Working Parent Parenting & Child Care by Stage Child Development Education Family Health Family Life In the News

Rise to the Occasion: Easiest and Best French Bread

I’ve been cooking for many years and have always enjoyed discovering new recipes and techniques. Until recently, there was one staple food I have artfully avoided testing in my kitchen – fresh bread. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made my share of breads – pumpkin bread, banana bread, and other “quick” (ahem – baking soda) breads. My experience with yeast pretty much started and ended with pizza dough. I don’t know what about the elusive yeast frightened me off. I think I revered bread-making as a craft that only true artisans and grandmothers made.

Feeling confident one morning, I pulled out my “go to” cookbook – How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. This cookbook is hands down the most useful gift I’ve ever received (thanks Jen!). This is what I love about the book — when I page to the fresh bread recipe it reads:

Easiest and Best French Bread
Time: At least 3 hours, largely unattended

Sounds perfect for a newbie! And it was true to its description…easy, delicious, and largely hands-off.

Easiest and Best French Bread

3 ½ cups bread or all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
Scant 1½ cups water

Note: The cookbook gives a variety of methods, additions, and shapes for making the bread. To follow is how I made my French bread round loaf.

  1. Place the flour in a food processor. Add salt and yeast and process for 5 seconds.
  2. With the machine running, pour most of the water through the feed tube. Process about 30 seconds. The dough should be in a defined and shaggy ball, still sticky and not something you’d want to knead by hand.
  3. Dump the dough into a large bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel. Let it sit for 2-3 hours at room temperature.
  4. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto your workspace and shape the dough into a ball sprinkling more flour as needed. Shape the dough into a “boule” or round loaf by working around the ball, continually tucking the dough toward the center of the bottom, stretching the top slightly and creating surface tension. Pinch together the seam created at the bottom of the dough.
  5. Place a clean kitchen towel in a colander or round basket. Sprinkle it with flour. Place the dough ball, seam up, in the towel and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the towel over the dough and let rise for 2-6 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 450°F. When you are ready to bake, turn the ball onto a baking sheet or pizza stone. Slash the top of the ball a few times with a razor blade. Spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam. Place the dough in the oven.
  7. Spray oven 2-3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 350°F. Bake a total of 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.


One comment

  1. Anonymous November 6, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Sounds awesome. Thanks for the recipe. WIll have to try it.

Please Log In to Comment