Homestyle Country French Bread Recipe
Mmmmm bread…..It seems almost uncool to like bread, with modern food trends leaning towards gluten-free eats and not consuming empty calories, but, I must confess, I still love you, bread. I love you with butter. I love you with peanut butter. I love you with jam or mayhaps toasted, spread with goat cheese and drizzled with herb-infused honey. Mayhaps throw some toasted chopped walnuts on those toasty lil’ bitches. <wipes drool from chin>
These bad boys were destined to be garlic bread with a bit of homegrown basil.
About a year and a half ago, I decided I would learn how to make bread from scratch and have been slowly but surely getting better at it (emphasis on slowly). It’s a good hobby for a full-time homer like this guy, what with flour being cheap and there being quite a bit of downtime in the process, and, as I might have mentioned, it is delicious. I don’t do too much practice in the summer months when nobody wants to turn on an oven, but I was eager to do my first baking in our new house, and a cool overcast day is inevitable in the Great Lakes region and I wanted garlic bread and that’s enough reasons for bread baking and off we went.
First, we gathered our cast of characters:
(not pictured are our sour cream and cornmeal, they are shy)
Next, we dissolve our sugar in our warm water:
If you can get a sweet action shot of yourself doing so, pat yourself on the back like I did.
Sprinkle your yeast into the sugar water and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
If it foams up like so:
then your yeast lives (IT LIVES MWAHAHAHA) and you may proceed. If not, try some different yeast. I had a disappointing experience or two before I learned about this step that fancy-dans like to call “proofing the yeast” I think.
After that, I mixed in two of the cups of flour with a wooden spoon and let it sit for an hour. The reason I added this step is that I was using all purpose flour instead of bread flour and had a vague memory of watching Alton Brown set a bowl of flour and yeast in the fridge overnight one time on TV to “develop the glutens,” or something, so I thought it might help.
Next, I pulled out my trusty hand mixer with dough hooks attachment that is a lovely shade of green and mixed the salt and sour cream. Then I added the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time
until it started to feel nice and bread- doughy, which is not a real adjective, but I’m having a hard time thinking of a real one that would fit so here is another photo:
Then I popped that sucker into a bowl I had well-greased with butter using my (very clean) hand:
flipped it over so it had butter on both sides
and covered the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. The ball needs to hang out until it’s about twice its original size and this can take more or less than an hour, depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen, and does better in a draft-free spot, but usually about an hour at room temp. In this case, I took my cubs to the library and when we returned approximately 45 minutes later, this awaited me:
This needs “punching down” (sounds fun) or “deflating” (sounds not-fun) which amounts to pushing down on it to release trapped air. Don’t overdo it. Then I shaped it into very amateurish looking oblongs, like so:
and placed them on a cookie sheet I had sprinkled with cornmeal to prevent sticking so they rise a second time on the counter until they had again doubled in size:
and slashed on a bias at 2-inch intervals down the length of the (amateurish-looking) loaves.
These went into a 450f oven for 22 minutes (I turned on the light to stare at them around 18 minutes and dubbed them finished at 22) until they were a nice, golden color, and let ’em cool on a rack, and garlicked those bad boys up.
and that’s how I won at bread today…
ITEMS WE USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE