Sunday, April 7, 2013

Quick & Easy French Bread

Quick & Easy French Bread

From McEwen and McEwen's "The Best Bread" Recipe

A Fast & Easy Stand-Mixer-Kneaded Yeast-Risen
French Bread for Normies

1 1/2 cups Warm Water, divided 
1 Tbsp Sugar, divided
as follows:

1/2 cup Warm Water
1 1/2 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast
1 tsp Sugar
3 1/4 cups Bread Flour
         (unbleached organic white flour)
    OR      1 3/4 cups White Flour
    AND    1 1/4 cups + 1 Tbsp White Whole Wheat Flour
2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Salt
1 cup Warm Water
Do not use water that is too warm; it will kill the yeast. Use a thermometer or test on the inside of your wrist. It should be about 100°F; at least 75° but absolutely not over 115°; alternately, it should feel slightly warm when sprinkled on the inside of the wrist. Easy peasy way to get temp just about perfect - to 1 cup tap temperature water add 1/2 cup boiling water.
Combine 1/2 cup of the warm water, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the yeast in your stand mixer bowl. Let it sit for 5 minutes; it will get foamy (this is proofing the yeast; if it does not get foamy, your yeast is dead - throw it out and run to the store for fresh yeast).

Stir together the flour(s), salt, and remaining 2 tsp of sugar.

In the stand mixer with dough hook attached and on the lowest speed, incorporating 1/2 cup at a time, add the flour (to which you have already added salt and sugar). Let the first 1/2 cup of flour work in (takes about 2 minutes) before adding the next 1/2 cup and continue in this manner until all the flour is worked in. (Each addition of flour takes about 1 minute to work in. The dough will become very dry and come apart into bits before this part is done. I use a spatula to knock any flour off the sides of the bowl and back into the center so it all gets worked in - don't do this with the mixer running!)

Slowly add your water (up to the remaining 1 Cup). Slowly add 1/2 cup and let the stand mixer work it in thoroughly. Slowly add 1/4 cup more of the water, allowing the mixer work it in as you add it. If more water is still needed, add just 1 Tbsp at a time. My dough has been taking 3/4 cup. Stop adding the water as soon as it has enough to incorporate everything into a smooth firm ball on the dough hook.

After flour and water are mixed in, turn the stand mixer to the 2nd lowest speed, set a timer for 5 minutes, and let it knead the dough until it is smooth and stretchy and not terribly sticky. If the dough begins to climb the hook too much or is clinging to it without getting worked I either drop the bowl to allow the dough to drop lower on the hook or stop the mixer and pull the dough off the hook and back into the bottom of the bowl where the hook can work it.

Lightly flour a work surface (I've found 1 Tbsp to be enough for this bread), turn out the dough, cut it in half, and shape it into two long cylinders.

Lightly oil a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little cornmeal, and space the loaves on the sheet.

Score down the length of the tops with a sharp knife.

Cover the loaves with a damp tea towel and place in a warm spot to rise for  about 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

I have to create a warm place. To do so, I fill my Yogourmet Multi yogurt maker with lukewarm water and put a large prewarmed bowl that sits stably on top, plug in my yogurt maker, and leave it plugged in until I put my loaves in the hot oven. I set the baking sheet with the damp-tea-towel-covered dough on the large bowl, if my kitchen is very cool I cover it all with a clean bath towel. I do not know of any other yogurt maker that works in a manner you could do this with.

Put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven; preheat it to 450 degrees F.

Uncover the dough and put it in the hot oven.

Bake. Check after 10 minutes.  According to the original blogger the recipe says to bake the loaves for 15 minutes, but both hers mine take only 10 minutes. When done it will sound hollow when tapped on top with a knife and it should be lightly browned.

Cool, slice, and (if you're a normie) Enjoy!

Apparently this recipe also makes good hamburger buns.

For an easy way to get your water very near the right temperature for proofing: Use 1 cup tap temperature water and 1/2 cup boiling water. Always make sure the water is not too warm or it will kill the yeast. Use a thermometer to check water temperature or test on the inside of your wrist. 

Buying yeast in bulk is a huge savings over buying it in individual packets. It  will keep for a year in the fridge or freezer. 

I can make this bread at a frugal $1 per one pound organic loaf (actually I think it's quite a bit less but my mathematical abilities are very poor, one day I'll keep proper track and work it out on paper) and I know exactly what's in this good quality bread.

My neck obliges me to knead in my stand mixer; since I'm only making normie yeast breads with the stand mixer and I haven't tried any hand-kneaded directions, stand mixer directions are what I've put here.
Vive le Pain Fran├žais!

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