Monday, September 7, 2009

"Crunchy" French Bread

Even though french bread is pretty inexpensive, the homemade version is really easy and tastes so much better! You know how french bread from the store is really crunchy and sometimes hard to eat when it's toasted? The homemade version is not (don't let the name trick you)! Especially if you rub the top crust with butter like I did. I used my loaf to make french bread pizza and it was delicious! I'll definitely be making this bread again.

Crunchy French Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour (I used bread flour)
2 Tbl. dry yeast
2 Tbl. sugar
1 egg
2 Tbl. butter flavored shortening (I used vegetable oil)
1 tsp. salt
2 cups warm water (remember not too hot, not too cold, or else you'll ruin your yeast)
4 cups all-purpose flour (I used bread flour and only needed about 3-1/2 cups)

In a mixer bowl, blend together first six ingredients. Add warm water and mix well. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the flour and knead with dough hook for 10 minutes or by hand for 15 minutes.

Shape into 2 small loaves or 1 large loaf and make small slices diagonally across top of loaves. (I made 1 large loaf and it was HUGE. Seriously, I could barely fit it diagonally on my cookie sheet. So unless you need extra-large slices of bread, I'd stick with at least 2 loaves.) Allow to rise, covered, until doubled.

Sprinkle greased baking sheet with cornmeal to prevent loaves from sticking (I skipped this step, just make sure you spray or grease your pan). Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack in oven. Bake loaves on middle rack at 425 F for 15 minutes (I'd watch the color of your loaf during this step. If it's getting brown fast, allow it to brown until almost the right color and then continue onto the next step). Lower temperature to 375 and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on the top and it is lightly golden brown.

This recipe also makes great pizza curst. Will make 2 large pizzas (I'd bet even more since my loaf turned out so big).

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