This past Saturday we starting my first “cooking with Dad” session. Saturday evenings are normally quiet around here. And the relaxing hum of college football is the perfect background to attempt new cooking.
This week was french bread. I tried to find a recipe that didn’t require too much rising and seemed basic enough for an initial try. In total, the dough rises for 1.5 hours and baked for about 40 minutes. It surprising easy and low maintenance and a great time with my dad. Dad worked in restaurants most of my life. He and my mom started working in restaurants when they were first married, and throughout their life has owned several and worked in a wide variety of restaurants from one end of the country to the other. I learned in the course of this baking that in one of their restaurants, my dad used to make all of the baked goods from scratch. The made bread loaf, rolls, and sweet breads. He said he has since forgotten the recipes and he said the touch, but after seeing him handle the rolling and shaping of the bread, I’m glad that for this first attempt, he had experience to bring to the table that I didn’t even know about.
This doesn’t need a bread maker or stand mixer, so truly anyone can make it.
To start, you combine 2 T dry yeast with 2 1/2 C warm water in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 T sugar on top of the yeast mixture and let dissolve. It will start to bubble as it dissolves.
Stir in 1 T salt, 2 T canola oil, and 3 C of flour. Mix by hand. Once this is combined, add the remaining 3 C of flour. Mix by hand until combined. Knead by hand to form a soft, but not sticky ball. (This can all be done in the same large mixing bowl to save on kitchen clean up later!)
Let the dough rise for 15 minutes. Then punch it down.
1. Let rise for 10 minutes and then punch it down.
2. Let rise for 10 minutes and then punch it down.
3. Let rise for 10 minutes and then punch it down.
Yes, you do the “rise . . . and punch down” three times after the initial 15 minutes.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface, divide in half and begin shaping.
You want the dough to be the length of your baking sheet, and evenly thick.
Rest of dough loaves on individual baking sheets (lined with parchment paper), cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise for 45 minutes or until they have doubled in size. Only they are finished rising, scour the bread 3-4 times across the top of the load.
Brush the load with an egg wash. (we forgot this part which would explain why it didn’t brown as we hoped)
FINALLY, bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes. You will want to check the bread at about 15 minutes, in case your over is extra strong and the bread is baking faster than expected.
WHAT WE LEARNED:
1. We ended up baking the bread for about 35 minutes. Since ours still hadn’t browned (due to the forgotten egg wash) we then put it under the broiler for a few minutes to give the golden crust. It seemed to work well.
2. The bread has a great texture, and stayed good overnight simply wrapped in a linen dish cloth. By the end of day 2 though it wasn’t as fresh tasting, and by day three, will be used for croutons.
3. It was great with cheese and as a sandwich, and surprisingly easy to make. If you don’t have a large enough family to eat two loaves of bread, or don’t want to be tempted to try to eat it all yourself, in 2 days, I would suggest making a half version of this recipe, giving you just one loaf to handle.
4. This recipe was adapted.