While I love the taste and smell of fresh bread from my oven, I’m not in love with kneading the dough so I start it in my bread machine and simply finish it in my oven. Purists may call this cheating but I call it resourceful. It certainly frees me up to do other things while the laborious task of kneading the bread is going on, saves me from looking for a warm place for it to rise too. All of this takes place in a 12 cubic inch spot on my counter.
My bread machine isn’t a one hit wonder for me. I use it to make dinner rolls, pizza and calzone dough, baguettes, and even pretzel dough and bagels. Most of the time I use it just as I described to just start the dough and I finish it myself and pop it in the oven but I do also use it as intended and bake breads in it. I especially like that mine has a delay timer and I can make fresh hot bread to accompany a meal in my crock pot or I can set it to start early in the morning to prepare a warm cinnamon or other fruit bread for breakfast.
If you have a bread machine you haven’t used in a while, go ahead and dig it out and fall in love all over again.
Easy French Bread
Yield 2 loaves
- 2 1/2 cups warm tap water
- 2 tablespoons of dry active yeast (not quite 3 full individual packets)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tables spoon salt
- 1 tablespoon oil (olive, vegetable or canola, your choice)
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 tablespoon of butter, melted
- In the bread machine pan with paddle attached, or into a large bowl or electric mixer bowl, mix together the warm water, yeast and sugar until the yeast is dissolved and activated (you will see it bubbling and frothy).
- Now add in the salt, oil and flour into the yeast mix. On the bread machine, select the dough cycle and skip down to step 5. Otherwise, by hand, mix the dough with a spoon or in the electric mixer with the flat paddle attachment until the dough just pulls together into a ball.
- For electric mixers, go ahead and attach now the dough hook and set it to 2nd speed and knead the dough for 3 minutes. For those going, by hand, dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough by hand for 2 minutes.
- Lightly oil or spray a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray or oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with a towel or a piece of oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size; about 1 hour. If the house is cool or drafty, this may take a little longer double in size.
- If the dough is not doubled in size by the end of the bread machine cycle, allow it to rest some extra time.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, dump it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Cut it in half and form it into two 16 inch loaves and place them on an oiled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.
- If preferred, use a sharp knife and make some slices across the top of the loaves about 2 inches apart. These will separate more as the loaves bake. Allow the dough to rise again for about 30 minutes. During the last few minutes of rise time, pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake the loaves for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and the internal temperature is 205°F. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped
- Brush the hot loaves with melted butter just after they come out of the oven.
There are 2-1/4 tsp in 1 packet of instant yeast.Yields: a 2 lb loaf or 2 - 1 lb loaves or about 8 mini loaves
- Add ingredients into your bread maker per your manufacturer’s instructions, the order listed here is how I put mine into the pan.
- Allow the dough to go through the process until the end of the knead cycle. Restarting your bread machine cycle and allowing it to knead again will yield a more crusty French bread. A single knead cycle will yield a softer crust.
- Allow dough to go through the rise cycle.
- Just before the dough gets punched down for the final rise and before baking starts, remove the dough from the bread machine and turn out onto a floured board. Gently roll the dough between your hands until it forms a 12 – 14 inch loaf taking care not to punch it down too much in the process. Brush dough with a beaten egg. Make 4 to 5 slits in the dough (optional) for decoration. Additionally, while the dough is wet with the beaten egg you may choose to add toppings like poppy seeds, sesame seeds, roasted garlic and other seasonings.
- Bake in a 375 °F oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Yields: a 2 lb loaf or 2 – 1 lb loaves or about 8 mini loaves