French Bread — Four Stars

I once again cannot sleep, so what do I do?  Why, post a LiveJournal entry, of course.  I haven’t posted in a while…Partly because I’ve been too lazy to cook anything new, partly because I’ve been sewing a lot (remember the business suit, anyone?), and partly because I’ve just been lazy.  Last night, I decided to venture back into the world of cooking with something seemingly easy: a French Bread recipe I found on the Two Fat Als blog.  I have no idea who the Two Fat Als are, but I do subscribe to their blog.

I’ve had this recipe earmarked for over four months.  In looking over my recipes yesterday, I realized that this bread is essentially a no-knead dough.  After my last experience with no-knead bread, that fact made me a little wary, but I decided to forge ahed anyway.  I also thought that having twice as much salt as yeast would be a problem, but I’m just a lowly home cook, so I followed the recipe as stated.  Now, the Als tell you to use a food processor.  I’m poor, and don’t own a food processor, so I just mixed the dough with a wooden spoon.  Instead of the 30 seconds called for, I mixed for about two minutes.  Then, cover the dough, and let rise (for 2 hours).  Then, shape the dough into three balls, put on the baking pan, cover, and let rise (for 30 minutes).  At this point, I was all ready to bake my bread — it was 9:50pm at this time — when I discovered that the recipe calls for a third rise for "one to two hours."  Okay, lame.  Very lame.  I shaped the dough, let rise on the pan for an hour, then stuck in a warm oven for thirty minutes.  Then, five and a half hours after I started, the bread finished baking.

It could have been my deliria from not having enough sleep, but the bread was delightful.  Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside — just like any French bread should be.  This recipe would have gotten five stars, if not for a few flaws.  First, the baking instructions.  25-35 minutes at 450?  Oh no, my friends.  I baked at 440 for 25 minutes, and the bottom of the bread was too crispy.  Maybe 30 minutes at 425 next time?  There was something else keeping me from giving this five stars, but I can’t remember anymore…Hmmm…Oh.  The loaves come out to be about 9"-10" long, and 3.5" wide.  I would have preferred two long loaves, but I suppose I can change that next time, and yes, there will be a next time.

And for those who don’t want to go through the trouble of going to the Two Fat Als site, here’s the recipe, with my changes:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
scant 1 1/2 cups warm water

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and yeast. Mix with wooden spoon for fifteen seconds, then slowly pour water into the bowl and stir for a minute or two until the dough is in a shaggy ball, then transfer it into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about three hours. Sprinkle a little flour onto a counter, and divide dough into three balls, and let them rise covered for about 30 minutes. Then, flatten each ball and fold it over itself twice, sealing the seam. Spread a towel onto the counter and place the loaves into folded seams of the towel. Let them rise for another 1-2 hours. Preheat the oven to 425, and bake loaves on a lightly floured baking sheet for about 25-35 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

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