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Since it is hot outside, I decided the other day to make some French bread to serve with my spaghetti and meatballs.
I started making the bread about 10 a.m. and by 12:15 p.m., it was done. The reason I am telling you this is to give you an idea of how simple it is to make. Most of the time the bread is rising, and you can go off and do other things. I usually set my timer for rising, however I will check the bread just to make sure it is doing okay.
I like to place the rising dough near a sunny window, which gives it a little extra warmth to help it rise. The only thing you really have to be concerned with when making bread is temperature; to be exact, the temperature of your liquids when adding it to the yeast mixture. Having a good cooking thermometer that shows temperatures below 100° and up to at least 160°-180° is necessary.
When taking your bread out of the oven, it should look golden brown. If you are not sure it is done, just flick it with your finger; it will make a thudding sound if it is done.
The moral to this story, the husband was a happy man with his homemade bread and spaghetti and meatballs, and that’s the best part of it all.
Delicious French Bread
7 to 7-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast or 1 package Rapid Rise and 1 package active dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. Canola oil
1 egg white
1 tbsp. salt
2-1/2 cups water
In a large mixer bowl, combine 3 cups of flour and the yeast.
Heat the 2-1/2 cups water, sugar, salt and Canola oil just untill warm, about 115°-120° on your food thermometer; stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.
Add liquids to dry ingredients. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for about 30 seconds; scrape down sides of bowl. Beat for about 3 minutes more at high speed. At this point, if you have a bread hook attachment for your mixer, use it to add in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. (Otherwise by hand, stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough).
For kneading, I still use my dough hook to knead the dough until the dough starts climbing up the dough hook. Remove from bowl and knead on floured surface till smooth (10 to 12 minutes). Shape into ball. Place into a bowl that has been lightly oiled or you can also spray it with olive oil; turn the dough once, making sure all the dough gets lightly coated with the oil. Cover with a clean towel; let the dough rise until it has doubled in size (which will take about 45 minutes-one hour if using the package of Rapid Rise yeast).
Punch dough down; divide the dough in half. Cover; let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Roll each half to a 15x12-inch rectangle. Roll up tightly from the long side; seal ends and edges well, tapering ends. Place each bread diagonally, seam side down, on a greased baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Gash tops diagonally every 2-1/2 inches, 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep.
Beat egg white just until foamy; add 1 tbsp. water. Brush top and sides of loaves. Cover; let rise until double (about 1 hour). Bake at 375° until light brown, about 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake 20 minutes longer. Remove from baking sheets; cool. Makes 2 loaves.
Lonnie Sundermeyer is a retired caterer residing in Ghent, Ky.