Soft and Chewy French Bread (eatcakefordinner)

1 1/2 T instant yeast
1/2 c warm water
1 1/2 T sugar
2 c water
1 1/2 T oil
2 1/4 t salt
6 c flour

Combine yeast, 1/2 c warm water and sugar; let it proof for 10 min. Then, add 2 c water, oil, salt and 3 c flour. Mix until flour is incorporated, then gradually add remaining 3 c flour. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead about 5 min, then turn out onto generously floured surface. Every 10 min, for the next hour, knead 2 or 3 times. This is what gives the crust that french bread chewiness. It is not crucial that kneading takes place at exact 10 min intervals, just make sure to come back at least 4 times in the next hour to knead the dough a few times, then form back into a ball (keep dough covered with a piece of saran wrap between kneads, so it doesn’t dry out). Divide dough into 2 portions for regular-sized loaves or 4 portions for small loaves. Spread each portion out into a rough rectangle and roll up, jelly-roll style. Take the 2 ends of each loaf and tuck under slightly. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Spray a sharp knife with cooking spray and cut 3 diagonal lines into the tops of each loaf, about 1″ deep. Brush loaves with a beaten egg, making sure to get every single spot. Whatever doesn’t get covered with egg wash won’t brown. Raise until doubled or 30 min. Bake at 425 F for 10 min, then at 375 F for 18 – 20 min, rotating pan halfway through. Note: Some bread recipes tell you to keep adding flour until the sides of your bowl come clean – DON’T do that for this recipe. This bread is incredibly tender, which means the dough is going to be softer and stickier. Much of the dough will be hanging onto the dough hook and some will still be stuck to the bottom and sides of the bowl. You can tell you’ve added enough flour and you’ve kneaded the dough long enough when you can pinch off a small bit and easily roll it into a little ball in the palm of your hand. It will still be a little sticky to the touch, but not so sticky you can’t roll it into a ball.

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