The Perfect French Bread

More than a decade ago the ladies at my church had a monthly “homemaking” meeting and, although I do not remember what else we had to eat that night, I do remember the delicious, homemade French bread that my friend Irene Jarvis made.  She shared the recipe with me and when I have the time I like to make my own from her recipe.

2 1/2 cups very warm water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups all-purpose flour, stirred and measured
2 pkgs. dry yeast (2 tablespoons)

1.  Into a large warm mixing bowl, pour warm water, then stir in sugar , salt, oil and half of the flour, and the yeast.  Beat vigorously 2-3 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour until all dry ingredients are completely mixed in, leaving the spoon right in the heavy batter.

2.  Allow dough to rest 10 minutes, then stir down.  Allow dough to rest another 10 minutes, then stir down.  Repeat this process until dough has been stirred down five times.

3.  Turn dough onto floured board, kneading only enough to coat dough with flour so it can be handled easily.  Divide into two parts.  Roll each part of dough into rectangles about 9″ x 12″, and roll up like a jelly roll, starting from the long side.  Pinch edge of loaf to seal the dough.

4.  Arrange dough lengthwise on large cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with corn meal, allowing room for both loaves.  Cover lightly and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

5.  With a very sharp knife, cut 3 gashes(oops, forgot to do that…) at an angle on top of the dough then brush entire surface with lightly beaten whole egg.  If desired, sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.

6.  Bake immediately at 400 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown (you will notice mine was a little more brown.  I wasn’t downstairs at the time I should have taken it out!)  Remove from baking sheet immediately and cool on racks.  2 LOAVES

Source:  Irene Jarvis, El Paso, Texas

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