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Web's Best Recipe French Bread

This easy-to-make recipe French bread is crusty, full of holes, and simply delicious. It uses the sponge method (called poolah) for a starter.

Your choice of baking equipment will affect the quality of your French bread. If you are a beginner or intend to bake only the occasional loaf, you can make do with baking equipment purchased at your local Walmart.

Serious bakers,hobbyists, and those who enjoy home entertaining will want quality equipment. The price is higher, but it lasts forever and the results are exemplary.

You will do best with a baking stone. The Good Cook 14.75 Inch Pizza Stone with Rack costing about $15 will work.


Recipe French Bread

Sponge

1 cup cool-lukewarm water
1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour.
1/4 cup white or whole wheat flour

Stir ingredients together to make a thick mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let set at room temperature overnight, or for 2-16 hours.

Dough for French bread
All of the sponge starter (above)
1 cup lukewarm water
3/4 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
3 3/4 to 4 cups unbleached flour
1 tbsp kosher salt

Stir sponge, add water, sugar, yeast, 3 1/3 cups of the flour and salt. Mix. Dough will be loose. Let rest for about 12 minutes, then knead for 10 to 12 minutes. Add the held-back flour as needed.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with both lightly greased plastic wrap and a damp cloth, and rise until almost doubled. This may take about an hour.

After rising, deflate dough but be gentle so as to retain some of the bubbles. The bubbles will make the holes that you want in recipe French bread. Gently shape into a round or oblong shape.

Rise the dough for thirty to sixty minutes on a cookie sheet sprinkled with flour or cornmeal. It should be almost doubled and puffy looking.

Tip: For better results, and to get that authentic recipe French bread with deep ridges and a dusting of flour around the middle, I recommend that you use a dough rising basket (lightly dusted with flour.) . The Frieling Oval Brotform Bread Mold 10.5" x 7" is a good choice.

Rise the dough for recipe French bread until almost doubled and puffy looking. When risen, make slashes across the top of the bread -- but gently, so as not to deflate.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, placing your baking stone in the oven to preheat also. When ready, gently place recipe French bread dough on the stone.

Spray water into the oven. A plant sprayer works fine.

Place your bread in the oven, reduce heat to 425 degrees, and spray with water every few minutes for 15 minutes. Stop spraying and bake for an additional 10 or 15 minutes, or until done.

Enjoy your recipe French bread. It's especially delicious served with a soft French cheese like the aged Mimolette.

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Specialty Bakeware and Other Hard to Find Items

Men's Guide to Bread Machine Baking: Making Pizza, Bagels, Beer Bread, Pretzels, Sourdough, and over 100 Other Great Breads With Your Bread Machine

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