Crunchy-Crust French Bread (An Experiment)
There is nothing like the smell of homemade bread doin’ its thing in the oven.
Am I right? The other day when I was making this makeshift, from-scratch loaf, I couldn’t stop breathing in the yeasty, hearty smell of the bread, excited to eat it!
The recipe is my own but is based on simple memories of classic French bread recipes. My version turned out with a crispy and tough crust and moist, doughy middle. After some advice from a real chef friend (and not just a home cook like myself), I retried the baguette with a sourdough starter, tweaked some measurements, and wound up with a better, springier, heartier bread. The sourdough starter takes several days to complete, but for all the home cooks out there, here’s the article I referred to.
Both days I spent bakin’ bread, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ many parables involving yeast and loaves, and thought about what a simple-minded eater He was. Just grateful for any sort of sustenance, eating the amount that would purpose Him, still placing importance on shared mealtimes and the breaking of bread.
Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”
In this recipe, when you cover and rest your dough, you will return an hour later to a ball of dough that has DOUBLED in size, thanks to yeast. I think of the prophecies in Isaiah of double portions of joy. Of Jesus’ parables of the leavening of bread. Of this magical ingredient created by the Lord that is so incredible in itself, it just speaks volumes of His power and creativity!
5.5 cups flour
5 tsps yeast
1 T salt
2 cups warm water
1 T sugar
2 T butter or margarine, softened
1 T water
2 T butter or margarine, melted
2 T liquid honey
In a large bowl, combine yeast and warm water. Let sit about 5 minutes, or until yeast has dissolved.
2. Mix in just 2 cups flour, salt, sugar, and butter. Beat until smooth. Slowly add remaining flour, enough to form a stiff dough.
3. On lightly floured surface, knead bread about 8-10 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl and cover; allow to rest for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
4. Split dough into two pieces; cover again and rest another 15 minutes.
5. Roll out each section of dough into rectangle. Roll up dough, starting at the long side; taper the “ends” and brush with hot water. Make 4 shallow diagonal cuts with a sharp knife in the top of each loaf.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, sprinkle about 1 T cornmeal. Place loaves on sheet. Cover with damp cloth and rest another 45 minutes, or until loaves have nearly doubled.
6. In small bowl, beat egg with water. Brush about half this mixture over the loaves.
7. Place a pan with a few ice cubes at the bottom of oven. Bake loaves in preheated oven about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and brush the rest of egg mixture over the loaves. Bake 20 minutes more, or until just slightly golden brown crust.
8. In small bowl, mix together butter and honey; brush over loaves. Serve warm, or up to a day at room temperature. Freeze any leftover bread.