3.27.2013

Crusty French Bread Recipe


This is an easy bread to bake The loaves have a nice coarse crumb and chewy crust. The recipe makes 2 long loaves as is pictured. This bread requires no kneading but the initial rising of this dough takes 2 hours so leave yourself time to make these delicious French bread baguettes.

Method: 

If you are a novice bread baker, please read my notes at the end of this recipe.There are some helpful hints there that can make this your most successful bread baking experience.

Scald: 1/2 cup milk
Add to this:
1 cup boiling water
Let this mixture cool to 85 degrees Use a thermometer to check this.

While your liquid is cooling, dissolve 1 tbl yeast (not quick rise yeast) in 1/4 cup of  warm water(85 degrees)
Let the yeast rest in the water for 10 minutes. It should swell and foam.
After the yeast has rested for 10 minutes add it to the cooled milk mixture with:
11/2 tbl melted shortening
1 tbl sugar

Measure into a large bowl:
4 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Stir these ingredients together, then make a well in the center with your fist. Pour in the liquid mixture. Stir thoroughly. Do not knead. The dough will be soft and shaggy. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, punch the dough down in the bowl with your knuckles. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured surface. Divide into 2 equal pieces.
Here is a trick I use for shaping this dough into 2 loaves successfully. I make an long oblong shape out of 1/2 my dough, roll over one of the long side edges to the center and then repeat for the second side.I fold the ends under slightly. I then place the loaf rolled side down on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the other portion of dough. The rolled shape underneath helps keep the loaves higher and rounder .Cut diagonal slashes 1/4 inch deep across the top of each loaf with a wet serrated knife. Place the baking sheet with the loaves in a warm place to rise until the loaves have almost doubled in bulk. This takes about 40 minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
On the lower rack place a metal pan filled with 1/2 an inch of boiling water. Place the bread above this on the middle rack.
Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes longer.
Five minutes before the bread has finished baking, you can brush the loaves with a mixture of one beaten egg white(beaten with a fork that is)mixed with a tablespoon of cold water.
This is optional, it serves to define the crust, but I have made beautiful crusty loaves without this step as well.
To make sure that your loaves have finished baking simply turn the loaf over on your hand. Tap the bottom with your knuckles. You should hear a hollow sound. If not return to your oven for 5 minute increments.

Notes:

1.The first step involves letting your liquid mixture cool to 85 degrees. I find that I place it in the refrigerator for 10 minute increments to hasten this. I use my candy  thermometer to check the temperature and also to check the water temperature for the yeast. 
2.After your bread has finished baking, remove the loaves to a cooling rack. Allowing air to circulate around your loaves helps them cool faster. Leaving the loaves to cool on your baking sheet will dry them out as they continue to bake on the hot sheet. If you don't have a cooling rack, place your loaves across an inverted dinner plate or use the grated top from your broiler pan.
3.Different brands of flours used in your recipe behave differently as far as the consistency of your bread dough is concerned. That being said, if you find that your loaves turn out too flat even after rolling them as suggested, then possibly your dough is too moist. When I experienced this I simply cut back on the water at the beginning of the recipe by 1/4 of a cup. My dough was a little bit harder to stir but my loaves turned out rounder.
4. Successful bread baking is affected by the temperature of the day. If you're trying to have your dough rise in a cool, damp or drafty kitchen, you won't be successful. By the same token too warm or humid in the kitchen doesn't produce a good result either. If I find that I have a concern with the air temperature in my kitchen, I simply place my covered bowl of dough to rise in my oven with the oven light on. The oven light produces an even temperature of about 70 degrees a perfect constant for dough rising. Of course just make sure that no one could inadvertently  be turning the oven on.
There's just a few simple ingredients involved in great bread baking. Paying attention to a few hints on how to perfect the method you employ can make the time spent produce loaves of bread to rave about!!

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