You know that hypnotizing smell when you walk into the grocery store and you smell FRESH french bread? Oh my GOSH, it gets me every-single-time. That is why they put a tray right by the front door and right by the cash register, because you can probably resist once, but twice - oh no! Well, that is what my house smelled like, while I was baking this bread.
I usually make this recipe for fabulous french bread, because it is pretty easy and it tastes yummy, but I always thought the texture was slightly different than what I was used to with store-bought french bread. This new version is EXACTLY what I have been looking for.
This new recipe is just right. The inside is so soft and has texture that french bread should have and it's not dry at all. The crust has just the right amount of chewiness to it. I made this bread, planning to eat it with some spaghetti and then I was going to use the leftovers for sandwiches later in the week, but we did not have any leftovers.
It does take a little bit of time and since you can pick up a loaf of store-bought french bread for super cheap, you might think it wouldn't be worth the time and effort to make a homemade version, but my own personal opinion is HOMEMADE IS ALWAYS BETTER. I will still be using store-bought when time is limited, but if it's a day where I have some extra time, I will, without a doubt, make this homemade recipe. Oh and the garlic spread was yummy too, but I am content with just a little butter spray and salt and pepper. Have you ever tried a slice of french bread with just butter and a sprinkling of salt and pepper? You should try it - it gives it just a little kick and it is so good.
Soft and Chewy French Bread
1 1/2 Tbl. instant yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1 1/2 Tbl. sugar
2 c. water
1 1/2 Tbl. oil
2 1/4 tsp. salt
6 c. all-purpose flour
Combine the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water and sugar; let it proof for ten minutes. Then, add 2 cups water, oil, salt and 3 cups of flour. Mix until flour is incorporated, then gradually add remaining 3 cups of flour. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead about five minutes, then turn out onto generously floured surface. Every ten minutes, for the next hour, knead two or three times. This is what gives the crust that french bread chewiness. It is not crucial that kneading takes place at exact 10 minute intervals, just make sure to come back at least four times in the next hour to knead the dough a few times, then form back into a ball (keep dough covered with a piece of saran wrap between kneads, so it doesn't dry out).
Divide dough into 2 portions for regular-sized loaves or 4 portions for small loaves. Spread each portion out into a rough rectangle and roll up, jelly-roll style. Take the two ends of each loaf and tuck under slightly. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Spray a sharp knife with cooking spray and cut 3 diagonal lines into the tops of each loaf, about 1-inch deep. Brush loaves with a beaten egg, making sure to get every single spot. Whatever doesn't get covered with egg wash won't brown. Raise until doubled or 30 minutes. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
*Some bread recipes tell you to keep adding flour until the sides of your bowl come clean - DON'T do that for this recipe. This bread is incredibly tender, which means the dough is going to be softer and stickier. Much of the dough will be hanging onto the dough hook and some will still be stuck to the bottom and sides of the bowl. You can tell you've added enough flour and you've kneaded the dough long enough when you can pinch off a small bit and easily roll it into a little ball in the palm of your hand. It will still be a little sticky to the touch, but not so sticky you can't roll it into a ball.
Boursin Cheese Spread (aka Garlic Herb Spread)
1/2 c. butter, softened
8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. each dill, marjoram, thyme and pepper
OR 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
Stir all ingredients together to combine. Serve on warm french bread.
Jenn's Notes: No notes today. I just did what the recipe said and it turned out perfect. The instructions might look long, but this bread is really easy and I think anyone could make it!