I love making fresh bread.
There is nothing like a loaf of fresh cinnamon bread, sliced toasted, and buttered to go with your morning coffee. Yum…I’m not making cinnamon bread today. Or another favorite my Aunt Brenda’s Sourdough bread, mine is good but not ever as good as hers. I’m going to bake french bread, because I’m making Chicken Alfredo today and it’s not from scratch. I’m going to use a jar sauce, left-over rotisserie chicken, and a box of pasta, so from guilt I’m going to make a couple of loaves of french bread.
I know I can get a loaf from the store for a dollar, yes one whole dollar. I know it will take me a couple of minutes to slice and cover with garlic butter, pop in the oven and I’d be done. But I love homemade french bread…it’s got a chewy crust, soft inside, and the smell of it baking…sigh.
It’s gonna be 91 degrees today, it’s a hot day here in sunny Oklahoma and I’m going to bake bread. Issues? Yes, but we don’t judge.
The Best Crusty French Bread (in Oklahoma)…
2 cups warm water (it should feel hot to your hand but not burn you…if it is too hot for your hand it will kill the yeast. Don’t kill the yeast, we like yeast.)
1 tablespoon yeast (Buy the jar, it’s cheaper in the long run. I keep my in the fridge…is that correct? I don’t know but my yeast works, and it seems to like me)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5 -5 1/2 cups bread flour (go buy the bread flour, if you don’t the texture will be different. It won’t be as chewy. You can use regular, but it won’t be the same.)
Dissolve yeast in warm water (not hot, not cold) and sugar in large bowl; allow yeast to proof (which means it should start to get foamy, foam is good, it means you didn’t kill the yeast…no foam? Dead yeast so start over).
Add salt, oil, and 3 cups flour; beat for 2 minutes. Use your mixer, it will make your life easier.
Stir in 2 cups flour to make a stiff dough.
Now replace your mixing attachment with your kneading attachment. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Place in oiled bowl, turn dough to coat all sides, cover and let rise until doubled.
Punch down and divide in half.
Shape dough into two long slender loaves.
Grease and sprinkle cornmeal on a large cookie sheet.
Place loaves in pan and cut diagonal gashes on top of each loaf (knife works and so does scissors). Now brush them with olive oil.
Cover and let rise until doubled.
Put a pan with 1 inch of water in it on the bottom of the oven. Place your baking sheets at the top of a preheated 450°F oven. Bake for 15 minutes then decrease to 350F for 15 minutes.
One loaf is for you to eat before supper, the other is for your family to enjoy.