Saturday, January 17, 2009

Country French Bread

I found this recipe on the Fleischmann's Yeast site, Bread World, and have made it a couple of times. It is very good--soft, with a good tight crumb on the inside. Gorgeous, crispy, golden crust on the outside. Smaller loaves would make fantastic submarine sandwiches.

Now, the two times I've made this, the dough didn't completely rise in the fridge. When I peeked at those two naked loaves the next morning, they were still, well, undersized. I glowered at them, to no postive effect, and took the loaves out and put them on the kitchen counter to let them come to room temperature with hopes that they would continue to rise. (My kitchen temperature though is pretty cool. I live in New England with high heating costs so the heat stays down.) In a moment of angst, I then put them on top of the stove, covered with a damp cloth, while the oven was heating; that seemed to help, but really, the loaves finished rising nicely in the oven, as you can see.

Want to know something funny? I didn't read the directions carefully enough to see that the yeast called for was RapidRise Yeast. I was using ActiveDry. Coincidentally, I have enough experience to notice that the recipe didn't ask for the yeast to be proofed, and me being who I am, naturally thought the nice folks at Fleischmann's made a mistake! So, I proofed the yeast (as you must do with ActiveDry; RapidRise is added in with the dry ingredients, no proofing) and carried on as usual. I am hanging my head here. Perhaps the key is reading all the words and following all the directions?

I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook to mix the dough to a nice smooth, soft texture. However, before forming into loaves, I kneaded the dough a couple of minutes by hand. I think bread dough needs the personal touch to give it that homemade flavor. I read somewhere that it's a transfer of energy thing. I don't know about that, but I do think you can taste the difference.

Some bakers may be intimidated about slashing the dough to give the loaf its classical look, and I'll admit, it is a tad tricky. Start by using a sharp knife, like a paring knife, or sharp, single-edge razor (I wouldn't recommend a serrated knife unless you have a lot of experience). Now, hold your knife at a 45 degree angle to the dough; then, quickly, with confidence, make a slash about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, starting at the opposite end from you and pulling the knife diagonally towards you. If you hesitate, you will run the risk of having raggedy edges, or worse, deflating your dough. It just needs to be a nice smooth action. Depending on the length of your loaf, you'll probably want three to five slashes. Please add the egg white wash; it will be the finishing touch that will make your loaf beautiful.

So, I'm chagrined at my arrogance over the yeast thing. But ignore that. This I do know: There's some work involved in preparing this, but the effort is greatly rewarded. This is good French bread!


  1. Katypi, I baked cookies today and am planning on bread tomorrow... anything to justify having the oven going! I will check out this site and see what yeast I have... thinking both kinds. Thank you, friend. Your picture convinced me!

  2. Katypi that is a great picture!

    I'm the same way when reading a recipe. I have to "force" myself to read it and read it word for word sometimes because I have just looked at the ingredient list and just thrown it together. I've been lucky it does work out sometimes considering the mistakes I have made!

  3. Too often, when I read, I see what I think the words are going to be and not what they are. LOL!

  4. Thanks for the tips on slashing; it scares me. I'd love a hunka that bread with a chunka cold butter melting on it. Heaven!

  5. Oo I adore french bread...well I adore bread of any kind really. Yours looks delicious!

  6. I'm intimidated by slashing and in spite of two bread slashing instruments, I still do poorly. Your loaves are gorgeous!


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