Monday, June 29, 2009

Fabulous French Bread


Sandwich Rolls

In a large mixing bowl add:
2 1/2 cups very warm water
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS salt, sea salt preferred
2 TBS oil, I use olive oil
3 cups unbleached flour

Then add:
2 TBS yeast
2 to 3 cups flour/ I often use 1 cup of wheat flour; more than that makes the bread dry

Beat vigorously 2 or 3 minutes with a wooden spoon. (I often used my mixer, but I've heard you can get better results with a wooden spoon.) Only add enough dough to where it is still sticky. The dough will form during the 6 stirrings.
Leave the spoon in the batter, cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Stir down the dough as much as possible and then let it rest another 10 minutes. Repeat this process until the dough has been stirred down six times total (I've also done it as few as 4 times and the bread is still tasty.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead only enough to coat the dough. Divide the dough into two parts. Roll each part into a rectangle about 9 inches long and roll up like a jelly roll rolling from long side to long side. (This works better than rolling the dough into a long “snake.”) Arrange lengthwise on large cookie sheet or French bread pan that has been greased and sprinkled with corn meal.
Cover and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

With a very sharp knife, cut two length-wise gashes on the top. You may brush the entire surface with a slightly beaten whole egg. Bake in a preheated oven of 400 for 25-30 minutes or until brown. Immediately remove from baking sheets and cool on racks.

To create a nice crust, place a cast-iron skillet on the bottom rack of the oven and let it heat up as the oven preheats. After the bread pan is in the oven, pour boiling water into the skillet and quickly close the oven door. The steam from this process helps to create a nice crust on the bread.

The recipe calls for up to 6 cups of flour; however, I try to stay between 5 and 5 1/2 cups. It really is okay if the dough is sticky. If it seems too sticky part way through the stir downs, then just add a little more flour. It is easier to add some flour, but harder to fix dry bread.
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