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Let’s Make Bread: Volume French

September 21, 2010

If you are having soup, you have to have bread on the table.  And not just any bread will do.  Homemade french bread with rosemary, olive oil, and parmesan is THE bread of choice in my household.  I make it almost weekly.  It is tender but pleasantly crisp… fresh, and so delicious.  It blows any pre-made loaf of french bread you buy at the store out. of. the. water.

And trust me on this one.  I know grocery store french bread.  I never want to go back.

Making your own may take a while… but most of the time it takes doesn’t involve you anyway!

The machine does the mixing, time does the rising.  You basically dump a bunch of things into the bread machine and form it into a loaf a few hours (or a whole night) later.  Piece o’ cake.

Here’s what you need!

-2 C. water     -2 T. rosemary     -2 T. olive oil     -2 T. sugar     -5 1/4 C. flour     -1 T. salt

-2 1/4 t. active dry yeast     -fresh parmesan cheese

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Rosemary first!  (I like to give it maximal time to soak up moisture.)

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Water next!

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Now ze shugga!

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Next comes the pretty olive oil. YUM… I love this stuff.

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Now, for the flour, I like to use a combination of whole wheat and white.

No reason not to!  The whole wheat is perfectly delicious and perfectly good for you!

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The amount I use of each varies every time… depending on my mood and what I have on hand.  This particular batch ended up with a lot of wheat flour because I ran out of white in the middle of making this bread.  No problem!

This time, I started by spooning about half a cup of wheat flour into my measurer, and finishing it off with white.

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Lastly, in goes the yeast!

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And that’s it!  (For now.)

The salt will be added a few minutes into the mixing process.  The parmesan won’t make its appearance for at least a few hours, so don’t even bother getting it out yet.

Click the bucket into the bread machine…

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And select the “Dough” cycle.  (Whatever number that may be for your machine.)  For me, it’s nine.

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Press START.

And let it go!

The kneading will take about 30 minutes.

Check back after about ten minutes to see if it’s ready for the salt.  (Once all the ingredients are moistened and the yeast is absorbed… I add it.)

Whoa!  If yours looks like a jiggling boob at this point (my husband’s words… not mine) then don’t panic.  It just needs a little more flour.

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Whole wheat was all I had at this point, so that’s what I used.

I added it in 1/4 C. increments and had to do it about three times!  This dough is pretty wet but you at least want it to hold its shape.  Some days it’ll be dryer than others… so the amount of flour you need will vary.  Don’t ask me why.  I have no clue.

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Once you’re satisfied with how it looks, add the salt.  It should look like wet dough… so don’t overthink it.

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When you hear the machine stop mixing, you have a choice.  You can leave it in there to rise OR you can take it out and let it rise slowly in the fridge.

I like the fridge option because it allows me to make the dough the night before I make the bread.  I can wake up to nicely risen dough, form the loaf, let it rise while we’re at church, and bake it for lunch.  Perfecto!

You do what you want.  Either let it rise in the machine and bake it the same day… or let it rise in the fridge and bake it the next day.

If you go with the overnight-option, dump the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl.  Like this one!

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Drizzle a little oil over the top of the dough too, to keep it from drying out.

Then cover it with a towel.

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And stick it in the refrigerator.

(Remember, you don’t have to let it rise in the fridge if you’re baking it the same day.  The cold temperature deliberately slows down the growth of the yeast.  A warm, dry spot is ideal for dough you plan to bake after only a few hours.)

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Here’s my dough the next morning.

(At this point, I could tell it was still too wet.  As I said, I had run out of flour the night before and hadn’t used the full 5 1/4 cups.  Since I had bought new flour in the meantime, I went ahead and added another half-cup here.)

This bread really is forgiving!  You maybe not need to take this step.  And whether you do it or not, you won’t ruin the bread.  It will be delicious.

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At this point, you have yet another choice!  Aren’t choices nice?

Option 1:

You can pull the dough out of the bowl and lay it directly onto a prepared pan (either in a round loaf, or a long stretched one.)  Here’s what it might look like if you choose to exercise Option 1 and go directly from bowl to sheet pan.

Quite pretty, don’t you think?  Very rustic.  (By the way, that’s fine cornmeal dusted onto the pan.  Its a very good idea.)

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But as pretty as Option 1 is… I like to take my french bread to a whole new level.

By adding in layers of fresh parmesan cheese.

I myself invented this method… and I have no qualms about claiming that it was pretty genius of me.

So… Option 2:

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.

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And pull, stretch, or roll it out into a large rectangle.  (Make sure everything’s well floured.)

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And start goin’ to town with the parmesan cheese.

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Don’t be shy.

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Dust every inch.

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Perfect.

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Now… form your loaf by rolling the dough up lengthwise, sealing in all those delicious layers of parmesan.  It’ll melt into the dough and people won’t realize what makes it so darn good!  But you’ll know.

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And there ya go!

It may not look as rustic as Option 1, but it’s sure going to taste good!  And you’re going to slice it up anyway, so who cares?

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Grab some finely-ground cornmeal.

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And sprinkle it lightly onto a GIGANTIC sheet pan.

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Then transfer the loaf onto the sheet pan, and grab an egg out of the fridge.

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Splash in a little milk and beat it lightly with a fork.

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Then brush it over your loaf.  The eggwash seals in moisture as the dough rises, and promotes browning while it bakes.

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Now leave it somewhere warm so it can rise.

One hour at the least… but you can leave it for up to three (like I did.)

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Here’s how it looked when I arrived home from church.

Did I mention this particular bread kinda spreads “out” rather than “up”?  So this looks perfect.

I like to give it one more brush of eggwash at this point.

Then a light sprinkling of garlic powder, salt, pepper, and parsley flakes.  It makes it really pretty!

Ahhh… the time has finally come.

Bake this bread at 375 for about 23-25 minutes.

Pull it out… and this is what you get!

Oh man!  I don’t know if you understand how awesome this bread is.

Now…

slice it up,

and start dunking it in some hearty Beef Stew.

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It’s also particularly addictive dipped in homemade Roasted Tomato Soup or as a base for Bruschetta.

I reeeeeally hope you make this.

Its our first choice every time.


9 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily Cheatham permalink
    September 21, 2010 4:26 pm

    I just realized my mouth started watering as soon as I scrolled past the finished loaf. Amazing recipe and very helpful with the steps. I mean, how many other delicious foods can look like a jiggly boob at one point??

  2. David Burcham permalink
    September 22, 2010 1:07 am

    I love this blog! My mouth is watering too! No jiggly comments from me…but I laughed really, really hard! Can’t wait to meet you.

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