Last week I decided it was high time to improve on (or — let’s be honest — totally replace) my “basic bread” recipe from two years ago.  I’ve learned so much about making gluten-free bread and breadsticks since then, that I knew I could make a simple white bread dough that was easier to handle, quicker to make, and tasted better to boot.   The result of the endeavor is a bread that literally gets snatched out of my hands by hungry family members.  :-D  I can’t tell you a thing about what this bread is like at a day old, or two days old, because none of it ever lasts that long — I make a loaf and it’s gone in fifteen minutes.  I guess you can’t have your bread and eat it too.  :-)

There’s just one catch — a mold.  The dough’s not too thin or anything, but to get this bread to rise in the right shape, you’ll need a French bread pan.  If you try to bake it on a cookie sheet it just spreads out like a plate; in a loaf pan it just acts downright weird.  I got my French bread pan from a Kitchen Collections store for less than $10:

As you can see, there’s room to bake two loaves at once in the same pan, which is handy.  Now that I’ve got the recipe down I’d better use both sides, or I’ll never find out how tasty of breadcrumbs I can make from the leftovers.  :-)

Seasoned French Bread

Yield:  1 full-size loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 T warm water
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 4 tsp brown sugar, divided
  • 2 cups dough mix
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp guar gum
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp italian seasoning mix
  • 2 T butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • olive oil for brushing

Directions:

1.  First, start the oven preheating to warm, and put a tray of hot water on the bottom rack.  You’ll want this set up to encourage the dough to rise later on.  While you’ve got hot water going, take a small mixing bowl or large measuring cup and whisk together the warm water, yeast, and 2 tsp of the brown sugar, and set it to proof till foamy, like so:

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients — that is, the dough mix, xanthan gum, guar gum, salt, italian seasoning mix, and remaining 2 tsp brown sugar.  Then, using a long-tined fork or a pastry cutter, cut the 2 T of butter into the dry mix until fine and crumbly.

3.  Once the yeast mixture’s foamy, add the yeast mixture and the egg to the large mixing bowl.  Use a fork to combine the dough.  This takes a little patience and attention; there’s usually a stubborn layer of dry mix in the bottom of the bowl you’ll have to get up with a floppy spatula, but that’s okay.  The dough will still be a bit sticky once it’s all combined, but resist the temptation to add more dough mix just to make it easier to handle — you’ll end up with either a chalky crust or a dense brick if you do!  Use the floppy spatula instead of your hand to “knead” the dough a bit, just until it looks fairly uniform.

4.  Turn the dough out into the (ungreased!) French bread pan.  Using the soft spatula (and probably your hands a bit, but remember the dough’s still pretty sticky), spread/stretch the dough out across most of the length of the pan.  You don’t want the dough all the way to the edge, but you can get pretty close.  Turn the oven off, then put the dough on the top rack of the warm oven (over that tray of water you put in earlier) to rise until double (35-45 minutes).

5.  Once the dough’s risen, take it (and that tray of water) out of the oven, then preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.  While the oven’s heating, very gently brush a tablespoon or so of olive oil over the risen dough.  Then, put the dough in the oven to bake for 22-25 minutes.

6.  Let the baked bread cool for about 5 minutes — then slice and tuck in!