French Bread

Submitted by tueda

This recipe is largely adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It is a simple recipe, but classic and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 1/5 cups water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Add the water, mixing with a wooden spoon as you go, adding more flour as need be. This is one of the trickiest part of bread-baking. You want to keep the dough as moist as possible without rendering it so sticky that you can't knead it. My best measurement is when the dough no longer sticks to your hands, stop adding flour.
  3. Dump the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead until the dough starts pushing back. You may need to add more flour to the dough as kneaded.
  4. Pour the olive oil into a medium to large mixing bowl and coat the edges. Drop the dough into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Once risen, show the dough who's boss with a good punch, and let it rise again for another 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 450° F. If you have a baking or pizza stone, I suggest using it.
  6. You can shape the bread however you wish, but I have found that the nice coating of olive oil the bread maintains without shaping provides a very nice, crisp crust. Bake for about 30 minutes, give or take, until the bread sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
  7. LET THE BREAD COOL on a cooling rack before attempting to cut into it. I have impatiently made this mistake many times, and let me tell you, fresh-out-of-the-oven bread needs to cool and settle into its shape before it will suffer a knife well.

Cook's Notes

Since this bread generally lacks fat of any kind (save for the olive oil coating), it does not keep very long before going stale. I give it 48 hours under the best conditions. Freezing helps if you want to keep it longer, though there usually isn't much left, and good bread makes for good bread crumbs, so if you find yourself with a stale half-loaf, run it through the food processor, bag it, and freeze it for the next time you make meatballs or stuffing.

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