Sunday, May 17, 2009

Homemade French Baguettes

I love bread, especially crusty bread that is warm and soft inside. This recipe came from a book my Mother in Law gave me called The Good Cook - Breads, which was published the year I was born. I find it to be very good at explaining HOW bread works, and how to manipulate it. This translates to "wordy and with few pictures."  I know this from other bread-making experience, but French Bread is made without fats, no butter or oil. This is why it dries up fast and really should be eaten that same day.

Of course, I did cheat a little and used my breadmaker for the rise cycle. My kitchen is very airy and cool, so getting things to rise is difficult.  I highly doubt it changed anything. 

Monsier Monfort's French Bread - The Good Cook: Breads

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)

3.5 - 4 cups flour (bread)
1/4 oz yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 tsp salt
1.5 cups tepid water


In your breadmaker, following its instructions, combine the above ingredients. Generally, this means put the water in first, the flour in second, the salt around the outsides of the flour and the yeast in the middle on top of the flour. Set it on to the "rise" cycle. My breadmaker (Breadman  TR875 2lb bread maker kneads the bread for 5 minutes, rests for 5, then kneads for 15, then lets it rise for 1 hour. 

If you're doing this by hand, combine all the ingredients into a bowl and then turn out onto a floured surface. The dough will be tacky. Begin turning and kneading the dough using a pastry knife. Add flour if the counter surface gets tacky, but do so sparingly. Then knead by hand, occasionally throwing t
he dough onto the surface, which will allow the dough to become elastic. Wash the bowl, then grease it, placing the dought back inside. Cover tightly and set in a warm place, allow to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours or until double in size. Punch down the dough, then allow to double in size again. 

Turn the dough onto a floured surface, punch it down, and keand breifly to work out the air bubbles. Divide the dough into 2 halfs, then let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Begin to work the dough slowly into the correct shape, appx. 18 inch cylinders. If the dough resists changing shape, allow it to rest for 3 to 4 minutes at a time. 

Place the shaped dough onto a greased baking sheet, drape with wax paper, and allow to rise until double in size. 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven preheats, place a baking dish half full with water on the bottom shelf of the oven. Right before baking, spray or brush the loaves of bread with water, then use a sharp knife to make cuts in the top of the bread. Hold the knife at a 45 degree angle and make cuts along the top of the bread. 

Put the bread into the oven. During the first 15 minutes of baking, spray or brush the bread with water every 3 minutes. Do this from the oven door, CAREFULLY!  Bake the loaves until golden brown, about 25 to 3 minutes. A hard, hollow sound will indidate that the bread is done. 

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