Tuesday, January 29, 2013

French Bread

Make this bread. Just stand up from the couch, desk, floor, bed, wherever and proceed to your kitchen to make this bread. You probably already have all the ingredients and it's super easy. So just do it. This crusty outside, soft inside, french bread is fabulous. It's very easy to make and even easier to eat. I once taught a cooking class and selected this recipe to share with the class. I'm not sure if the class learned anything but I know I did and it's that this recipe is so forgiving, it would take a lot to screw it up. Some people brought stand mixers and some people brought mixing bowls and wooden spoons but they all took home beautiful loaves of french bread to proof and bake at home. This is the perfect bread to serve along side any Italian dish like this  or this , but it's great as garlic bread served with soups too, or even sliced thin and used as panini bread. Any way you eat it, it's sure to be a new favorite!
2 1/4 cup warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp oil (canola or olive just depending on which flavor you prefer)
5 1/2 - 6 cups bread flour (All Purpose works too I've had success with both)
1 egg
1 Tbsp water
1/2 cup cornmeal
Sesame seeds (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or even a large mixing bowl, if you want an arm workout) dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water. Let this sit for a few minutes until it bubbles and looks foamy on top, about 3 minutes. Add the salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and beat well, until the flour is mixed in. Slowly add in 2 1/2 -3 more cups of flour. The dough should clean off the sides of the bowl and not be too sticky – be careful not to add too much flour. Knead for a few minutes.
Leave the dough in the mixer (or bowl) to rest for 10 minutes covered with a damp kitchen towel and then stir it down (turn on your mixer for 10 seconds) and then allow to rest another 10 minutes. Repeat for a total of 5 times. When the proof/mix time is over turn dough onto a floured surface and divide into two equal parts. Roll each part into a 9×13 rectangle. Roll dough up, starting from long edge of loaf to seal. 
Press the edge together with your fingers. Arrange seam side down on large baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal, allowing room for both loaves. Repeat with second part of dough. With a sharp serrated knife score the bread making shallow diagonal cuts on the top of each loaf. Cover lightly and allow to rise 30 minutes.
With a sharp serrated knife score the bread making semi-shallow diagonal cuts on the top of each loaf. Cover lightly and allow to rise 30 minutes.
When rise time is done brush entire surface with an egg wash (one egg beaten mixed with 1 Tbsp of water). If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees. You'll know it's done when the crust has browned and a gentle knock on the crust sounds hollow. Remove from the oven, cool and enjoy. 

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