French Bread

French Bread

French bread is made out of such simple ingredients but once combined in such a way it creates such a beautiful, tasty, comforting masterpiece. 

Since the process is the most important part of making French Bread, here are a number of pictures that show this process. When mixing up the dough, mix until it comes together in a mass. Dough should clear the sides but still be slightly sticky. If it is too sticky, add more flour. If too dry, add more water.


Kneading the dough is one of the most processes to bread-making. Kneading warms and stretches gluten strands within the flour, eventually creating a springy and elastic dough. Knead by hand until the dough is very satiny and smooth.

 

Once kneaded form into a nice, compact ball. Another very important step in bread-making is the rising process. When rising the dough should almost double in size:

After the dough has risen fully, lightly punch dough down and form back into a ball. Poke your finger on the surface – the dough should give into the pressure and slowly creep back up. Here’s what it should look like:

When shaping the loaves you’ll shape half at a time . Pick up the dough and let gravity stretch it out. Rotate the dough every few seconds as you hold the “corners” of the dough. Continue until it forms a big rectangle. We want to make sure at this point not to pull the bread, and to be gentle with it in order to allow for a nice rise. 

 

Dust your work surface with flour and fold over the ends of the dough like this: 

Using a vertical hand press down the bread lengthwise down the middle of the bread. Pinch all sides shut. Be sure the tuck in the ends. IMPORTANT – make sure that all ends including the short ends are pinched tightly to create a seal. If the bread looks a little lopsided, you can try to fix it by letting it rest 5 minutes and gently stretching it out again. 

 

Before baking the bread take a sharp paring knife and make 3-4 shallow, diagonal slashes on the surface of the loaf. This allows the steam in the bread to escape so that it expands evenly during the baking process.
You will notice that we are using tiles as a surface for baking our French Bread. We did our research and found out that instead of purchasing fancy baking stones you can go to your local home improvement store and purchase unglazen quarry tiles.

Ta Da!

 

French Bread
Simple ingredients, wonderful taste!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (optionally substitute 2 cups of all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour)
  2. 2 teaspoon active quick rising dry yeast (we recommend Red Star active dry yeast)
  3. 2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 1/2 cups warm water
  5. cooking spray
Equipment
  1. Mixing Bowl (we have found that a wooden mixing bowl works beautifully, but plastic works just as well)
  2. Rising Bowl (can be same as mixing)
  3. Baking Stones (or unglazed quarry tiles, see photo below – these are great cheap alternatives to baking stones at 17 cents a square)
  4. Wooden Peel (optional)
  5. Flour Shaker (optional)
  6. Instant read thermometer (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place flour in your mixing bowl. Spoon the yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt on the other side.
  2. Pour in the warm water and mix together with hands until the dough comes together in a mass. Hand mix dough for a couple of minutes. Dough should clear the sides but still be slightly sticky. If it is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time. If too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water to dough to adjust.
  3. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Hand mix again for a few minutes. Take the dough out and place on a pre- flour dusted peel or counter. Knead the dough by hand, incorporate more flour as you need.
  5. Knead by hand until the dough is very satiny, smooth, tight and formed into a nice, compact ball.
  6. Place this dough in a large lightly oiled bowl (we use Pam spray). Turn dough over so that all sides have a thin coating of oil. Cover bowl with a towel and set in warm place for 1 1/2 hours to let rest and rise. Dough should almost double in size.
  7. While the dough is rising, about 1 hour into the rising stage, preheat your oven to 450F and place baking stones into the oven to heat up.
  8. After the dough has risen fully, lightly punch dough down and form back into a ball. Poke your finger on the surface – the dough should give into the pressure and slowly creep back up.
  9. Cut the dough into half – you’ll shape one half at a time (keep the other piece in the bowl under cover) Pick up the dough and let gravity stretch it out. Rotate the dough every few seconds as you hold the “corners” of the dough. Continue until it forms a big rectangle. We want to make sure at this point not to pull the bread, and to be gentle with it in order to allow for a nice rise.
  10. Dust your work surface with flour and fold over the ends of the dough.
  11. Using a vertical hand press down the bread lengthwise down the middle of the bread.
  12. Pinch all sides shut. Be sure the tuck in the ends. IMPORTANT – make sure that all ends including the short ends are pinched tightly to create a seal. If the bread looks a little lopsided, you can try to fix it by letting it rest 5 minutes and gently stretching it out again.
  13. Turn the bread over so that it is seam side down. Cover the loaf with a damp kitchen towel. Repeat with the other dough ball. Leave the loaves to rest on your well-floured pizza peel or cutting board for 30 minutes.
  14. After resting, take a sharp paring knife and make 3-4 shallow, diagonal slashes on the surface of the loaf.This allows the steam in the bread to escape so that it expands evenly during the baking process.
  15. When you are ready to bake, prepare a 1/2 cup of water ready next to the stove. Slide out oven rack with baking stones to allow more room for transporting the loaves onto the stones. Carefully slide the loaves onto the baking stones. Throw the water on the oven floor. Immediately close the oven door. This created steam which will create a nice crust to the bread. Obviously this process may depend on your oven type, a pie tin and water could be a replacement if you can’t toss water into the bottom of the oven. This photo shows this action, just before closing the oven door.
  16. Bake 20-25 minutes. Check temperature of the bread, the internal should be 190-210F. Remove and let cool before cutting into it.
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen
Grant and Nicky http://grantandnicky.littleacorn.net/

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