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Friday, July 22, 2011

French Bread

This is some of the yummiest stuff on earth. The final pieces of this bread are usually fought for at our house. I could seriously eat a whole loaf of this and call it a meal. This recipe comes from the bakery at Jacob Lake Inn, AZ--where both my mom and my sister, Lu, spent summers working. It is perfect for soaking up the extra sauce in spaghetti or lasagna. My favorite way to eat it is fresh out of the oven with a good slather of butter (real butter only though!--we can't stand the fake stuff around here). It makes great garlic bread, french bread pizzas, the best french toast, and even great bread crumbs--if by some crazy chance it stays around that long. I usually try to keep an extra loaf on hand in the freezer for french toast. Also, you can partially bake it and freeze it. Then when you are ready to eat it, pop it in the oven to brown it and you can have hot, freshly-baked bread--even on a crazy weeknight.


French Bread
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups of flour (give or take a little)

In a large bowl or mixer, add yeast and sugar to warm water and let set for a few minutes. When the yeast mixture is happy and bubbly, add the oil and salt. Add 3 cups of the flour and mix for a few minutes. Add remaining flour until dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Knead for 3 minutes (or 6 by hand). Let dough rise for 30 minutes.

After dough has risen, punch it down and split dough in half. Roll each half into a 9x12 rectangle. Tightly roll up each loaf (from the longer side) and pinch and seal the seam shut (to form two 12 inch loaves). Place loaves seam side down on a lightly greased or silicone-lined baking sheet. Lightly cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. After the dough has risen, using a very sharp knife make slashes across the top of the loaf. Lightly spray loaves with water (or brush with an egg wash if you like your crust crustier). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

*Make ahead instructions: Prepare as directed above except bake at 300 for 40-45 minutes. Freeze. When ready to eat, allow to thaw and bake at 400 until brown (about 8 minutes).

Recipe Source: Jacob Lake Inn Bakery with adaptations by Diana K.

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