I love baking bread, any kind of bread! The smell of baking bread fills my head and heart with memories of childhood and of a home long ago! A home filled with children and fun. French bread is simple, a basic bread that is easy to make. It is a recipe you too may use to create those memories in your family members’ hearts. It is indeed a simple recipe, one easily learned!
One memory my own children speak of often is the coming home to bread I baked when they were youngsters! Here is a recipe I used often.
-Basic French Bread
5-5 1/2 cups bread flour, divided
1 1/2 tbsp. dry active yeast
2 cups warm water
*1/4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
In a large mixing bowl add water, yeast and sugar, stir a few times then let this sit 10 minutes so yeast can begin to grow. It will be foamy and cloudy when ready.
Add salt and stir to dissolve.
Begin adding flour, and stirring after each addition until you have a soft, smooth dough. Turn out onto a well floured surface and begin kneading the dough. This is an important step for it is in the kneading that the dough will begin to take shape. Kneading the dough stretches the gluten in the wheat and thus allows for good rising quality in the product.
Knead dough for a full five minutes.
Cover with a damp tea towel or a large bowl inverted over the dough. Allow to raise for 30 minutes or until double in bulk.
After dough has doubled in bulk, punch down and begin shaping into loaves. This dough will make 2 big loaves of French bread. I shape them into long baguettes, but they do equally well shaped into rounds.
Brush a sheet pan lightly with oil or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Position loaves on sheet pan, leaving at least 2 inches between to accommodate the raising dough.
Brush loaf tops lightly with egg wash for a crisp crust. Brush with olive oil for a soft crust. Using a bakers razor or very sharp knife, cut slits into each loaf.
Place dough in a warm draft free place to raise, until double in bulk. Preheat oven to 400oF. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until loaves are dark brown and crusts are dry.
Remove from oven, slide onto cooling racks and allow to cool.
*I never used to add sugar to this recipe however I do now. Seems like yeasts are a bit different than they used to be.
My family all gathered around the hot bread at this point, as we ceremoniously cut the ends off both loaves, buttered them profusely and gleefully ate those hot chunks of bread! Yes, fond memories to be sure!