French Bread and Pizza

Sarah’s French Bread

 

Somewhere along the line, I became known for my French Bread.  I’m not sure it’s really “French”, but people love it.  It is particularly popular with my brother Robert and with the cousins in his family.  Even though our own family has become a bit tired of it, it is a requirement at Cox family gatherings, and I am always assigned the job of bringing bread.  I fear there would be a revolt if I didn’t make it!  There is something so wonderful about the smell of baking bread.  This bread is so easy and forgiving that it is a good choice as it can be thrown together and put in the oven while other things are going on.

 

v  In a large bowl, mix:

3 cups lukewarm water

1 Tbs. Yeast (I use the dry kind from the coop.  A package will do)

1 Tbs. Sugar

1 Tbs. Salt

1 Tbs. Oil

 

Stir vigorously with a whisk until you’re sure the yeast is dissolved. Then whisk in and stir well:

 

v  2 cups unbleached flour

 

Now, using a large spoon, keep adding flour until dough can be kneaded without being too sticky.  This will be somewhere around another:

 

v  4-6 cups unbleached flour (Approximate guess…you’ll have to judge)

 

Knead the bread about five minutes. Plop in a bowl in which you’ve put a little oil, and turn the dough around until it’s coated.  Cover with either saran wrap or a damp tea towel.  Let rise about 45 minutes, (more in cooler weather).

 

Turn dough out on floured counter.  Knead a little more.  Form two equal lumps of dough.  Flatten each into a long rectangle, then roll up the long way and pinch the seam closed.  Prepare a cookie sheet or bread pan:

 

Margarine (rub over cookie sheet in two long lines, or on bottom of curved bread pan)

Cornmeal (sprinkle generously over margarine)

 

Place loaves, seam side down, on prepared pan.  Using a sharp, serrated knife, make several diagonal slices on each loaf.  Let rise some more (45 minutes or so, but less is OK if you’re pressed for time).

 

375° oven        45 minutes total baking time.

 

Brush loaves generously with water and place in oven.  Brush again at fifteen-minute intervals during baking.  It’s not crucial that the intervals are precise, but adding the water during the baking gives the loaves a wonderful chewiness.

 

 I use the same dough for my pizzas.  It is very forgiving, and doesn’t need to rise the full time if you are in a hurry.  Makes 3 thicker or 4 thinner crusts.  Bake in a HOT oven (450˚ or hotter) 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it.  It may be less time.