Yesterdish’s French Bread

One of the cornerstones of Western cuisine.

I once made a list of fifty or sixty recipes I think everyone needs to master to become a well-rounded cook. But if you asked a hundred cooks to make a list of just the top five most essential recipes, I feel certain bread (and chicken stock, but that’s another card) would be on every list. Jacques Pepin said one of his favorite childhood treats was a piece of hot baguette with dark chocolate; if you’ve never experienced this, then get some chocolate before you try this recipe.

When making bread dough, touch is the most essential sense, even more than smell or taste. Flour is an organic product and the moisture level will vary from bag to bag and place to place, depending on the time of year and the humidity. Don’t be afraid to reduce the water, or add more if it’s too dry (though add it very slowly–not more than half a teaspoon at a time). The dough should look smooth and even without being especially sticky. If you’re using a mixer, the sides of the mixer bowl should be clean.

To roll a loaf, flatten out a section of dough into a long rectangle, then roll the dough onto itself, and continue rolling until the loaf is tight and even. The tension of the gluten will keep the loaf round even without one of those goofy perforated “baguette pans.” You can also do the second rise directly on the parchment paper or nonstick foil-lined tray you’re baking on.

Serving suggestion? How about the sandwich below: roast pork, bacon, cheddar and spinach salad. Also, we didn’t glaze these. The egg glaze is pretty and all, but I don’t always feel like it. But g’head, if you want. My sister took the pictures again, but I’m blanking on whether this handwriting is hers or my mother’s. I think it’s my sister’s?

From Yesterdish’s recipe box.

Yesterdish’s French Bread

Makes 2 loaves.

1 1/2 t. sugar
1 T. cornmeal
1 t. salt
1 c. hot water
2-1/2 to 3-1/2 c. bread flour
1 pkg. quick-acting yeast

Heat oven to 400 deg. F.

Combine flour, yeast, salt, sugar in mixer bowl. Add water and mix for 5-10 minutes, until soft dough forms (add water if needed).

Oil dough, let rise until doubled–30 to 45 minutes. Shape into 2 loaves, brush with egg glaze. Bake until brown, approximately 20-25 minutes.

Reminder: One package dry yeast is 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of yeast.

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