I forgot my slashes this time!!! Oh no!!
I’ve recently gotten back into baking my own bread. I used to be crazy about it – I experimented with a ton of recipes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and The Fresh Loaf blog. I didn’t eat the bread back then (too scared of the carbs… and for awhile I was on a very specific weight-lifting food plan), so poor Stan was forced to eat all of my “experiments”.
Eventually, I stopped making my own bread – mostly because of time contstraints. I was too tired to do it right after work, and most nights were spent at the gym.
Ukraine changed a lot for me – it sort of “re-set” everything and gave me some balance. I now eat bread (I’m no longer on my crazy food plan) and we’ve been spending less time at the gym… So I’ve re-discovered my love of bread baking! There’s (almost) nothing better than baking your own bread – the texture of the dough as you knead it, the sound of the air bubbles popping as you punch it down, the squishiness of it as you shape it, the smell of it as you bake it… and of course the taste of fresh warm bread!
Plus, have you ever looked at the ingredients in store-bought bread? Most are filled with chemicals, bleached flour… all sorts of stuff. I like knowing exactly what’s in my bread.
I make this recipe about once per week. It’s very very easy – doesn’t require much hands-on time. It’s a 2-day process. I make the dough one day when I get home from work – mix it, shape it and put it in the fridge. On day two, I bake it. Unlike most bread recipes I’ve tried, this one doesn’t require long rising periods. Just one 10-minute rise and it’s ready to shape! I think the secret is in the yogurt and the 24-hour rest in the fridge…
Simple French Bread
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk
2 envelopes Fleischmann’s RapidRise Yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use Greek 0% yogurt)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Step 1: In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, milk, powder, undissolved yeast and salt:
Step 2: Heat water, yogurt and 2 tablespoons of oil until it reaches 120-130 degrees F:
Step 3: Stir liquid mixture into flour mixture. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Mix with dough hook in a stand mixer until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. (Or knead by hand on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes).
I usually use the stand mixer for 8 minutes, and knead by hand for the final 2 minutes.
Cover and let rest on floured surface for 10 minutes:
Step 4: Divide dough in half. Roll each to a long oval/rectangle:
Beginning at the long end, roll up tightly (like a jelly roll). Pinch seams and ends to seal. Place, seam sides down, on large greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Or place in a perforated French bread pan (I just got one yesterday as an early birthday present!)
Cover with plastic wrap, leaving room for dough to rise. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
Step 5: When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and carefully remove plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
With sharp knife, make 4 or 5 diagonal slashes across the top of each load (*** I forgot this time!!! ***).
Bake for 25-35 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.
Makes 2 loaves
I LOVE the look of this bread – the caramel color and the little bubbles all over the crust! Once cooled, I wrap one and keep it in the freezer until we’re ready to use it. To defrost it, I just leave it out on the counter for awhile. It keeps very nicely in the freezer – keeps its taste and its texture.