Is it weird to have affection for bakeware? You know, like your favorite flip flops or that old ratty t-shirt that’s just now getting to the right stage of worn out. I’m not hugging my pans or telling them stories or anything like that, just really quite fond of a couple of them.
In the past I’ve been the type to just go to the evil superstore and grab whatever was the cheapest and would suffice for whatever I was needing it for. But now I’m getting to the point where I’m becoming more selective. Sometimes this occurs out of necessity, like when you finally buy a Silpat mat but then can’t find a pan ANYWHERE the right size for the damn thing. But really it’s because I’ve come to the realization that there’s a reason, at least in part, for certain pans costing more than others. No I don’t know the actual scientific reasons behind certain pans baking bread better than others, but who needs science when you have fresh, crusty French bread that’s still warm and soft in the middle?
Thanks to a gift card from one of my sisters-in-law, I recently became the proud owner of this pretty little French bread pan from Williams-Sonoma:
I’ve made bread before of course, but never French bread so I was pretty excited to get into the kitchen and go to work, even though I spent the entire day before attempting to make a puff pastry. Just FYI, bread is MUCH easier to make than puff pastry.
So this recipe is a cross between the recipe on the back of the rather sticky label that was affixed to my pan and the French-Style Bread recipe in the Beard on Bread cook book. Both recipes seemed to have called for way too much flour though, but perhaps this was due to the type of flour I used. If you use regular AP flour you might need to add a cup more than what it says below.
- 2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 3 & 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 T sugar (raw, organic)
- 4 & 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 T kosher salt
- a bit of soy or almond milk (for the “egg” wash)
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water with a small whisk or a fork and let stand until foamy, 10 – 15 minutes.
Put the salt and 4 cups of the flour in your KitchenAid Stand Mixer bowl, or a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Once the yeast has proofed, add it slowly to the flour, with the dough hook attached and the mixer on Stir. Increase speed to 2 and add flour by the 1/4 cup until the dough comes off the sides. I barely got another 1/2 cup of flour in before the dough looked like it had plenty of flour; the recipes called for up to 6 cups of flour. Let the mixer continue for about 7 minutes or so, then remove and finish kneading the dough by hand for a few more minutes – I think it’s better to finish the kneading manually so you can get a feel for the dough’s texture and elasticity. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let it sit for about an hour.
After an hour, or when it has doubled in size, punch the dough down, knead it a bit and then return it to the bowl and cover again it with the plastic wrap and towel. Let it rest for another 30 minutes or so.
Now take the dough, divide it in half and roll each half out into a log about the length of the pan. Place a clean kitchen towel in the pan and sprinkle it with flour. Set the logs of dough in the pan and cover with another towel for about 20 minutes.*
After 20 minutes, turn the oven to 425. Either flip the loaves off of the towel into the pan or carefully lift them with your hands onto the pan (you obviously can’t put a kitchen towel in the oven). Make about 5 slashes in each loaf with a sharp knife and then brush it with the soy milk. Wait 20 minutes then put the bread in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap it.
Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting into it, or just go ahead and burn your fingers if you can’t wait.
I always find it funny how bread can taste so different from one loaf to the next when so many of them are made from the same basic ingredients. This stuff was so good we even got the butter out (I never put butter on anything). We ate it with some soup but I think there are French bread pizzas and some bruschetta in our future.
Do you have a favorite bread recipe or an item in the kitchen that you are most attached to?
* This step was per the people at Williams-Sonoma. I kind of think the towel is unnecessary. Perhaps try spraying the pan with non-stick cooking spray or sprinkling cornmeal on it to prevent the dough from sticking and just go ahead and put it straight on the pan. My assumption with the towel is that it’s to prevent the dough from sinking through the holes and/ or keep it from drying out on the bottom. Next time I’ll try it without the towel and let you know how it worked out.