I've mentioned before that I absolutely love baking bread- it's probably one of my favorite things to make. Sandwich breads, quick breads, artisan breads, rolls, biscuits.
One thing I often leave to the store? French bread. There's just something magic about French bread that I've never really attempted to capture at home- until today, that is.
Let me just tell you- I don't know why I waited so long. It's seriously one of the easiest yeast breads I've ever made in my life! AND it turned out perfectly- chewy, crusty goodness outside and soft, yeasty goodness inside. Absolute perfection. This recipe comes from Jill at The Prairie Homestead, and its wonderful.
Next time you're having Italian, don't run by the store for one of those ubiquitous foil-wrapped loaves- stop. Put it down and walk away, head straight for your kitchen and whip up a batch of this awesomeness- it will be well worth your time!
Homemade French Bread
1 1/4 cup warm water (80-90 degrees)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1. Place yeast and sugar in large bowl; stir in warm water until everything dissolves. Add salt, and stir in as much flour as you can to create a soft, pliable dough that isn't too sticky.
2. Knead on a lightly floured surface 6-8 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic (I used the dough hook on my Kitchenaid mixer...). Return dough to bowl and cover with kitchen towel, allow to rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
3. Plop risen dough back on counter top and divide in half (at this point if you only wish to make one loaf of bread half of the dough can be placed in a freezer bag and frozen for later use). Roll each half into a rectangular shape of about 10" by 8". Roll up rectangle starting with a long side. Pinch ends to seal and shape into a "log". If seam doesn't stick, use wet fingers to moisten dough until it adheres. Grease pizza stone or stoneware baking sheet and place loaves on it to rise another 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To give loaves a shiny brown finish prepare an egg wash by beating one egg with one tablespoon of water. Right before you pop loaves in oven, brush tops with egg wash and make 4 diagonal slashes across top using sharp, serrated knife. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool on wire racks before serving.