Friday, April 8, 2011

French Bread

You know when January rolls around and people set goals?  My goals are mostly about food.  Each year for a while now, I've set myself a new task in the kitchen to enhance our eating, and therefore our lives.  A couple of years ago, I set the goal to make good French Bread.  True French Bread has only flour, yeast, salt and water for ingredients, so it is really the methods that make the difference in the finished product.  I made some attempts.  They were all edible, but I couldn't get that nice crunchy crust.  I read about spritzing your oven with water, but didn't dare try it after all the warnings about don't hit the light or it will explode. I resorted to egg washes but still found nothing to make me happy.  I moved on--setting new goals, but never giving up the hope that I would find the secret.  Recently, I was going through some of my oldest collection of recipes and came across a French bread recipe using this little trick with ice cubes.  It works so well!!!  It is  a shame that I've had this recipe for at least 15 years and hadn't tried it.  I could have been eating the good stuff a lot earlier, but that is how life goes and how time flies.  This bread is one you must have some patience with.  Let it rise nice and high both times and you won't be disappointed.

French Bread
5 c. flour (plus 2 additional cups)
2 Tbsp. yeast (directions here are for rapid-rise/instant yeast)
1 Tbsp. salt
2 1/2 c. hot water
(two ice cubes)

In the bowl of a mixer, fitted with a dough hook, combine 5 cups of the flour, yeast and salt.  Add the hot water and mix to combine.  Add up to 2 c. additional flour, a little at a time, while the mixer is running.  You know you have enough flour when the dough gathers into a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl.  At this point, let the dough knead for 5 minutes more.  Place dough in a large bowl which has been coated with cooking spray, spritz the dough with a bit of cooking spray and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a thick towel to keep in the warmth.  Let rise until doubled. (about 1 hour)  Punch down.  Form into 2 long loaves (or whatever shape you want), slash the top of loaves with a sharp knife and let rise again (about 30 min).  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  You must have the oven already at temperature before you put the loaves inside.  Place the loaves on the oven rack and toss two ice cubes on the floor of the oven and shut the door.  Bake at 400 for 25 min, then reduce heat to 375 for 10 min. Yield 2 loaves of beautifully crusty bread.

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If you are visiting, welcome! I am in the process of a Vulcan Mind Meld with my computer to put all of my right hand recipes for feeding my family on here as fast as possible. Please come back often and stay awhile. There are so many exciting things to come!

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