay, it's ready. If they pop back up, keep kneading.
Put the dough in a large oiled bowl (Just take some canola oil and rub it all over the bowl with a paper towel) and lightly cover with either a tea cloth or plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm place and let it rise for about 1 and 1/2 hour. The ideal temp to let dough rise is 70 degrees or higher. I turn my oven on, and place the bowl on my stove. My oven blows out hot air from a vent and gives the bread a nice comfy temperature to rise in. You can also preheat your oven to 150 degrees, turn it off and place your dough inside. If you use this method, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE IT IN AN OVEN SAFE BOWL.
Once the dough has doubled in size, it is ready to be punched down. Literally, just give it a gentle punch in the center to deflate it then form it back into a ball. Let it rest 3 minutes.
Now, divide the dough in half (This makes 2 loaf's and you will shape them separately)
The next steps are best told with pictures.
|1.)Spread the dough out |
to a 6 by 12 rectangle
|2.)Fold each long edge into the center|
|3.)Now give it a good chop down the center |
and stretch the dough out to make it longer..about 16 inches
|4.) Pinch the edges together to make a seam|
|5.)Fold the ends over the seam you |
just made and pinch to seal
|6.)Turn it seam side down (I had a double recipe |
that is why there are so many loaves)
|7.) Cover with damp paper towels|
Repeat with your other half of dough
Let rest for 45 min. or until loaves double in size.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and get 1/2 cup of water ready by the stove. If you are using a stone, preheat the stone inside the oven.
Now, take a sharp knife and cut five, 1/4 inch deep slits across the top of each loaf. (This is going to allow the steam to escape so your bread rises evenly in the oven. )
Take your stone out of the oven, if you are using one, and place your loves on the stone
Open your stove, stick your bread in the oven and throw the water on the oven floor. (YES, you read that right...this is safe for your oven, and it creates that steam that is important for you to get that crusty crust that IS french bread) Immediately close the oven door.
Bake 20 to 25 min. or until the crust is a nice golden brown.
Place it on a cooling rack and listen to the symphony with will play for you. As it cools, it will crackle....it's really amazing! Wait for about 5 to 10 min. to let it cool slightly - this is important if you do not want 2nd degree burns on the roof of your mouth and your tongue!)
Now, go ahead, cut a slice. Listen to the crunch of the wonderful crust, and then feel the knife get to the soft pillowy center...then slather it with butter and breathe in the aroma of this wonderful creation as you take a big bite...you deserve it!Congratulations! You have made homemade bread!!!! You are truly a Lady! (The first literal meaning of Lady was "One who kneads bread) Guess what..next time, it will be even easier than this time!