French Bread

Today I made a variation on Mark Bittman’s french bread loaf.  When it was done, we used the bread for wonderful winter paninis.  So, the recipe, paraphrased:

3 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast.

about 1 cup and 2 tablespoons water

  1. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast together.
  2. Add 1 cup lukewarm water and mix until smooth.  If need be, add water 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. The dough should be smooth and a little sticky.  If it is too wet, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time; if too dry, add water.
  4. Oil the dough and place it in a bowl.  Cover the bowl with a sheet of wax paper and a cloth on top of the wax paper.
  5. Let rise up to 3 hours (up to 12  in the refrigerator)
  6. Take your dough at shape it into a loaf (or rolls, or baguettes) and place it on an oiled and lightly floured baking sheet.  Cover with wax paper and cloth again.
  7. Here you can either let it rise another 2-3 hours at room temperature, or, for me, pop it in the fridge for the whole afternoon.  Before baking, take it out of the fridge, uncover, and let it sit at room temperature for an hour.
  8. Slash the top of the loaf.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, place an oven safe pan on the lower rack and put water on to boil.  When the water boils pour it into the pan on the lower oven rack and quickly close the oven door.
  10. Now, turn the heat down to 375 and put the bread in.
  11. Bake for about 20-30 minutes for a loaf (less time for baguettes or rolls, of course).

This has become a real favorite of Bittman’s breads and I try to make it as often as possible since it’s so easy and yummy.

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