A few years ago, my father gave me a bread machine for my birthday, finally enabling me to make bread. “Finally”? Yep. I’m afraid of yeast. It never does what I want it to do, and I have a tendency to overwork bread dough. Thus, bread machines are perfect for me…except for the fact that they tend to make bread “cubes” rather than loaves. To get a nice loaf shape, you have to bake in your oven rather than a bread machine
This French Bread recipe is great because it blends the ease of bread machines with the beauty of traditional baking. You make the dough in the machine, then dump it out and go through some steps to make beautiful loaves. This is my kind of bread making!
I can’t take credit for this recipe or this process; I got the bread dough recipe from Finding Joy in My Kitchen, and a more involved baking process at Thirty Handmade Days. I liked the taste of the recipe in the former, and the texture afforded to the bread by the latter. Combining them produces my Favorite French Bread. It’s a bit fussy at the end, but each step contributes to a chewy, yeasty baguette that is worth every minute of the process.
- 1 C + 1 T warm water (about 80 degrees F)
- 3 cups bread flour*
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 T. butter
- 1 1/2 tsp. bread machine/fast rise yeast
*Don’t use all purpose! Just buy the darn bread flour. It has more of the stuff in it that is needed to produce gluten, which is what makes bread chewy.
- Prepare dough in bread machine using. Layer your ingredients according to your bread machine cookbook (mine says liquids first and yeast on top).
- Once the dough is made, carefully remove it from the pan. Roll up your dough into one big loaf or two smaller loaves. If you’re doing this directly on your counter, be sure to flour it liberally. Once you have your loaves, move them to a cookie sheet covered with parchment or a silicone mat.
- With a sharp knife cut three slits into the bread. Be sure and only go about 1/4 inch deep.
- Give the bread a nice little bath in an egg wash (just add 1 Tbsp water to 1 tablespoon of egg beaters or whites and mix together)
- Heat up a pan of water on the stove until it boils. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and TURN OFF. Then place the pan of boiling water onto the lower rack of your oven and place your loaf of bread on the rack above. Allow the bread to rise until double (about 20 minutes or so).
- Remove the pan of water from the oven and turn the oven onto 425 degrees. Bake bread for 10 minutes.
- Turn heat down to 375 degrees and bake for another 8 minutes or until golden brown.
At this point, you should have some beautiful bread. Enjoy it!