Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crusty French Bread

I finally figured out how to take some close up pictures, and I'm still experimenting to see what looks best, so bear with me until I become a better photographer!

This is a recipe that my Aunt Vicki acquired in a cooking class that she took in High School, I think. It's been around for a while. I have been making this recipe for years, and I love it. It's so versatile. I've used it to make pizza dough. My mom used it to make focaccia bread once. I add some garlic and Italian Seasonings to it to make a soft white bread that goes great with Italian food. (This is my brilliant Mother's idea) It's just yummy! I made this for dinner last Sunday and my brother ate almost an entire loaf himself. This bread is best hot, and isn't quite as good the next day, so don't plan on making tons and freezing it...it's just not as good!

5-5 ½ C Flour
1 pkg. Yeast
2 C Warm Water
1 Tbs. Shortening
1 Tbs. Sugar
3 tsp Salt
1 Egg white
1 Tbs. Water

Combine 2 C Flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Add warm water and shortening (I always substitute 1 Tbs. of Olive Oil when I make the Italian style loaf) and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour and knead on floured surface until dough is no longer sticky. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled (1-1 ½ hrs.). Punch down. Shape into one long or 2 small loaves and place on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with combined egg white and water. With a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal slashes across top of loaf. Let bread rise for another 30 to 40 minutes. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes (30-35 for 2 loaves, or 40-45 for one loaf) or until light golden brown. For crustier loaf, bake with a shallow pan of water on lower oven rack. For Italian style bread, add 1 tsp. Italian seasoning and ¼ to ½ tsp garlic powder (or 1-2 cloves of pressed garlic) to dough while kneading. Serve hot with butter or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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