Easy French Bread

This is the easiest bread recipe ever, and is great for beginners.  I still make it all the time because it’s good, not just easy.  My seven year old did almost every step of this loaf except put it in the oven and take it out.

I baked this in an Emile Henry clay cocotte pot that my mom gave me after she bought it for baking bread and then went on a low carb diet. You don’t need the clay baker, although I love it dearly and use it for more than just bread.  This recipe will be just fine baked freeform on a baking sheet, but it will not rise quite as high in the oven.

This is the same dough recipe I use for french sandwich rolls, just a different method.

It’s good sliced with butter or dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It also slices nicely for sandwiches or toast if you allow it to cool completely.

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Italian Braided Bread

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This is another one of our most frequently made breads, French Rolls for Sandwiches being the other.  It is great sliced with butter or served alongside pasta the night you make it, and leftovers make good french toast or regular toast.

It is adapted and simplified from a King Arthur recipe called Scali Bread, but I have changed it so much I’m not sure it qualifies as Scali bread anymore.

As always, start with the lesser amount of water and add more if needed.  And use the dough cycle on your bread machine if you have one.

For the dry milk powder, I order this from King Arthur, but some is available at grocery stores. It is worth placing an order from them though. You can get a whole pound of red star instant yeast for under $7, which will easily fit in a one quart mason jar and live happily in the freezer. I also like their sparkling sugar, cinnamon, and parchment sheets, which lay flat and can be reused two or three times.

You will need:

-3 cups bread flour

-1 cup to 1 1/3 cup of water

-2 T olive oil

-2 T. Dry milk powder

-1 1/4 t. salt

-1 t. sugar

-2 1/4 t. yeast (Red star instant)

-(an egg and sesame seeds for topping the dough)

Directions:

  1.  Add all ingredients to a bowl or bread machine bucket, and knead until very smooth.  Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
  2. Divide risen dough into three equal pieces and roll gently into 10 inch logs.  Allow them to rest, covered in greased plastic wrap, about 15 minutes or so.  This will make them easier to work with.
  3. Pull them out a bit longer, to about 15 inches long.  Then begin your braid.  Sometimes it is easier to start in the middle and flip it around.  Tuck the ends under.
  4. Place the loaf on a baking sheet either prepared with parchment or sprayed with cooking spray.  Brush the loaf with the beaten egg.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, pressing to help them stick.
  5. Cover the loaf with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise.  (Preheat your oven to 425 at this time) Check after 30 minutes, because if it over-rises the braid pattern will be ruined.
  6. Bake in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.  It will look very golden because of the egg wash, which can be deceptive.  You may want to check with a thermometer before taking it out.  (It should be about 195-200 degrees inside.)
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

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French Rolls for Sandwiches

We make these rolls every week, on Tuesday.   They are great for Italian sandwiches, cheesesteaks, and whatever sandwich your heart desires.  The dough can also be made into larger round loaves or baguette shapes to serve with dinner.

The best thing about the rolls is that they freeze well for at least two weeks, and can be defrosted in the microwave easily (takes about 1 minute on the defrost setting).  The crust can be recrisped with just a few minutes in the oven.  They have a thin, crisp crust and are super soft inside.

I always, always, always knead and rise my dough in the bread machine, although I never bake in it.  The stand mixer is okay.  I have never had success kneading by hand, but obviously many people do.

This recipe is one of the easiest to make, but also one of the best.  It is slightly adapted from Bread Machine Magic.

You will need:

4 cups of bread flour

1 1/2 cups of water

2 t. salt

2 1/2 t. instant yeast (I like Red Star brand)

Cornmeal and flour for dusting

Directions:

  1.  Combine your ingredients and knead into a soft smooth dough, preferably in a bread machine on the dough cycle.
  2. Cover and allow to rise until doubled.  (The bread machine will take care of this, and will beep when done.)
  3. Divide into 10 equal pieces using a sharp knife.
  4. Shape into rolls, pinching the bottoms until the tops are smooth.
  5. Prepare your baking sheet by either spraying with non-stick spray or covering with parchment, then dust with cornmeal.
  6. Rub flour on top of the rolls. Place them on the baking sheet, slashing a diagonal line with a sharp knife.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450, and place a spare empty baking sheet with a lip in the oven.
  8. Cover your rolls with greased plastic wrap, and put in a warm place to rise.  When they look very puffy, remove the plastic wrap.
  9. When the oven has preheated, pour 1 cup of water on to the spare baking sheet to create steam.  It may buckle.  This is okay.
  10. Put your risen rolls into the oven, and bake for 16-17 minutes.  When done, they will have slightly browned bottoms and feel light for their size.
  11. Cool and use immediately or freeze.

 

 

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First Frost, and Family

It is necessary to have house guests a few times a year to get your husband to do projects that you have been fruitlessly asking for for months.  Our house is up on a steep hill, and to get to the gardens and play area you had to walk down a muddy hill.  Magically, the day before our Thanksgiving guests arrived…

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Steps!

(That wine barrel looks so authentic with the label still on it. And I guess I am growing kindling?)

I dug and stored the dahlias for the first time this year.  It was wonderfully thrilling pulling up the huge tubers, drying them, and storing them in shredded newspaper in the basement.  It felt so good to do what all the gardening articles say.  Perhaps next I will sharpen my tools and store them in oiled sand.

Hummingbird feeders have been cleaned and put away, and garlic planted where my old compost pile was.  A new pile has been started where it will be easier to turn with the tractor.

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The other thing I have been asking for, to no avail, since we moved in was something for our foyer.  And lo and behold…

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It was the most amazing moment of my life.  It came from a Pottery Barn outlet that just opened nearby.  And the rug came from upstairs.

Ellie loved having some new visitors for Thanksgiving

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And with their arrival came a lot of baking.

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(Sandwich rolls, molasses cookie dough for the freezer, bread for toast. Hole is from oven probe.)

And then more on Thanksgiving itself.

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(Butter horn rolls from Bread Machine Magic. Forgot to photograph the pies that I painstakingly latticed!)

I started Christmas decorating, just a little each day, taking up what I can carry each time I happen to to go down to the basement.  I have taken out my gingerbread and peppermint coffee syrups, put out pine scented candles, switched out hand towels and soap.  A lot of my artificial greenery looks tacky to me now, so it is still down there, but I will probably just give it away.  I will cut real greenery when we get closer.  I want to keep the last week of Advent, and Christmas itself, special.

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(All homes should have a Christmas village, obviously, and it must be the first thing to go up each year.)

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(Walmart canisters are beautiful in a group of three.)

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I made the velvet pillow covers.  They are envelope style backs with cording.  The fabric is Olive Green Cotton Velvet from fabric.com.  It shed everywhere while I was working with it, but it is very soft and perfect for a throw pillow cover.

The cross stitched one I made last year for the kids.

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An extra pillow to warm up a dining room chair.

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Christmas baby!

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And a couple treats for teachers, these are King Arthur’s Gingerbread Bundt Cake baked in their Bundt quartet pan.  We had enough batter for three, and ate one ourselves.  It was a delicious recipe!

And now a bit of a break.  There is still a long way to go!  I will focus on cozy and winter for a while, not Christmas quite yet!