French Bread Extraordinaire!
This French Bread recipe is from Linda Rehberg's and Lois Conway's The Bread Machine Magic Book of Helpful Hints. According to the authors, this method produces a wonderful loaf of bread that is comparable to the ones baked in France.
Ingredients: (medium-size loaf)
- 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups Water
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
- 2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
1. Place dough ingredients in bread pan, select Dough setting, and press Start.
2. When the dough cycle ends, the machine will beep. Set a time and allow the dough to rise 1 more hour. Open the machine, punch down the dough, set the time again, and let dough rise another hour in the machine.
Turn off bread machine, remove bread pan, and turn out dough onto a lightly floured countertop or cutting board. Form into a smooth, round ball then flatten it with your hands.
Note: If you want to bake your bread in a La Cloche, follow the steps listed under Variation. If you prefer not to bake your bread in a La Cloche, follow steps 3 - 5.
3. Place a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) in a around wicker basket that's at least twice the size of the dough. Dust the towel liberally with flour. Place the round dough in the center of the basket. Place basket in a warm place and let dough rise, uncovered, about 45 minutes until doubled in size.
4. Gently turn dough out of basket upside down onto a greased baking sheet. With a very sharp knife held almost parallel to the loaf, carefully slash the top of the dough at sharp angles in a # pattern.
5. Preheat oven to 450°F. Carefully place a small pan on the floor or bottom shelf of the oven. Add at least 1 cup boiling water to the pan. Place dough in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cake rack to cool 1 hour before slicing. To preserve the crisp crust, do not store in plastic wrap or bag. Bread can be loosely covered or left out for up to 2 days before it dries out completely.
VARIATION: (This is the method we chose.)
To make French bread with a crust so thin and crispy that it crackles when you remove it from the oven, try baking this bread in a La Cloche clay cooker.
1. Omit steps 3 through 5. Liberally cover the base of the La Cloche with cornmeal and place the rounded dough onto the base.
2. Slash the dough as indicated in step 4. Cover it with plastic wrap, then place it in a warm oven to rise until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
3. While the dough is rising, soak the lid of La Cloche upside down in a sink of water. (Cushion the handle with a dishcloth or sponge.)*
* The manufacturers of La Cloche do not recommend soaking the lid before baking because the absorption factor of stoneware is less than 1 percent. However, the authors preferred the way the bread turned out when they soaked the lid so I decided to try it this way as well.
4. For a dark crust, preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the wet lid over the dough; bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until dark brown.
5. For a lighter crust, preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the wet lid over the dough; bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400°F and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown.
Additional resources for making bread machine bread: