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FRENCH BREAD

 

INGREDIENTS for 2 to 3 baguettes:

Starter:

1 package or 1 tablespoon dry active yeast

2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)

2/3 cup unbleached white flour

Dough:

2 cups unbleached white flour

3 cups bread flour

3-1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups warm water

 

DIRECTIONS:

Starter:  Begin the starter by dissolving yeast with water in a one quart bowl.  When the yeast floats to the surface stir in enough flour to make a loose dough.  Cover the bowl lightly, and leave it in a warm, draft-free place overnight.

 

Kneading by hand: Assemble flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center, and add the starter with 2 cups water.  Work the dry ingredients into the wet slowly to make a thick, shaggy dough.  Let it rest 2 minutes, then knead until the dough is a taut, springy shape with silken surface, about 5 minutes.

 

Kneading in a machine: Combine the flours and salt in the mixer bowl. Add yeast culture and warm water.  Mix the ingredients until all the flour is absorbed into a shaggy dough.  Stop the machine and rest the dough for 2-3 minutes.  Begin to knead adding extra flour sparingly until the dough cleans the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Knead for 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and satiny.  Turn the dough out on your work surface and knead it briefly to see if it is ready for rising.

 

Rising: Place the dough in a well-oiled, large, steep-sided bowl.  Turn the dough to coat its surface with oil, cover, and let rise to double size, from 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Knock down the risen dough.  Divide into rolls or loaves.  Cover shapes, and let rest for 10 minutes.

 

Shaping: Shape the rolls and round loaves alike by letter folding twice and tucking under corners to form the shape of a tight ball.  For bagettes, make long rectangular shapes, and fold in half twice along the long side, turning up the closed seam after the first fold, and under after the second.  Tuck under the ends, and place longe loaves on a floured cloth sling or on a towel.  Round shapes can also sit on floured towelling.  Rolls are fine on a floured counter.  Dust all loaves or rolls lightly with flour,

and cover loosely.

 

Baking: Give the bread 30 to 45 minutes to rise until it is fully puffed before preheating oven to 425 degrees.  Bake rolls 12-15 minutes, the loaves 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees.  Crust should be firm and lightly browned. Transfer breads to cooling rack to come to room temperature before slicing.