Let’s Break Bread, Crispy Chewy French Bread

I have always been excited by the creative process. Creating something from nothing, there’s something magical about it. The smell of fresh baked bread, that was nothing but flour and water an hour ago, well there is something magical for all your senses then.

We try to cook from scratch as much as possible here on the farm. This recipe is my go to for French bread. It’s light and chewy and turns out a nice crust. It’s a favorite both for texture as well as ease. There is some technique involved in rolling up your baguette correctly but there’s no worry about a loaf sticking to your loaf pan (ugh, huge pet peeve) after you’ve put your valuable time and energy into it.

With a just few simple ingredients and about two hours you’ll have two loaves of lovely crispy, chewy, light bread that’s perfect to dunk in a poached egg, or slathered in butter and honey. Enjoy!

I prefer to use my stand mixer and let it do all the real work but of course you can do this by hand with a non reactive bowl and a spoon. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. If you put the yeast in first it can stick to the bottom and not bloom properly. I you forget and do this, just make sure you stir it. The water should be warm to touch but not hot so you do not kill your yeast. Add your sugar, this helps feed the yeast to get the best bloom. Let is sit for about 10 minutes to fully activate.

It should begin to look foamy, its now ready to add the salt, oil, and 4 cups of flour.

Continue adding flour 1/2 cup at a time until it begins to pull away from the bowl. It should be about another cup to 1 1/2 cups to reach this point. Continue to knead 8-10 minutes to become smooth and elastic.

Once the dough lovely and smooth, it will need to proof. For this first rise I like to use the bowl I already mixed it in (one less thing to clean up). Pull your lump of dough out and pour a little olive oil along the edges of the bowl, dip your dough in it and flip it over. Cover it with a towel and sit it somewhere warm for an hour. If your oven has a bread proof function, use it, it will keep it perfectly warm. At the end of the hour it should be very fluffy.

Punch it down an separate it into two lumps. Place one on a floured surface and shape it into a rectangle. You are ready to shape it into a baguette.

You want to roll it up pretty tight so it doesn’t just unwind when you cut into it. Start at one end and fold it up into itself and press it in. Continue rolling up all of this piece.

Pinch together the seem. It isn’t pretty but you place this part on the bottom so you don’t see it.

Next sprinkle some cornmeal on your cookie sheets, (I also use a silicone pad to prevent a burned bottom) the cornmeal adds a nice texture to your bread and keeps it crisp. Make Diagonal slices along the top and coat with an egg wash.

Now, let it rise 20-30 minutes. While you do so, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes and then slather on another coat of the egg wash. Pop them back in and bake for another 15 minutes.

It should be a deep golden brown and make a hollow sound when you tap the top. If you would like an extra crunchy crust, place a pan of boiling water underneath your bread in the oven. The steam crisps up the crust.

French Bread Recipe

Yields 2 loaves

Ingredients

2 cups warm water

1 tbsp active dry yeast

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sugar or honey

2 tsp salt

5-6 cups bread flour

1 egg white

  • Add warm water to mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar in. Allow this to proof for about 10 minutes.
  • Add salt, oil, and 4 cups of flour, mix until combined.
  • Add enough flour to make a firm dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Continue kneading until smooth and elastic.
  • Oil the sides of a bowl and coat dough with oil.
  • Allow to rise in a warm area for around and hour or until doubled in size.
  • Punch down dough and split into two rounds.
  • Place one round onto a floured surface, shape into rectangle and roll into baguette.
  • Place baguette onto cookie sheet that has had cornmeal spread on it. Repeat for second loaf.
  • Cut diagonal slits along top and slather with egg white wash.
  • Allow to rise a second time for around 30 minutes uncovered.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, slather in egg wash again, bake for another 10-15 minute or until golden brown.

Enjoy!!

2 thoughts on “Let’s Break Bread, Crispy Chewy French Bread”

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