My family loves French Baguette, but it can be a little pricey. I don't have a bakery anywhere close to me. So, the closest thing we got to the real thing was when I would buy the frozen La Brea Bakery loaves in the grocery store or Pillsbury's French bread in a tube. That's actually pretty good bread, BTW. I would always buy it on sale, but it's still not what I would consider cheap. I bought a bag of unbleached flour at Trader Joe's for less than 3 bucks and only used about 1/2 of it. Like I said, I got 6 loaves at about a buck fifty. Can't beat those prices. I'm sure other stores carry unbleached flour - that just happened to be where I was.
I actually enjoyed the process even though it took a long time. But, the largest portion of time was used up in waiting for the yeast to do it's thang. During all the waiting I was free to do other
chores stuff. Here's how it went...
In a large bowl mix 8 cups of unbleached (organic if you can find it) flour and 1 TBSP. of salt. Divide up the flour/salt mixture and put half into another large bowl. It should be large enough for the dough to rise in.
Next, add 2 TBSP. of yeast to 4 cups of warm water. Let it set until bubbly. (My bowl isn't dirty. This is the "popcorn bowl" that we used when I was just a little girl. Those are burn marks. Now ain't that special?)
Once the yeast is proven (bubbly), add the water/yeast mix to 1/2 of the flour in the largest bowl.
Stir well. It will be soupy. Then cover and let it set for 3 hours in a warm area.
It will look like this after 3 hours.
You're ready to knead at this point and it will look something like this.
Knead dough for 10 minutes, adding a little flour as needed. I have to admit - this part was fun. It smelled all yeasty (Is that a word?) and the way it handled was fabulous. I'm sure the kiddos would get a kick out of this part, too. It should be a pretty smooth ball by this time.
Now you can put your dough into a large bowl that has been coated with oil. Cover it with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with oil and let it rise for another hour. Go clean your toilette or eat bon bons and watch TV or something.
It's time to punch this bad daddy down and knead it again for another 10 minutes - don'tcha think?
Fill an oven-proof bowl with water and put it in the bottom of your oven once it's pre-heated and you put your loaves in. (I had to cook mine in 2 batches. You want to make sure the air can circulate in there.) Bake for 15 minutes.
Take the bowl of water out and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like your crust. (I liked ours best at 10 minutes.)
Remove your French Baguettes from the oven and repeat the process with the next batch.
Mah-velous, Darling! Simply mah-velous!
6 loaves of bread is a lot - but it's a smart way to bake. You see, I simply wrapped up what we wouldn't be eating the next day (in plastic wrap then aluminum foil) and stuck the rest in the freezer. When it's time to eat them I'll be able to unwrap them and re-heat in the oven on 325 degrees. Parisienne Farmgirl says they're even better re-heated. I haven't gotten that far, yet, though.
The verdict: This was a huge success with the men in my life! Not only is it delicious and cheap, but I know that my guys aren't getting any wacky preservatives that we can't pronounce. And, each loaf is baked with a big ol' heapin' helping of love. Awww! Now, tell me your gonna get THAT from the store!
So, if you're ever feelin' froggy and want to try your hand at baking bread - this is really very simple with only FIVE ingredients. French Baguette is great with soup, salad, just about any dinner you can think of - and it could easily be split and morphed into garlic bread. Don't be intimidated. You might even have fun!
Here's a recap.
Combine warm water and yeast and let set until bubbly.
Add the remaining flour mixture and knead for 10 minutes, adding a little more flour as needed. Place in a bowl that has been coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with oil. Let rise in a warm place for another hour.
Knead for 10 minutes. Begin to pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
Once oven is pre-heated - place one batch of bread (3 loaves) in the oven with a bowl of water on the bottom rack. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove water and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
Repeat with second batch of baguette. Don't forget to add the water back in the oven for the second round of baking.
Freeze whatever won't be eaten right away. Re-heat in a 325 degree oven until warm.
P.S. I'm linking this post up to Works For Me Wednesday because making my own bread really does work for me!