Prep 6 hrs
Cook 25 mins
This is my version of French bread. I call it "almost French" because it uses sugar, which means it's not France-legal as French bread, but it's very close. Light, airy, very much not sandwich bread, crusty French bread. It is very easy, the long prep time is only to allow time for the dough to develop.
- Mix together the yeast, sugar, and water, allow to sit for 30-45 minutes.
- Once the water is good and bubbly (if you don't see bubbles, throw it out and try new yeast), mix the bread flour together. Do not shape, just mix it together until everything looks wet. Allow to sit for another 30 minutes. Do not add more flour, and do not add the salt yet (you will do this later).
- Coat your hands with flour and knead the dough for 10-15 minutes (or in a bread machine/mixer for 5 minutes). Adjust the amount of flour/water only after kneading if necessary, the act of kneading tends to add a lot of extra flour, and you want a wet-ish dough.
- Let the dough rise, covered, a minimum of 6 hours and maximum of 3 days (I've actually gone over 7 days, but the dough gets a bit crusty after a while). If resting the dough for more than 10 hours put it in the fridge. The longer you let the dough sit the better the flavor will be.
- After the rise, gently deflate any large holes in the dough (you don't literally need to "punch it down"), and form a ball with the dough.
- Pat the dough out to a rectangle.
- Stretching the dough, fold it over to make a square, and sprinkle with salt. Fold the dough again, sprinkle again. Keep folding and sprinkling until you have added the 1 tsp (three folds tends to do it for me). Knead the entire ball once or twice just to make sure the salt is evenly distributed.
- Shape the dough as desired, I tend to split the dough into two at this point and make two baguettes.
- Allow to rise until each is doubled, about an hour. The dough is done rising when an indentation made with your finger does not spring back.
- Slash (or cut) the top of the baguettes immediately before placing them in the oven.
- Bake in a pre-heated 425 oven on a baking stone (if possible) for approximately 25 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.
- Spray the oven with water immediately after putting the bread in the oven, and again at 10 and 20 minutes.
- After removing the bread from the oven, listen carefully for the crust to crackle. If you hear that, grin like a madman and be very proud of yourself -- but do not touch the bread for at least 1/2 hours It's painful to wait, but well worth it!
- Note: Due to the ingredients, this bread is best enjoyed the same day as baked, and will only keep for 2-3 days at most.