French Bread


When I became a Jones 15 years ago, it quickly became clear that I needed to learn to bake french bread like my mother-in-law.  Her bread is the star of her kitchen and coveted by all who taste it.  During a visit about a year after being married, I absorbed as much of her technique as I could while she instructed me.  She sent me home with her recipe in my pocket and I was very anxious to make it for my husband.  Over the years, I feel I've mastered this bread and that recipe card is very worn and stained.

So imagine my surprise when about a year ago, in my kitchen in Minnesota, my mother-in-law looks at that same card and asks, "Where did you get this recipe?  This isn't my french bread recipe."  I would never accuse my wonderful mother-in-law of anything sinister but can anyone say.... sabotage?

This bread is amazing and it is what I deliver to all our friends every year for Christmas.  I have made a few slight changes over the years to yield a chewier interior and a better crust.  Anyone who has a history of bread-making knows that experience is what will give you a great loaf.  After making many batches, you learn what your dough should feel like and how to work with it, so keep at it and you will get better with each batch!  If you don't have french bread pans, you can form them on cookie sheets, but the result isn't quite the same.  There are many pans on the market that make a wider loaf that remind me more of an italian loaf, but I suggest the thinner baguette size for a true french bread.

French Bread (makes 4 baguettes)
3 C warm water
1 Tb sugar
2 Tb yeast
2 Tb canola oil
3 rounded tsp salt
7 -8 C bread flour (yes, it makes a difference)

1.  Using your electric mixer with a dough hook, mix the water, sugar, yeast and 2 cups of flour into the bowl.  Allow to sit until yeast activates and begins to bubble.  Add oil and salt.
2.  Slowly mix in remaining flour.  You want the dough to just barely pull off the sides of your bowl once the flour in fully incorporated.  It should still be a soft dough.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
3.  Remove dough hook and form dough into a ball inside the bowl.  Cover and allow to rise until double, about one hour.
4.  Gently turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide into four equal pieces.  Flatten each piece into a general triangular shape.  Starting on the small point, roll and seal your way across the triangle until you have a small log.  Roll the log on the counter to stretch your baguette to the proper length, keeping the thickness uniform across the loaf.
5.  Place dough into greased french bread pan, slit the top with a sharp knife and brush with an egg wash.  Allow to rise about 15-20 minutes.
6.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  The bread is completely baked at this point and can be cooled on racks.  When it is time to serve,  I prefer to place the loaves on the oven racks and bake them for an additional 5-7 minutes.  This heats the bread and creates that great crust while keeping the interior soft and chewy.  In my opinion, this last step makes all the difference.

4 comments:

Gigi said...

The bread looks absolutely perfect! Did you ever get the "real" recipe from your mother in-law? Great post!

Carole said...

I honestly don't know how her recipe differs from what is written down on my card. I can't complain though because that "wrong" recipe was the beginning of the road to the bread I make now!

Jeff and Cara said...

Carole- one time I was talking with Jana and Heidi and we all found out that we all have different recipes from mom :-). All are very similar, but just not the same! We thought it was funny that we all had different recipes. Jeff has decided that the recipe changes every Christmas when she makes tons of loafs! They all taste delicious (when everyone but me makes them) so I can't complain!!!!

Betsy Roesler said...

Carole,

I left your house last night after the swim team pot luck with a work of art....your French Bread! Thank you for sharing your blog and your wonderful recipes.

Best wishes for a successful run to the school board. Your sign is in my front yard.

Betsy Roesler

BLOG DESIGN BY DESIGNER BLOGS