Prefectly Crusty French Bread

My continued quest for fresh bread has led me to this wonderful crusty french loaf.  I have never been able to free form a french loaf.  It always gets to fat and never tall enough.

So, I said enough is enough.  I broke down and bought this very economical french loaf pan from amazon.com.  It was only 14 bucks and it makes two loaves.  This thing was just what I was looking for.  My results were just as pretty and tastey as the local bakery would make.

This recipe was only for a single loaf.  But it baked just fine with the other side empty.  I love that this pan in perforated on the bottom.  The bottom crust came out just as cripsy as the top.

Here is the recipe

1 cup warm water
1 package, or 2.25 tsp of yeast
2 tsp. of olive or veggie oil
1 tsp of salt
pinch of sugar about 1/8 of a tsp.
aprox 3 cups of  A/P or Bread Flour
egg whites for the wash

Proof the yeast with the water and sugar. Let sit about ten minutes till the yeast gets foamy.  Add the oil, salt and 1/2 of the flour.  I do prefer my loaves when I add the oil, but in a traditional french loaf you normally do not add oil.

I mix in my Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachement for about 1 minute, then slowly add in the flour a bit at a time, until I get a wet, shaggy loaf.  I then move it to the board, and encorporate the remaining flour.  Knead about 5 minutes until you get a nice smooth, springy loaf.  Place in a oiled bowl, cover let rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

After 1st rise, punch down and knead 2 or three times.  On floured surface roll out to about 12 x 8.  Roll up on the long side.  Pinch the seam closed.  Place in pan seam side down.  Cover, rise until double, about 40 minutes.  Brush with egg whites mixed with water.  Use a sharp knife to cut slits about 2 inches apart on the top of the dough.

Place in a 425 oven for about 20 minutes.  In order to make a crispier crust you can spritz the bread lightly a few times during cooking with water, or I just place a dish of hot water in the oven with the bread to create the steam needed to crisp.

Remove cool and eat up!

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