Monday, January 22, 2007

Making french bread

Julie from work, baker extraordinare, recently loaned me one of her favorite bread baking books - and I can see why it's her favorite! Lots of great recipes and big beautiful pictures! I'd been itching for a chance/excuse to try one of the recipes, and since I knew Sharon was making an Italian crockpot casserole dish for this past Saturday night, I figured a good French bread should accompany it nicely!

There's a basic French bread recipe in the book, a food processor version (which I used), and a yogurt based version, which I hope to try soon. The food processor version was sooooo easy! Less work than the oatmeal toasting bread (that's partly due to fewer ingredients), and tasted "just like store bought" (and that almost sounds like an insult, but it's intended as a complement to the bread, and I heard it from the others who ate it as well)

Here's the dough after being whizzed together in the food processor, bundled up into a ball, and put in a well-greased large bowl, ready for it's first rise.

Two hours later, the dough was HUUUUGE and full of amazing bubbles. You can see where one popped along the right backside of the bowl - this bubble actually covered a good portion of the top of the dough ball, so things kind of caved in over there a little. Sure smelled good.

After being lightly punched down and a second (and optional) rise of one hour, the dough's back up to the size from the first rising. Maybe not quite as many big bubbles after this rise, but it's still real bubbly.

I then split the dough and formed it into two loaf shapes. I still need to work on this. They may look ok raw, but once baked...well, you'll see. Here they are sitting on a piece of parchment paper (dusted with cornmeal) on top of the pizza peel. I've been thinking I should've done without the parchment paper (which was recommended by the book) but have since read I could have just slid the entire piece of parchment paper, with the dough on it, right onto the baking stone - it would've been fine! Instead, I sort of distorted the loaves in trying to get them off the parchment paper. After taking this picture I gave each an egg white wash followed by three horizontal slits. You're only supposed to go about 1/4 inch - I might've shorted that a little?

Voila - two loaves of French bread! These smelled great, and were crackling up a storm after they came out of the oven. As you can see, neither was "perfect" French loaf shape - a little bend here, a little rupture of the crust there - but that just adds rustic appeal.

Mmmm mmmm good! We enjoyed some the first night, almost all of the second loaf was gone when feeding just six people the next night, and it reheated beautifully in the oven. It also makes great French toast once it staled a bit... I'll post the recipe separately, for those who want to print it.

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