4 cups of bread flour
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp yeast
A scoop or two of wheat germ (optional)
about 2 cups of very warm tap water
Mix the dry ingredients in a food processor with the regular chopping blade. Then add the water, a half a cup at a time to the flour mixture, until it forms a ball. Usually it takes less than two full cups. Once in a ball, process for another 40 seconds, or take out and knead for 10 minutes. (Of course, I seldom knead; I love my food processor for a reason.)
Place the bread in a bowl and cover with a towel until double in size.
Punch down the bread and shape into 3 french loaves on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise another hour or so, until not quite double. Time will vary with the heat in your kitchen.
Heat the oven to 475F with a pie plate of water in the oven. When you place the bread in the oven, turn the temp down to 450F and bake for 23 minutes.
Really, this recipe is so easy, you can bake fresh bread every day.
My favorite bread recipe is the King Arthur Flour French Bread one. It's a bit fussy, but once you've done the initial mixing, it's a forgiving bread. Unlike the recipe above, this recipe is an all day affair. But we love it. The two loaves don't last more than a day and a half. If you're on the South Beach Diet, beware!
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 tblsp. sugar
1 tblsp. or packet active dry yeast
2 egg whites
5 to 5 1/2 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
1 tblsp. salt
Mixing and Resting: Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the yeast mixture. Blend in a cup of the flour and then the salt. Att 4 more cups of flour. (I do all of this in my trusty Kitchenmaid Mixer.)
This dough will be soft and sticky, so after you've stirred the flour in as thoroughly as you can, cover the bowl with a damp towel in a draft-free place where it's not too warm.
Let the dough develop for a half an hour or so. This gives the flour a chance to absorb the moisture and will make the dough easier to handle and knead.
Kneading: Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and, with well-floured hands, knead for 8-10 minutes. This is an excellent way to channel frustrations, or to meditate, or to think about absolutely nothing. Try it! Or use the dough hook on a heavy duty mixer for about 7 minutes. Use enough dough to minimize sticking. Don't get frustrated!
Rising: Now, the easy part. Place it in a greased bowl, turning it to grease the top. Cover and let rise in the same cool place for 2-3 hours.
Knock the dough down and let it rise again. These long rising periods develop a flavor in the finished product that makes all of this effort worthwhile. Really! To quote the cookbook, "Our 'hurry up' lives shortchange us of those things that only time can accomplish."
Shaping and rising: After the second rising period, knock the dough down again, turn it out onto a floured board, knead out any stray bubbles, and let the dough rest for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, grease a cookie sheet, and sprinkle it with cornmeal, if you so desire. Divide the dough in half anad shape into loaves. Place them on the sheet, and cover them with a damp towel. Allow them to rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Baking: 15 minutes before you want to bake your bread, preheat your oven to a hot 475 F.
Just before the loaves go in, slash the tops diagonally 2 or 3 times, about 1/4 inch deep. Use a serrated knife and saw back and forth gently. Brush the tops with cold water. Place them in the oven.
After 2 minutes, spray or brush them with cold water again. Or what I do is place an old cast-iron skillet below the bread, and toss some water onto the skillet (which is very hot). The steam makes the crust of the bread nice and crunchy. Repeat the steam method of your choice a handful of times. Bake the bread for a total of 20-25 minutes.
Yum. This recipe sounds very fussy, and well, the first few times, it was a challenge. But once you've made it a few times, it's a snap! Hope you try it!
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