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Classic Yeasted French Bread

Classic Yeasted French BreadThis recipe will produce three beautiful crusty loaves of French bread. Just think of the irresistible aroma wafting through your home as the loaves bake, surely it will be a test of patience in waiting for that first delectable bite of warm, homemade bread. This bread freezes well, too.

Recipe Ingredients:

5 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water - divided use
6 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
1 large egg white
1/2 cup cold water

Cooking Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over 1 cup of warm water (105°F to 115°F | 40°C to 45°C); let stand for 3 to 4 minutes, or until foamy. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups warm water to bowl; mix well. Add flour by the handful, mixing after each addition, first gently then vigorously with a wooden spoon. When down to the last cup or so of flour (this will take about 10 minutes), turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Sprinkle dough with salt and knead for 5 to 6 minutes while adding the remaining flour. The dough should appear moist and satiny. shape into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover bowl with a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm spot, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in volume. Punch out the air and let it rise again for another 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, then divide one of the halves in two again. Round each of the 3 pieces of dough into tight balls and allow them to rest on the table for 15 minutes, covered with a cloth so that the outside does not crust over. Shape the two small balls of dough into baguettes by flattening each piece into a rectangular shape that measures approximately 6 x 3-inches. With the long side toward you, fold over a third of the dough down from the top and then seal the edge with the heel of the hand. Do this two or three times until the piece is in the shape of a log of about 8-inches long. Stretch each log out by rolling it on the table under the palms of your hands until it is between 12 and 14-inches long. Then place each in an oiled, black baguette tray or on a cookie sheet that has been greased or lined with parchment paper.
  3. Shape the larger piece of dough into a tight, round loaf by first flattening it, then folding the outer edges over into the middle. Repeat the process of folding the dough 4 or 5 times and sealing each fold by pressing down on the dough with the heel of the hand. With the folds underneath, drag the round ball of dough across the worktable with some pressure on top to make a tight loaf without any air bubbles. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let the loaves rise, covered, for 45 minutes or an hour, until they have doubled in volume.
  4. If you are using a baking stone, place it in a cold oven and preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) for at least 1 hour. Otherwise simply preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
  5. With a razor blade, slash each baguette 4 or 5 times diagonally on top and glaze them using the egg white whisked in cold water. Invert round loaf onto a floured, rimless cookie sheet, slash it with a razor blade in a tick-tack-toe pattern and slide it onto baking stone (if using). This loaf is not glazed because the matte, floured crust looks more rustic (glaze, however, if desired).
  6. Bake baguettes for 20 to 25 minutes and the round loaf for 40 to 45 minutes. When they are done the loaves will look golden brown in color and sound hollow if they are thumped on the bottom. Place the loaves on a wire rack to cool.

Makes 3 loaves or 48 servings.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (1/48 of recipe): 65.3 calories; 4% calories from fat; 0.3g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 119.8mg sodium; 39.1mg potassium; 12.8g carbohydrates; 0.6g fiber; 0.1g sugar; 12.2g net carbs; 2.5g protein.

Photograph by Susan Ramaley; copyright © 1999; property of See Terms of Use.