Sunday, January 28, 2018

Crusty, French Bread






Here is some background information before I jump into the recipe and directions.

My husband asked me to bake some crusty French bread. I had not made French bread in over 40 years and remember watching Julie Child on television in the late 1960's. I would rush home from college to turn on her TV show. Today I use her videos on YouTube to refresh my memory.

I checked several recipes and decided to combine some things to try to recreate the bread my husband remembers. I keep a jar of yeast in the refrigerator and keep several types of flours on hand. I decided to follow Julie Child's advice and use unbleached flour as she states the unbleached flour creates a crisp crust.

Julie Child also mentions that the addition of salt (besides controlling the yeast's growth) gives color to the inside of the bread. I rarely use salt in any of my recipes, but decided to use half the salt recommended. I used a bit of sugar to feed and "proof" the yeast and used water instead of milk in the bread dough.

A bit of corn flour/cornmeal is used to keep the sticky bread dough from sticking to the pan. To make doubly sure I would not have a sticky problem, I set the dough to raise on my silicon baking sheet.

To insure I would get a crisp, crackly crust, I used an enamel pan on the lowest shelf in my upper oven and added boiling water to it just before placing the bread dough in the oven. The key to the crust is the brushing of the bread dough with a bit of salt water. Since I could not find my pastry brush, I wet a folded paper towel with the salt water and used it as a brush to quickly cover the loaves with the slightly salted water while baking! This bread requires the yeast to be proofed to make sure it is alive and the dough is left to rise 3 times, most recipes I use require that the dough rise only twice.

My ingredients for 3 loaves of French bread include:

1/4 cup lukewarm water (I use cold tap water and microwave it to lukewarm - take care as hot water will kill the yeast
2 tsp of dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
5 cups unbleached flour plus about 1/2-1 cup extra for kneading
1/2 cup fine corn meal

For brushing the bread I used 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water (I would lower this to 1/4 tsp next time).

Directions to be continued.

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